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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Chicago musician Michael McDermott bares soul on new album


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Author Stephen King once referred to Chicago musician Michael McDermott as "one of the best songwriters in the world."

It's been a long musical journey for McDermott, whose soul baring songs continue to earn rave reviews. His brutal honesty is in full force on his new album, "Hit Me Back," set for release on Sept. 25 on Rock Ridge Music.

McDermott, www.michael-mcdermott.com is bound to perform songs from the new album when he performs Aug. 25 at the Montrose Room at InterContinental O'Hare, 5300 N. River Road, Rosemont, as part of a birthday bash concert.

McDermott and his wife, Heather Horton, who also is a member of his band, both celebrate birthdays this month. The show starts at 8:30 p.m., and general admission tickets are $12, available at www.ticketweb.com.

I had the pleasure of talking to McDermott about the new album.

Q- Great to talk to you. I had the pleasure of interviewing your wife last year. How has it been being in the same band as someone and being married to them, plus raising a child together?

I love it - you always seem to hear nightmarish stories but thus far, it's been amazing. To me, making music together is the most intimate of experiences. 

I love everybody I play with. When someone leaves the band I have a real sense of loss, fall into a funk after it. 

Traveling is more challenging with a child. Our daughter got quite sick in Italy last year, but for the most part, (knock on wood), it's been great.  

Driving down to Texas next month and that will be a bit of a challenge, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.  

Well, okay, maybe for the world but not much less than that.


Q - Heather joined your band in 2005. What do you think she brings to the band? Of course, she has her own music career as well. Has it been hard for the both of you to balance your careers?

First off, she's an incredible musician and an otherworldly singer. Secondly she's beautiful. Third, she's hysterical and a blast to be around.  Fourth... do I go on????

It has been very difficult to find a balance for her. She has graciously and selflessly put her work on hold for raising a child.

It's a source of great frustration for both of us, but I still do believe her time is yet to come. Her record "Postcard Saturdays" is just incredible. We also will have a side project album coming out in 2013.

Q - "Hit Me Back" is your first album with Rock Ridge Music. What attracted you to the label?

Jason Spiewak and Krista Mettler have been friends for quite sometime. We had always flirted with the idea of doing something together, but the timing seemed perfect this time around.

Q - The album deals with many personal issues, including your feelings after your mother passed away last year. Do you think the album is more personal than your previous albums? What goals did you have in sitting down to make the album?

I wouldn't say more personal, as I think I mined some more frightening subject matter on past albums. 

I always hope to have the listener be a little uncomfortable. It's that place of discomfort that people are usually forced to confront things and ultimately make decisions or choose to ignore them.

Q - Explain the album's title.

I love ambiguous titles: "Hey La Hey," "Gethsemane," "Ashes," etc.

"Hit Me Back" is fairly layered - it can be taken as a bit of the masochist, self-destructive nature, the need for pain and struggle that sometimes is self-induced.

Or "Hit Me Back" as in, "I'm still standing, gonna need a lot more than that to knock me out."

Or in modern vernacular, it's just, "Get back to me."  The waiting that we all endure, for salvation, for peace, for love, sex, food, drink.  Ah, the waiting, 'tis the hardest part, ain't it?

Q - You're working with Stageit to do online concerts. Is that just another way to get your music out to people? Do you think that musicians have to find creative ways to get their music out as the music industry continues to change?

My friend Glen Phillips told me about it and thought it would be right up my alley.  It's pretty cool, still not a pro at it for it feels slightly vacuous to me, but I feel that may change. 

Nice to keep people from different parts of the world engaged. Even though I feel bad keeping them up until the wee small hours of the morning!

Q - Is it harder or easier to be a musician these days? What advice would you give to an up-and-coming musician?


It's never easy being a musician - the transitory life, the traveling, the cluttered landscape of music, where anybody with a computer is now someone you have to contend with to be heard. 

I love it, but it's not for everyone. Not for the weak of heart.