This week our guest is Michael McDermott.
Michael’s been making music for the masses for 25 years now. He released his major label debut 620 W. Surf in August of 1991.
I first met Michael 20 years ago when he was touring in support of his third album, the self-titled Michael McDermott album. We’ve traded the occasional email, Myspace message and Facebook message over the years, but I’ve never had the chance to sit down and have a proper conversation with him about music until now.
The way this conversation came together was kind of interesting. Five years ago, I had mapped out questions to do an interview for the 20th anniversary of 620 W. Surf. At that time, the interview didn’t happen. As the end of last year was approaching, it occurred to me that I could resurrect that idea for this year and take another swing at getting it done.
And then Michael caught me by surprise and released XXV this past December, a two CD collection of his work over the past 25 years rounded out with a few choice unreleased nuggets.
At the time that it was released, McDermott said, “I may start to tour and only bring this album, because it has everything I want people to hear in one package.”
So that gave me the idea that he and I should do a podcast and go track by track through the entire compilation.
Michael was game for the idea and we began working to schedule something. That was early December and as you can see now, here we are in early March. Things got busy. So by the time we got it scheduled, I made the decision to shift the focus a bit.
As I’m sitting here talking with you, Michael has a great new album out called Six On The Out. It’s his second album with his newish band, The Westies and as a longtime fan who has heard all of the albums, this is one of the best records that I’ve heard from Michael in years.
This is the first of two albums that we’ll hear from Michael this year. He’ll also release his first solo album in four years in June.
So that gave us a lot to talk about. He crowdfunded both of these albums last year using Kickstarter, which I thought was a really interesting approach — I was curious to hear how he maps out two albums for two different things in his head like that. What’s the dividing line?
Michael takes us inside that process and helps us find the line between what the differences are between the material that he writes for a Westies album and the material that he designates for his solo work.
Along the way, we also have conversations about various elements of his past and present. He shares some war stories involving Brian Koppelman, who we now know as the creator and director behind the brand new Showtime series Billions, the podcaster behind the brilliant podcast, The Moment and so many other things. In 1991, Brian was Michael’s A&R guy, the person who would help to shepherd McDermott through the creation process for his first three albums.
Michael and Brian had an interesting adventure in Memphis while they were working on the third album, an adventure that involves Stephen King. Michael shares that story with us today on the podcast.
I was really nervous about this conversation and I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. After we talked, I was really happy. We had a great chat and it’s one that I think fellow McDermott fans will hopefully enjoy. You’ll hear Michael reference our planned track by track conversation at least once during this chat and I share his wish to still do that. As it stands, it looks like we’ll meet up for some sort of rematch in the coming months to talk about that new solo album and I’m looking forward to that.
We’ll play a couple of songs from Six On The Out during today’s podcast that will give you a taste of the record. If you need an extra nudge to check that album out, Noisetrade is also giving away a five song sampler from the new album. You’ll hear two of those songs today.
Today’s conversation begins as we were chatting about new music and I was telling him about Don Dixon’s new EP. Don produced Michael’s second album and the conversation starts there as Michael tells a fun Don-related story from the recent Westies appearance on Mountain Stage.
Thanks so much for listening. I hope you enjoy the interview.
Lost Together with Matt Wardlaw, Episode 13: Michael McDermott