Q&A: Michael McDonald
There’s no mistaking the voice of Michael McDonald. Sometimes clear and smooth, sometimes gruff and gravelly, it’s one of the most unique instruments in pop music. McDonald continued his versatile ways in 2017 with the release of Wide Open, his first new album in nine years. The acclaimed collection has allowed McDonald to tour steadily for the past two years, drawing upon new sounds as well as interpretations of Motown classics and his unforgettable hits. He performs Oct. 11-12 at The Venetian.
You’ve been playing Vegas consistently in recent years but it’s been a while since you’ve performed on the Strip. Would you entertain a mini-residency in a room like the Venetian Theatre?
Oh sure. That would be fun. This is a really nice room to play. I always enjoy going to Vegas because it never sleeps and that gives us something to do when we get offstage. And when you get to Vegas you’re sure you’re going to be in a room that sounds great with a great crew. I’d be happy to play there a few times a year or a few times a month.
How many songs from your latest album Wide Open are you fitting into your setlist?
We adjust it as we go no matter where we go, just depending on the gig. We tune our show to the audience. We played that stuff for the better part of a year after it came out and then we toured Europe, and by the time we got back, the reaction to the new music was better. We’ll do at least three songs from the new album and try to cover all the stuff we think people came to hear and would be disappointed not to hear.
This album was the first time in a long time that you wrote so much original material. Will you continue to create new music?
It’s funny, I’ve heard other writers, some really great writers, talk about getting older and do we write as much, do we feel as confident with what we write, or do we question things more. I’ve heard other guys say they’ve been writing again and they’re back in the saddle and it feels really good, and after that record I might have thought I’d have that experience, but not so much. I find it harder to write because I second-guess myself so much. It’s not that I won’t continue, but I do it with a little trepidation because I check myself more, and hopefully that makes for better songs. I find it to be a little less euphoric and a little more tortuous than when I was younger, but everything worthwhile has a little more torture involved.
NPR Music wrote that this album might make “the kids call their folks and say, ‘Hey, have you heard of this Michael McDonald?’” I thought that reaction was funny because that’s already happened a few times in your career. In my generation, it was when Warren G sampled “I Keep Forgettin’” for his hip-hop hit “Regulate.”
I’ve been lucky that way but a lot of those things really had nothing to do with me. A lot of opportunities have come my way and I wish I had seized them all. Looking back, I’m always thinking why didn’t I write with everyone I could. At the time I felt self-conscious about calling (other artists) out of the blue.
Is there a particular artist you wish you could collaborate with?
So many. And I wish I would have written more with Kenny (Loggins) and a lot of the guys I did write with. For me it’s like going to school. Stevie Wonder is a big one and we’ve talked about it in the past, I just have to make that happen before I can’t remember my own name.
The Venetian, 8 p.m. Oct. 11-12, starting at $39.95 plus tax and fee. 702.414.9000