Michael McDonald: Musician & Former Doobie Brother

Michael McDonald, formerly of the Doobie Brothers, recently released his first album in seventeen years. “Wide Open” is now available everywhere as he sat down to talk to Jim about his new work!

Jim Brickman: Well, it started out with the Doobie Brothers, but Michael McDonald’s career really goes on for more than four decades, and I’m so excited because he is here with me live in Cleveland, kicking off his tour with our friend Marc Cohn. We’re at the rock and roll capital of the world, so let’s talk music with Michael McDonald! 

Listen to Jim’s interview with Michael McDonald below!


So Michael, first off, thanks for being here. I’m such a fan, and you’re on the tour with Marc Cohn– how did that come about?

Michael McDonald: I’d met Marc a couple times before. We’d done a Yahama event together in California, and a year ago we played together for a Bill Withers tribute concert, I do believe it was. I’ve been a huge fan for forever, so it was great to get the opportunity to actually tour together.

JB: And you know, most of us got to know your music touring with the Doobie Brothers and all those great hits, when you tour as a solo artist, how is it different than those days with the Doobies?

MM: I always enjoyed being a member of a band, especially being a member of the Doobie Brothers. I always say, once a Doobie Brother, always a Doobie Brother, in your heart somewhere, you know. But there is a certain freedom about having your own band where you kinda just get to explore things that you’d have to get group consensus to do… there’s just certain things that don’t work as well for the group as a whole.

JB: I know you have this brand new album Wide Open. I mean, it’s been seventeen years since your last album. What did you want your fans to hear in this album?

MM: Well, I think that one thing I always shoot for, even too much, sometimes… is leaving the listener with a little bit of hope, after having done the three Motown records, which were nothing but fun, it was almost like easy duty, you know, and…I didn’t have to write the songs.

And one thing I never heard throughout the whole project was some record guy going “I don’t hear a single.” Cause that’s always what they say, you know, I knew I was free of that and the sound of that sentence.

More on Guest Michael McDonald

Michael McDonald "Wide Open"

With a career that encompasses five Grammys, numerous chart successes and personal and professional accolades, as well as collaborations with some of the world’s most prominent artists, Michael McDonald remains an enduring force in popular music. Hailing from St. Louis, McDonald arrived in Los Angeles in the early 1970s, honing his talents as a studio musician before becoming an integral part of Steely Dan. McDonald has performed with a who’s-who of critically acclaimed artists across a number of genres, including Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Vince Gill and Grizzly Bear.

McDonald’s forthcoming album, Wide Open (out September 15 via BMG), finds him collaborating with a number of special guests including Warren Haynes, Robben Ford, Marcus Miller and Branford Marsalis. McDonald’s first album of original material in 17 years, Wide Open is comprised largely of material written over a number of years in-between projects and recorded in McDonald’s Nashville studio with drummer Shannon Forrest (Faith Hill, Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw, Toto) and an extensive cast of Nashville session musicians. The record follows a trio of albums of R&B and soul covers McDonald recorded for the fabled Motown label, the most recent being 2008’s Soul Speak.

McDonald’s other recent collaborations include his work on the critically acclaimed track “Show You The Way” with multi-genre bassist, singer and producer Thundercat and Kenny Loggins; McDonald performed the song with Thundercat during a surprise guest appearance at Coachella in April. This past spring, McDonald was joined by Solange Knowles, Allen Stone, Lawrence and members of Snarky Puppy and Vulfpeck at the Okeechobee Music Fest. McDonald continues to tour extensively as a solo artist, with a lengthy run of summer and fall tour dates planned with Loggins and Boz Scaggs.

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