“I pretty much believe the blues chose me,” said Doug MacLeod, in his slightly drawling, mellow voice, at the outset of an interview with the Morrisburg Leader. “To sing the blues, you’ve got to be singing from the heart.”
MacLeod, who is reckoned one of the finest blues singer-songwriters in North America, is coming to Morrisburg for a one night only concert on Friday, November 11. Blues by the Lakeshore will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the United Church of Morrisburg.
From California MacLeod shared insights into his life and music and why, for over 28 years, he’s been a blues man.
Born in New York City, MacLeod grew up in the 60’s.
“I had a turbulent childhood,” he laughed, “and the result was I had a big chip on my shoulder. Then my family took a trip to St. Louis, and I heard people singing the blues for the first time. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe the sheer joy those singers had.”
Blues has its roots in the black experience of the American South.
From the outset, MacLeod found himself drawn to these black musicians who, despite facing widespread prejudice (so much part of the 60’s scene) and often all the drawbacks of poverty, none-the-less expressed themselves in rich and soulful music.
“I thought to myself, I want to be around this joy,” MacLeod said.
He began to play and to sing with some of these Old Masters, gradually absorbing their culture, and living their lives, making the blues his own.
“What I learned is singing the blues really means making a negative life positive. Maybe you don’t have control over every thing that happens to you in life, but you can survive. I find that I am comfortable with this music. It speaks to my soul. And,” MacLeod added, laughing, “you gotta be what you are, not what you ain’t.”
A born story teller, whose warm and witty songs reflect his own experiences and his out look on life, MacLeod has been given the title Master of Original Acoustic Blues. He’s played gigs with some of the greatest blues men, performers like Big Joe Turner, George Smith, Pee Wee Crayton, and Joe Louis Walker.
MacLeod’s songs have been featured in TV movies and on the show In the Heat of the Night. Two of his songs are on Grammy nominated albums by Albert King and Albert Collins.
He hosted Nothin’ But the Blues on Los Angeles’ KLON-KKJZ radio for five years and is a noted authority on finger style acoustic guitar.
MacLeod has released 18 studio albums, several live records and a live performance DVD. During his Morrisburg concert he will be performing some numbers from his March 2011 release, Brand New Eyes.
MacLeod said that his blues inspirations are definitely varied and often anchored in his own experiences.
“I’m honest about my life and honest in my music when I sing about love and hard times,” he explained.
“Truth be told, although I have a wonderful life now and I’ve been happily married for years, let’s just say there’s a lot of girls out there in my past who may not have a lot of kind things to say about me,” he laughed. “Ernest Banks once told me never write or sing about what you don’t know about.”
He hasn’t ignored so-called ‘issues’: he penned the Outspoken Politician Blues and he’s written about lies and liars. However, blues, MacLeod said, “make a mighty big canvas. You can write love songs, sad songs, protest songs. I think Willie Dixon put it this way, ‘blues is the true facts of life.’”
Doug MacLeod will be performing solo during his Morrisburg concert. While he has worked with bands, especially in his first four albums, he admits that he is more comfortable performing alone.
“I often change my songs somewhat from performance to performance. The way I sing a song on Friday isn’t exactly the way I sing it on Saturday. It can drive a band crazy when you do that: they don’t know where you’re going to start or go.”
Audiences attending Doug MacLeod’s concert on November 11, at The United Church of Morrisburg, can look forward to a memorable evening with a colourful, multi-talented and charming musician.
“I love telling stories around my songs. I tell stories from my life, some poignant, some humorous, all true. When I sing, I invite the audience into the song. I invite them to become part of the music.”
Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. concert are on sale for $25 each at the Basket Case in Morrisburg, by calling 613-887-9210, or by booking online at www.troubadourstudio.ca.