SPOTLIGHT ON BRIAN MCDONALD
12 years ago Brian McDonald Group released their album "Desperate Business" to critical acclaim. Now Brian is back, with a brilliant album called "Wind It Up", out on MTM Music.
Part One - The Interview
1. I have to say that the "Wind It Up" album is one of the best I've heard this year. Are you happy with it yourself?
I am very satisfied with the results and the way "Wind It Up"comes across to my ears and emotions. Thanks to Magnus, Mario and all at MTM for time and creative freedom to make a CD that has everything I heard in my head originally for all the songs. Although it takes longer to make most of the major creative decisions on a project on your own, the end result for me is that I was able to make something that I like everything about. Another important thing I realized along the way is that this is really a beginning, because there are so many song and sound possibilities for the future. During the recording of this project, I was writing other songs and am currently in the process of recording them just to keep track of them.
2. Who would you say are your biggest influences?
For rock music, it breaks down into three categories. For 70's rock influences, I would cite Led Zeppelin, Kansas, The Babys, Foreigner andYes. For 80's bands, my preferences were Chicago, Def Leppard, and some of the people I got a chance to work with, particularly the then young virtuoso studio guitarist Reb Beach who would go on to co-found the band Winger. And in the 1990's, I listened to mostly to Classical and modern piano and orchestral music - here I would cite Beethoven, Ravel, Stravinsky, and Gerschwin as major influences.
3. I've read that you have written classical music too. Have some of your works been recorded, and could one find them on CD easily?
My musical life began with Classical music - I studied piano and composition as a boy in Wiesbaden Germany. Since I was very young, I have written many orchestral and piano pieces as well as playing them. In the1990's I performed original works in concert, but none have been releasedon CD for commercial distribution. This is one of the things I am looking forward to doing in the next few years.
4. Are there any plans to tour with the "WIU" album?
I am open to doing a tour, but as it stands right now, it would be a"break-even" deal to go on the road supporting the album. As "Wind It Up" continues to be distributed throughout Europe and Japan and the Web, and possibly here in the U.S. I'll be considering it in the light of ability to make it happen financially and logistically.
5. How long do you think we have to wait for the album number three? Not 12 years, I hope!
There are so many rock songs I have written recently and I am writing more each day, so in my thoughts I feel that this is a beginning. I am going to continue making music - of that you can be sure of - so I am thinking about the next rock album seriously at this time at least from the writing perspective.
6. Do you think that there's a chance that we might see a reissue of the"Desperate Business" album one day?
Although I don't have confirmation on this, I believe that the mechanical rights to "Desperate Business" may have been purchased from Sony. I am not sure as to the details of purchase or when this company plans to re-release it on CD. I've been receiving an incredible number of e-mail notes from people coming to www.brianmcdonald.com asking this question. There are listeners in countries I had no idea the album was distributed in! So, I am telling folks that I'll post the info on my site as soon as I hear news on this.
7. Have you written songs for other artists?
In the late 1980's I was on staff at A&M's publishing company. Aside from that work, where I submitted so many songs for so many artists, I have written songs with other artists and groups - among the rock/pop artists that have I have co-written with and have also recorded my songs are Fiona, Europe, and Marie France. Reb Beach is working on his new solo record and we have talked about co-writing for that - I'm looking forward to this collaboration and have written one already for him.
8. If you had a chance to get a song of yours recorded by an artist of your choice, who would that be?
That's a great question. OK, I would choose Robert Plant. He is the ultimate rock singer and has touched so many singers including myself that have drawn on his vocal style and passion.
9. Last but not least, the obligatory Finnquestion: What do you know about Finland (and no searching the web for info now!)
I only know from talking with friends who have been to Finland and from school studies long ago, but I am imagining a vast country full of great forests and lakes, with people who like to be outdoors and enjoy life. I know Helsinki is quite large (to say the least) and there are many, many people living in and around there and in the southern part of your country. Then, in contrast, I can imagine the twilight of the north in far reaches with stark and breathtaking landscapes, but brutally cold. In Minnesota I have met folks from your country and they all speak very fondly of their homeland. And from the sounds of it, it is a fantastic place.
For more info on Brian McDonald, visit: http://www.brianmcdonald.com
Part Two - Brian McDonald talks about his new cd "Wind It Up"
Wind It up
Sometimes you realize that your destination is not as important as who is going with you. Wind It Up is about the connection of two people to the energy of the night. The whole idea spins around listening to music you love, and trying to tap into the straightforward and powerful feelings you get when it's time to get a new look at things. This big beat rock track features guitar virtuoso Reb Beach (Winger, Dokken.) I have to hand it to Reb on this one for making the song come alive rhythmically and with those astonishing lead lines. The big backing vocals and beat add to the power of the lyric sentiment of energy jumping through city lights and turning the radio up in the car.
Head Back Home
There is a time in all of our lives we we wonder "What would've happened if I would've done something a little differently years ago". Head Back Home is based on a story about a person who left someone they cared about a long time ago, and now, though it is likely too late, goes back to his homeland to find a way to bring back yesterday. This is a mid-tempo tune with one of my favorite choruses I have ever written. For me, the way the music and lyrics work together to create a song that just feels good to listen to. At the end of the bridge section, the question is asked in the words, "Is it too late to head back home?". Although the answer is left up to the listener in the lyrics, the final instrumental section answers the question in hidden musical clues. Here there are melodic and harmonic elements composed in from works I love; music that has a "final goodbye" sentiment. These include reminiscences of Mahler's last song in Das Lied von der Erde, some classical compositions that I have written with a final farewell theme, and others. On another musical note, the synth solo just after the last chorus is a definite nod to one of my all time favorite rock keyboardists - Steve Porcaro.
Words Come So Easy
This is somewhat of a humorous look at a guy that is trying to convince himself that he doesn't want to see the girl he has flipped over. He looks in the mirror and starts asking himself these questions: "What do I care if things don't work out, I can always go back to hanging out with my friends, never lonely in a crowded room." By the time the chorus hits the guy gives it up to her and tells her everything he's feeling. But even then he pretends it wasn't supposed to happen "The last thing I meant to say is come and see me". Musically, "Words" is an all-American sounding rocker with a simple chord progression and some interesting changes. I played rhythm guitars on this one, but the short lead has an interesting technical side note - it's made up of pieces of some Reb Beach solos from other songs the album. I initially put together these pieces in the studio as a sort of place holder for a solo I was eventually going to play, but the pieced together solo turned out to have too much energy to replace, so I left it in.
I Don't Wanna Want Your Touch
This song is about thinking you know all about love, but when you finally find it for real, it's much bigger than you suspected. After some time away from the woman he loves, the guy in the song admits to himself that the power is strong, but then the song ends with the same sentiment: "I Don't Wanna Want Your Touch Again." Some listeners that have insisted that this is definitely not the end of the story, and that in the end you have to consider giving it up to what your heart needs. Power ballad with interesting chord changes and breaks setting up some "up-close" lyrics. To me, the introduction hints at some Chicago-style ballad influences. This song was written when I was in the middle of composing an orchestral piece, so it has more of a "broad-stroke" approach to the harmonic structure. Although by indirect more than direct influences, the sound to me is reminiscent of classic 1970's ballads from bands like The Babys and Ambrosia.
When The Lightning Strikes
"What are we chasing, just a dream in flight?" resonates in the intro to this song. There is a launch and early flight sequence of the beginnings of a journey into space. The last explosion of the intro could be interpreted as one of two things: either a disaster, or the last booster rocket leaving the main craft. The main idea was to launch the listener up into to the skies where lightning originates to take the perspective of viewing from above. The big beat drums draws upon a John Bonham influence and the guitars definitely have some Jimmy Page-like rhythms in certain places. Reb Beach played all guitars on this one and really kicked it into high gear in the rhythms; his lead work is brilliant, especially in the out solo.
The Night Heaven Falls Down
My favorite ballad I have written to date. Where does this life lead to? In the end we might realize that this question is not as important as: "Who will be by your side as you go there?"
Rhythm Of Money
The lyrics to this song came after living in New York for a short time, the music came years later when thinking about the images of how people "sell their soul" for money - and for different reasons. Survival, greed, anger, pride, etc. Whatever the motivator, "every saint thinks twice". The simple, circular chord progression is meant to underscore the observations of worlds that revolve around the "rhythm of money."
Somewhere on the Highway
One day, a long time ago, I picked up everything and moved on to something different; this song came from a one night I got in the car and headed West on the open road and didn't look back. The acoustic guitars and uptempo rhythms convey a sense of freedom and the harmonies at the very end always seem to remind me of the Eagles, a band whose vocal harmonies have been so great throughout the years.
Just a Heartbeat Away
Reb Beach really gets the blues out on this one and plays some great lead lines throughout the tune. These lyrics feel like they could be from another time to me. The intro and first verse seem to float around in the air until the hits of the rock guitars in the first chorus. Reb rocks out as the last section slowly winds out.
The Hope One Child Can Bring
About the eternal quest for peace in times of war and conflict. The line "Teach the children what this means, 'cause they are witness to these things" was written once after another day of violence in the world was broadcast in the newspapers and television. The images of war we all know well. And, as human beings, we seem to be destined to witness or take part in more conflict to come. Hope for peace that lasts forever might pervade most cultures and people, but is there really a chance that it ever will be realized? "Strong is the hope that one child can bring."
[note: there's a song called "Amnesty" on the album too, but for some reason Brian has forgotten to mention it! It's a great song anyway!]