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Interview:
Michael McDermott "at" the Ark, 5 Things to Know
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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As an unapologetic road warrior, these are definitely strange times for Michael McDermott -- especially when there's a new album to produce.



The Chicago-based singer and songwriter released "What in the World..." on June 5, a set that takes stark, honest stock of worlds both internal and external. He remembers that, as one of the hot new arrivals of the early 90s, "I could have been a contender," but, six years sober, the 12-song set makes clear that McDermott is as potent and poignant as he's ever been



It's a strange world in which to put out an album, of course, but McDermott is making the best of the situation, playing regular ticketed "Songs for the End of the World" shows online along with an assortment of other appearances that he hopes are bringing new listeners into his "World"...



McDermott, 50, says the virtual shows have "been amazing. I started doing these back in 2012 and technology wasn't as good then. ow it's pretty amazing, what we're able to do. It's letting me create another little community of people all around the world and reach more people than I can just going from town to town."



McDermott adds that while a lack of audible applause can be disconcerting, he's adapted to that situation. "Most of my time as an artist, really, it's been playing songs in rooms by myself, writing and recording. So doing these (virtual) shows isn't that different, really. I've built up that myself of knowing when you finish a song that you're not going to be adorned with applause, so you just go on to the next one."



The direction of the "What in the World..." album was inspired by specific occurances, according to McDermott -- a visit to the church in Charleston, S.C., where Dylan Roof shot nine congregants in a bible study class, and then the subsequent suicides of McDermott's nephew and niece. "It was really, like, 'What in the world...?!' Not even the country -- the world has a mental illness. How do we get our heads around it? How do we make it better? I want this s*** to end with time, but trauma is generational. You pass it on, whether you want to or not. But you try not to."



"What in the World...'s" title track, meanwhile, had a very specific impetus. "I started it shortly after the Cubs won the World Series and Donald Trump was elected president (in 2016). You could see the slow deconstruction of an organized society. I"m not into hopeless music or despondence, but those were dark days. I tried to make it more of a hopeful song, but I couldn't in any honest way get myself to sing like that. I felt like the train was coming, man, to run us all down. O I was a little uncomfortable with it, but it was the way I honestly felt. I will gladly not sing that song again once we're rid of this man."



McDermott though about possibly going on with his record release show at the City Winery in Chicago but called it off after polling fans and finding most weren't comfortable with the idea of venturing out yet -- even if he split the show into two nights to promote social distancing. "There's a second (virus) wave coming -- not if, but when. It's interesting to see the engagement level as people start venturing out. A lot of people I know aren't quite comfortable with it yet. My agent had me going down to Texas in August, but I don't feel comfortable about getting on a plane or a long road trip. She wasn't too happy about that, but...I'm like anyone else. When the time's right, I'll get back out there."



Michael McDermott plays at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 28 for The Ark Family Room Series via theark.org. Free, with contributions accepted for the venue and performer.

Web Site: www.theark.org

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