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Interview with Singer/Songwriter Michael McDermott
Singer/Songwriter Michael McDermontt is alive and well and living a reconciled life. With his birthday quickly approaching, Michael opens up about his past, the recent loss of his mother, becoming a father and his fantastic new album Hit Me Back.
Michael McDermontt will be celebrating his birthday (along with his gorgeous wife) with a special birthday bash concert at the fabulous Montrose Room, located at the InterContinental Chicago O’Hare | 5300 N. River Road , Rosemont, IL 60018 on Saturday, August 25th. For more information and for tickets, please visit www.montroseroom.com. For all things Michael McDermontt, please visit his official website, www.michael-mcdermott.com
MJR: (Michael J. Roberts) Congratulations on your upcoming c.d. Hit Me Back! The album contains an awesome song called Scars From Another Life. The lyrics are so cutting. What is the history of that song
MM: (Michael McDermott): Thanks Michael! Well it’s a peculiar little story. I was moving around a lot and ended up finding a place in Edgewater. I was pretty messed up then. The apartment overlooked a church and a bell tower. So, I thought by just looking that site I could find some sort of inner peace. Scars From Another Life came on a day kind of like today, rainy and a bit dreary. I was up for a few days in row and it was one of those things were the song just fell into place.
MJR: When looking back at the lifestyle you led, do you ever question why you are still alive?
MM: Yes. It’s a fear Michael. I say this as a joke sometimes, but I am not totally kidding ‘that the check is still in the mail’. I send that out to the universe and it is bound to stick somewhere then like a boomerang come right back at you. For so long I never cared whether I lived or died. Then, because of reasons I don’t understand, I end up living. Now I am in a place in my life where I want to live and have reason to live. But I have this great fear that, like the Sword of Damocles, I am just waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak!
MJR: Spirituality and religion has always been part of your music. I first fell in love with your music 20 years ago with your album Gethsemane, which I found by accident because I thought you recorded the song from Jesus Christ Superstar (both laughing). Need Some Surrender is still one of my all time favorite songs.
MM: Well thank you. Gethsemane was the beginning of the downward turn for me in terms of any type of lifestyle. Things were just evolving at a pace I couldn’t keep up with and I think that album reflects that.
MJR: I know your mom recently passed away. How have you been dealing with that loss?
MM: Well, her dying did quite a number on me. I was raised a good Catholic boy and Irish kid. You know Michael, I have been quite lucky in ‘avoiding’ death for the most part. Before that, I lost two major people in my life; my guitar player was executed and my mentor was killed in a car accident. But for as old as I am, I was lucky I didn’t have to really face death many more times and deal with hard core emotions. With my mom I did. The saying goes that Mom is just another word for God and that is how I viewed her. I was very close to my mother. So close it got to the point where other women were uncomfortable because we did everything together. But it has been a very, very, hard struggle. The drinking kicked up and, well, it has just been a tough thing. Every other day it seems, I still go into a corner of my house and cry.
MM: My mom was a mother to everybody. She had a great spirit and was very involved with her church. We literally would have people staying with us all the time because she viewed them like they were lost souls that my mother would try to heal. As a kid I looked at it as such a drag and I don’t think I want to encourage my daughter to bring in a bunch of people to the house. But I do want her to have the generous spirit my mom had. She is a very loving kid already; a little bit peculate, but loving! Someone told me that she really looks like my mom which makes her all the more beautiful and perfect to me.
MJR: What inspires you now to write music?
MM: All kind of different things. There is a song on the record called Prettiest Girl in the World that I wrote when my daughter was just turning two. Then I thought, who the f**k wants to hear songs about my two year old daughter, so I turned it into something a little more mischievous, with a young man looking at a young girl and taking it from there. So I have to be careful not to make every single song I write about my daughter!
There is still a dark nature to my songs because that darkness is still part of my nature. It is not something that I am proud of but I can still draw on it for inspiration. The same things that inspired me in the past still do as well as the scars from another life.
MJR: How has your voice changed in the last 20 years?
MM: Well it has become a bit deeper and richer. Let’s face it Michael, all the smoking and drinking I did catches up with the voice. So now when I go to hit a high note I have to take a huge breath beforehand!! (laughing)
As I kid there was I guy I knew by the name of David Baerwald, who wrote Leaving Las Vegas for Sheryl Crow and he and I worked together on an album. One day in the studio he turned to me and asked “why do you sing everything like a used car salesman?” He told me not to shout, but just to talk and tell the story. That advice was always in the back of my psyche and I have now tried to implement it.
MJR: How have you seen the music industry changed as far as marketing goes?
MM: Every element has changed. My manager now was head of marketing for Universal Records. It is great to have him on board because it is nothing like I used to know and I still can’t wrap my head around it sometimes. Now you have to be on Facebook, Twitter and blogging, which I think is kind of silly but you have to do it. I don’t really want to ‘blog’ about things that happen during my day, but I guess I have to.
Also, anybody now with a computer and Garageband is literally my competition. Back in the day, I could go toe to toe with David Gray or the like, but now I am jockeying for position with everybody in the world. It is like there is one watering hole in the desert with everybody going there and the problem is how do you get a drink?
MJR: That must be especially true of radio time with all the conglomerates owning the label and the stations.
MM: Absolutely. There was a radio host I recently talked to in San Diego and he told me they were having trouble finding time to play John Mayer! Now if they are having trouble getting John Mayer spun, how can I or anybody like me get radio play.
MJR: So what can your fans expect to hear from you on your concert on August 25th at the Montrose Room?
MM: It is going to be a hoot! It is my wife’s birthday as well as mine. Mine is on the 24th and hers is on the 26th.. We are going to be filming some of it and best of all is that the new record Hit Me Back will be available for the first time ever at the concert.
MJR: Well I can’t wait to see the concert and I will be in the front row singing along with you and taking many deep breaths!
MM: I’m so glad your coming Michael and now I am going to have to add Need Some Surrender to my song list for you!