Italian blues magazine Macallè Blues has a new interview with RR artist Doug MacLeod:
MB: Let’s start from the basics. Every time I talk to some blues cat, no matter if he’s a musician or just a blues lover, one of my biggest curiosity is always about the way he’s discovered the blues. So Doug, how did you get to know and, I would say, love the blues? Did it happen by a family record collection, by friends, by chance or what else?
DML: I got to know the blues when my family moved to St. Louis MO. As I remember there were two am radio stations playing blues 24 hours a day except on Sundays from 12 am to 6 pm. They called it R&B. I started loving it when I realized it was speaking to me on a level that I couldn’t quite understand at the time. Now I know what that level is. It’s like I say in my concerts – “This is a music of overcoming adversity not subjecting to adversity”. It helped me overcome the abuse I had as a kid and a stutter that followed.
MB: So you already had a great previous experience in fronting an audience as a solo act; that seems to have been such a great gym at the time. Wasn’t it? And is there some useful fronting “trick” you learned back then that you still use today?
DML: Playing solo is a great ‘gym’ as you say. It’s all on you. It sharpens your focus. What I’ve learned playing is that you, the entertainer, must give to the audience first with your whole heart, soul, and being. Some entertainers want the first give to come from the audience. I’ve know some like that. Even worked with some. But I think they got it backwards.
MB: In this context, another thing that set you apart from many other contemporary acoustic artists is your instrument: how and why did you get so devoted to the National steel guitar rather than just the acoustic one?
DML: I love the complexity of sound of a National. The strength of sound. I can hit the top of those guitars with my right hand for percussion and I don’t have to worry too much of hurting them. Where a Fender Strat is like a Porsche or should I say Ferrari, a National is like a Mack Truck. Guess I’m a truck driver…
MB: In your acoustic recordings, you use to be backed by little combos, tipically just upright bass and drums or adding a little tasty piano as in your last cd. But on tour, you always travel alone and very light, with the baggage of a wise man: few things if not almost nothing. When I met you in fall 2008, you drove a rent car with just one bag and the guitar along with you. Traveling that way and being on stage all alone every night ought to be such a very enriching and emotional experience where everything depends just on you: how do you feel about that?
DML: It’s the way I’m most comfortable. I guess you could say I’m throwback to the early guys of this music. They travelled light too. In fact a whole lot lighter than me! I just need one suitcase and one guitar. I learned how to pack when I was in the Navy and my National guitar I call ‘Moon’ can pick and bottlenceck and is fine with all the tunings I play in. So, I don’t need no more than that. Plus like I say, “If you can travel light, you gonna’ be alright.”
MB: I’ve read that there’s your portrait in the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi: after all these years, that sounds to be such a honor and a great recognition, isn’t it?
DML: That was from a photo shoot from Jeff Dunas for a book on blues. I’m not sure if I’m worthy of that, but I’m damn sure that I’m working on being worthy of that honor.
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