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Michael McDonald Interview: Touring with Boz Scaggs 2009

Michael McDonald on getting older, facial hair, Obama

In the murky world where soul and rock merge with smooth jazz, Grammy winners Michael McDonald ("Sweet Freedom," "Yah Mo B There") and Boz Scaggs ("Lido Shuffle," "Lowdown") are giants of the genre.

The two have joined forces for a tour that visits the Celebrity Theatre this week. But according to a cheerful McDonald, 57, do not expect any ego clashes when the show hits town.

Question: How do you decide who goes on first?

Answer: We just trade off night by night. Honestly, the only problem for us is we both want to go on first. We're both at the age where we want to get off early.

Q: You guys are pegged as blue-eyed soul singers. Does the label bother you?

A: It never did. I always thought of it as a compliment. Really, to be described at all in this business is a privilege.

Q: Does it surprise you when you look at all you've achieved?

A: I definitely have enjoyed playing all these years. It kind of started with Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, and now I get to perform with people like Boz, people who were really legendary before I got started. Boz won't like that part, but it's really been like a dream come true for me.

Q: Has time gone by fast for you?

A: All of us guys, when you get to be in your 40s and 50s, time goes by very quickly. Things that were 12 years ago seem like they happened yesterday. I look at my kid who has a band and I go hear him play, and it just seems like yesterday I was his age.

Q: You're a man famous for his facial hair. What combination works best for you?

A: Well, obviously none of them are working very well. I find that the older you get, the more difficult it is to look like you're supposed to be onstage with a rock band. If I do anything, it's damage control at this point.

Q: Speaking of hair, you ever think of dyeing it? You've got a great head of hair.

A: Thank you. I dyed it years ago for a couple of videos. The record company didn't want to do (videos) unless I dyed my hair. I can't imagine how women go through that every week. It was a brutal experience.

Q: You played at the Democratic National Convention. How was Barack Obama?

A: I met him after, at a fundraiser in Tennessee. He was just as nice as he seems to be. Michelle was really very sweet and cordial, too. They seemed to have time for everybody. I think that's rare in their business and in the music business, too. I have really high hopes for them.

Q: Do things like that make you starstruck, or are you past that?

A: That would definitely be one of them. And doing a session with Ray Charles was just kind of surreal. I idolized him by the time I was 11. Never did I dream I'd be standing and recording with him and a 40-piece orchestra. I kept having to pinch myself to pay attention to what I was doing. I kept thinking back to being 11 and listening to Ray Charles over the Delco radio and having him fill my world with magic.

Q: I read an interview with Petula Clark and was surprised that she's a huge fan of yours.

A: Oh, she's a sweetheart. I've had the pleasure of working with her, and she's a great singer. (Laughing) I've always had a secret crush on her.

Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs

When: 8 p.m. Friday, July 10.

Where: Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd St., Phoenix.

Admission: $73-$103.

Details: 602-267-1600

 

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