Dougie MacLean at The Ark Music Theatre Review - A Caledonian Troubadour on the Wonder and Beauty of the Song of the Land We Share

Dougie MacLean began playing music as a child at home. Dougie played in the Scottish folk bands ‘ Tannahill Weavers’ and ‘ Silly Wizard’. His musical compositions have appeared in TV shows and movies, such as ‘ The Last of the Mohicans’. Many famous artists have performed covers of his songs. Dougie has over 18 recordings available. He is popular for his song ‘Caledonia’. Dougie, more than any other person I know, has inspired thousands with his songs of beauty and wonder for the land and times we share. His songs are haunting in their charm and simple wit, and appeal to all to sing along. Dougie is a troubadour of the heart’s true connection to all of life and to each other. Here is a recent interview with Dougie.

"It's a thin line that leads us, and keeps a man from shame, and dark clouds quickly gather along the way he came, there's fear out on the mountain and death out on the plain, there's heartbreak and heart-ache in the shadow of the flame, but this love will carry, this love will carry me, I know this love will carry me" from "This Love Will Carry'



Although we hang out after the concert each time Dougie Maclean is in town, it’s never really conducive to an interview. We are always talking about life, music, people, sharing notes of experience with everyone we encounter on the way round town, and weaving our way through the music to the pub. At one Irish Pub after Dougie’s concert in Ann Arbor, Michigan, we happened upon a dozen people playing and jamming Celtic music. Dougie accepted a fiddle and jumped right in, played for another few hours, before we wandered to another pub with several friends to socialize and party on. I caught up to Dougie here by phone several days after his last visit to THE ARK. Here’s the interview, minus Dougie’s great accent of course.

"We are not made of stone, we are half way there and half way gone, but we bend and believe in the strength of the light and the signs we receive" from 'Deepest Part of Me'



Interview with Dougie MacLean


RT:    I first discovered you, Dougie, when I heard you on NPR radio, the ‘ Thistle and Shamrock’ show here in America. Fiona Richie was playing your song ‘Ready for the Storm’. I pulled to the side of the road, turned the radio up and closed my eyes. It was stirringly beautiful. I couldn’t wait to get your CD and see you at The Ark in Ann Arbor. Fortune was such that I got to meet you. And greater fortune that I got to become a good friend. So, I am wondering, is there a song that first got you going? A song in which you felt you were coming into your own with music?

DM:    No, but when I was young, my mum and dad used to listen to a lot of music in the house, and so there was lots of music around when I was growing up. I was a musical player early, my very earliest memories of playing were, I was on a stage in the village hall here in Butterstone at the age of five, playing harmonica. I remember they used to take around the little village, and there would be these little village hall dancers and a little band on the stage, and either a fiddle player or an accordion player. I remember one time, they’d leave me beside this band because I used to love sitting beside the band, you know playing this Scottish band music, and used to sit with my little harmonica and play along with them. So I must have had music from a very early age; I must have had a wee bit of a talent, you know. So it naturally then developed to playing the fiddle, and singing, you know, I loved to sing. So I can’t think of one particular song that got me going. Because I had a natural kind of musical upbringing when I was young. Now when I look back on my life, I realize that probably if someone had seen me at that age, they would have said, “Yeah, he’ll be a musician!”.

RT:    So it’s just built into you or something.

DM:    Just built into me somehow, I just have this musical switch, it’s kind of, it’s a gift as they say; I’ve just got this musical thing.

RT:    Did your love for the earth come the same way?

DM:    You know, in this part of Perthshire where I grew up, my dad worked on the land and we were a very poor family, … a little house and … like we were talking about just now, and so we spent a lot of time outside, we were never inside, we were always outside. In the summer, I remember, we were always out playing in the woods, you know. Playgrounds, or the woods, or fields around our house, me and my sister. And my grandfather, he would stay with us; I was very lucky to have my grandfather staying in the same house, so my father would be away working, my grandfather would take us out in the woods and show us stuff and that’s where I got my connection to the land. And being shown stuff by my grandfather, when that happens, you get to know nature very well. You play, and a big part of it is what you played with. You climbed trees, you gathered the acorns and things. You were very in tune with the seasons and things of nature at an early age. So it’s part of me, it’s natural to be …, that’s why I live for it, I live now in exactly the same place. That’s probably why I do, because I know it really well outside. You can put a blindfold on me and I can probably walk somewhere and find my way around this place. I spent so much time in it when I was a kid.

RT:    When you play live concerts, it seems like everybody present feels that same connection to the earth; they share something with you, something you carry with you.

DM:    Maybe that’s genuine. It’s not just a whole thing I suddenly thought up, you know. I’ll be this way, or I’ll be that way, or this way or that way. It’s the real me! You know? It’s what I grew up with. And it’s what...um, being a poor family, that was the thing, we went out to work on the fields as well when we were very young. My mother taking me out to lift potatoes at the age of seven or eight years old, and would be out working on the farmer’s fields. My mother was making a bit of extra money for the house but I’d drive along with her as a kid. I’m sure that’s there when I do my concerts. You can’t lose that stuff, that stuff is in your… smile … your voice, your eyes, in the way that you act, you know. It’s part of you, you know? And I’m sure that the audience gets that from the kind of songs that I write, and even the kind of stories that I tell. It’s in the way I communicate, it’s from that little boy in the country.

"I don't know if you can see, the changes that have come over me, in these last few days, I've been afraid that I might drift away" from 'Caledonia



RT:    Do you ever have the kind of spiritual or metaphysical enquiry into where music comes from? Like Pythagoras thought it came from the planets, the stars, the celestial spheres. Others say music is from plants to planets, it’s in the rhythms of nature. Do you ever think about where it comes from, or do you just do it, as an artist?

DM:    I think there is a natural kind of, I think nature is, there is something about it that if you’re... it’s quite a difficult thing to explain, but you know. There’s a harmony and melody and everything, it’s very... there’s so much of it about in nature as well you know. If you spent the time, if you just sit in the middle of a wood, just sit and listen, you will know. There’s all sorts of amazing sounds going on, melody from the birds, just from stuff, you know? I’m sure that you do it subconsciously. That is the origins of music, that’s why music makes us feel relaxed or kind of chilled. I think it’s getting that connection to nature. It’s out there in all aspects of nature. It may be unconscious or subconscious when people listen to music in a concert hall somewhere in the middle of New York.

RT:    Do you think of yourself as a guy who writes melodies, or do you think of yourself as a technician. I’ve even heard people at concerts way back, who would think your secret is in different tunings of the instrument. Is that your secret? Do you think of yourself as a melody writer or a musical technician? You actually are a very accomplished musician and played violin in a major band in the past, going on to singing songs. I guess those are two questions.

DM:    Playing melodies, I love playing melodies and singing melodies and I’m always making little silly songs, for as long back as I can remember. You know, as a kid I would make up things, make up songs. I’d learn things that I heard, but I would also make my own things probably very early on, and I love melody. If you like to sing, you know there’s something about singing, when you sing a nice melody with the right words, it’s a feeling that’s difficult to describe, there’s a good feeling comes over you, so when you’re making it you just keep singing it until you get that good feeling, just trying different things and then you get that good feeling, that heightened … it heightens your senses in some way or other. That’s the magic that I would describe, that I talk about when I am talking about music. Most successful musicians might touch on this magic half a dozen times in their life, maybe! You rarely get it, that’s the success of these melodies. There’s something magical about singing a lovely melody. I’m just preparing a concert at the moment with some more of the Robert Burns songs, the old songs from the 1700s. I am learning a couple of new ones, and they’re beautiful songs. When you sing it you just go, wow that’s fantastic to sing. Why? I mean, why is it like that? There’s just something magical about it.

So, anyway, to be a technician, you have to be able to play your instrument. You have to learn to do it. You have to be good enough at your instrument so that you’re not thinking about the instrument when you’re making the melodies. You’re kind of going past the instrument to the melodies. If you can’t play very well, sometimes it’s hard to get past the lack of ability to play, you have to be able to not even think about where you’re gonna be putting your fingers, or where you’re gonna be, what you’re doing, when you’re trying to pull these melodies out of the ether or wherever they are. And you make your own way. Maybe my way of tuning the guitar is one way that helps me kind of get out into that magic place where the melodies live. And grab a couple here and there, you know. That’s how I feel about it. It’s not every time that you sit down, do you find one of these melodies. It’s magical moments when you do sit down and you get a little melody that you feel really good singing about and that’s why we do it. That’s why people like me do what we do because that’s where the real pleasure comes from.

"The chosen one, the wisest man, he'll help us any way he can, a clever word to calm our fear, but he's laughing when we cannot hear" from 'Into the Flames'



RT:    Well you have a very unique contribution to make to music and singing, and singer-songwriter stuff that is remarkable. It seems to permeate many other cultures. You’ve played with many other people. Do you want to name any of those people you’ve played with in the past, or are there people you are thinking about playing with in the future?

DM:    I’ve been lucky enough to play with a lot of different people and share, and it’s amazing how different people bring their little bit of magic to your song. I’m rehearsing at the moment for this big Perthshire festival that I have. There are lots of different musicians, and every musician that you work with brings another little magical bit to your song you know. But you need the melody first for them. You know I’ve been very lucky with the musicians I’ve worked with and I’m sure it’s because of the kind of melodies that I write. The musicians find it easy to play with me. It’s easy because I spent a bit of time with the melody before I even get the people to play with me. When I play the melody, the other musicians think things that they didn’t even know they had in their heads. They come to add to the melody. So it’s strange, I don’t think it matters who I sit down with. As a musician, I sing a little song, they’ll find something lovely to add to it, you know, a little color to add. You’ve got to have good melodies and that’s not so easy to do. I think you can get situations where musicians sit down and nothing really magical happens.

RT:    Yeah, yeah, I definitely know that as a musician and as a witnessing participant. Just for fun, ‘what is a melody?’ What is a melody to you? How would you define it?

DM:    A melody is something that, as you go on the journey of the notes, takes you on this lovely little journey, a pleasurable journey. If it’s just dadadadada it’s pretty boring. But if you have a nice kind of like ahahahhahh that dips and slides and changes, fractions of what you call it, movements, it’s like a little journey. And when you’re singing a nice melody, it’s a lovely motion in the singing of the melody, it is very pleasing. You can’t put your finger on it. I can’t say why one little journey gives you such pleasure and another bunch of random notes wouldn’t give you the same pleasure. I’m always fascinated by how few notes there are and how many thousands and thousands of melodies there are. And it only needs two little variations of something to make a melody, that’s ok to a melody, that’s brilliant. And it’s happened to me when I write something and I like it. I just change one note, or hold a note a bit longer, and that’s it! That’s what it needed. Now it’s a living melody rather than just an ‘ok’ melody. I know it sounds stupid but that’s how I would describe it. (RT: Yeah, that’s good.) I describe it from a singer’s point of view. When I’m singing songs, I go on that kind of journey and add a bunch of words on top of it, and that adds the pictures. Before you know where you are, you’ve got this thing that you can do, perform.

"Oh Lord he is a desperate man, they've used him, abused him and fooled him again, Oh Lord he is a deperate man, Oh Lord he's a desperate man" from 'Desperate Man'



RT:    When you’re singing to a live audience, which you do often, where do you go? Where do you go when you sing? Is there a place you go to in your mind?

DM:    Close my eyes, yeah, and go wherever... but I usually go to where I was when writing that song. I’ve got pictures in my head of all the songs. I don’t know why, but they were there when I wrote the songs, and that tends to be where I go. So the songs go with the images as well, although its hard to show it all to people.

RT:    I think that sounds right. You’re putting it in very artistic words. From my background, it sounds like a spiritual experience of some sort, or a...

DM:    I think, you know, it could be connected to something much bigger than we understand.

RT:    Right, right, I love the idea of it…

DM:    I mean, call it what you want, that’s how I would describe it. There’s something more than just singing it. Anyway, there’s this thing, if you’re doing it right, it transcends the normal somehow. And I’m sure that’s why it’s been used in spirituality over thousands of years. You find these monks chanted, and did this stuff because their music accessed places that you just can’t get to any other way.

RT:    Yes. I mean words, it’s tough for words to describe, you did very well - the idea of song. You go some place where the song already is or was, or also that it is going somewhere, that’s beautiful. And it’s also the spirit of being human. One of the things that I always like about you. There’s a very few number of other people in my experience of life on earth that can do this. Lots of other people who experience you, experience this too. One feels the magic, one feels more human.  I’m using the word spiritual, but really they feel more connected to nature and they feel more human and they feel like somehow we are all connected too. I think a lot of people have that experience with your music and your performance. I’m not crazy, I’m just reporting.

DM:    I know what you mean, yeah. I think it’s to do with honesty. A kind of honesty or something. So much music and so much of the arts becomes connected to fashion and being hip?! That it’s cool, it’s not cool, it’s this, it’s that. And in the process of being hip, or cool, or not cool, it can’t be... it misses that magical stuff. Whereas my stuff is just like me, it’s from the woods where I’m sitting, and the fields. It’s really from that and that’s how I did it when I was young. I’ve been very lucky that, as I went through my life, I never got caught up with the record company stuff. I was able to keep it very honest, almost a youthful musicality to my, not youthful but naive sense. Maybe it’s this, the honesty, which is the essence of being a human being. It’s kind of complicated but not that complicated. It’s that simple thing we are, you know. People can get so far away and get lost from it. Maybe coming to one of my concerts and sitting and just singing these little simple songs that have nice melodies and words that are not designed to be cool or trendy, they go, ah... you know. It is that simple, you know what I mean? Life can get very complicated for people, knowing that they get further and further away from what the essence of it is. The essence of what we are. Melodies like that, didn’t do it intentionally, but anyway, just the kind of background that I come from and the place where I live, I do it?! And in that way, that’s what they get from it. I’ve never thought about it before but that would be the way of it. I do get lots of emails from people thanking me for the songs. On a very fundamental kind of level, many saying that the songs changed their life or that they were in a very dark depression and upon hearing my songs, it helped them get through hard times. I think that proves that songs are really more powerful than people can really understand. You know what I mean?

RT:    I remember, when I was younger, hearing stories that the Celts or the Druids would, before a war, call the the poets or bards, the songwriters to come out and perform. Their magical performance could stop wars. I want to think this possible.

DM:    Yeah, you’ll find that all the tribal people always had their bards. They were almost like magic men. You had your bard and your healer, and the music sat in that same kind of place.

You don't laugh like you should, you don't smile like you should, this life has torn the ground from underneath your feet, and I can't reach you, you're down too deep" from 'Down Too Deep'



RT:    That’s good. How many concerts in a year do you do? It seems like you do a lot of them.

DM:    I’m a bit older now so I don’t do so much. I’m a bit settled here now than doing concerts probably. I couldn’t tell you the number of concerts but I’m all over the place, and what fascinates me is that human beings respond the same way wherever I play. I could do a concert in California, or a concert in New York, or a concert in Glasgow, a concert in London, or a concert in Amsterdam, and the people are similarly responsive. Human beings are the same everywhere you go.

RT:    And you also do concerts at home, right? In Perthshire?

DM:    Yes, the festival and that’s what we are doing just now. I’m just rehearsing. I had the guys in yesterday rehearsing for a show at the festival. It’s a beautiful theatre up in Pitlochry. This year, I’ve got a thing about no song repeated, so I’m doing 60 different songs of mine during the festival.

RT:    Wow.

DM:    I’ve got that many songs over the years from all the different records. When I’m traveling, just doing a tour or a show, you don’t get much chance to sing all the ones that you might, so I took the opportunity at this festival to sing lots of songs that I wouldn’t normally sing. Songs I have sung over the years, but they’ve been left behind by other songs. There’s lots of different musicians and it’s a great festival. It has become the big event of the year because it’s a musical feast for me with all my songs. It all happens within 10 days.

RT:    Ten days. And of course I’ll mention your website (http://www.dougiemaclean.com and http://www,perthshireamber.com) and where they can get information on that. How many people usually come to that? Is it different all the time or?

DM:    Yeah, well it’s growing every year and this will be the 4th year of it now. The theatre holds about 500 people for most of the shows. I have 5 or 6 shows in the theatre, then we have a big show in a huge castle outside Delochlee. I’m also doing a concert in the big medieval cathedral in Dunkeld this year with the string section. There’s probably uuurrr 10,000 people maybe over the 10 days.

RT:    Yeah.

DM:    Or 8,000 or something. I actually do a concert in an iron age crannog and only 30 tickets get sold for it. Some friends of mine, who are archaeologists, have reconstructed an iron age loch or dwelling out on … so the house was built on trees that were sunk into the loch and has a conical thatched roof and there’s a wooden walkway out from the shore to the hut. And the fire’s in the middle of the hut. There’s just grass on the floor and the fire is in the middle of the hut. People all just sit around inside this 2,000 year old home, actually. And I sing for an hour and it’s great. I always look forward to it, the ancient feeling you get in this old place. We’re doing something that humans have been doing for thousands of years, sitting around the fire singing.

RT:    When do you do that one?

DM:    It’s in the midweek, the middle of the week. The tickets sold about ten minutes after they went on sale because so many people want to be part of that show. The room fills with smoke from the fire and there’s candles and much more. Some archeaologist friends of mine discovered this in the loch they excavated and they were able to build it exactly the way it would have been there some 2,000 years ago.

RT:    Is there anything on your website about that one?

DM:    Yes, it’s on the website, you can have a look about, it’s called the Crannog, it’s iron age. So you see, I don’t just do big theatre shows. I’m trying to do wee shows in these kind of interesting places because the music changes too in each environment you’re in. Other things than the normal happen to the imagination of the public in attendance. When you’re sitting in this ancient house and singing something, it’s hard to describe but it’s magical.

"Standing here on Cadderley, between the burn and the turning sea, I gaze across at these golden hills, I'm looking all the way to eternity" from 'Eternity'



RT:    Are there other places that you have sung in the past years, or coming years, that you want to mention? Places that are acoustically unusual or strangely wondrous?

DM:    I get some fantastic venues to play in from old churches to fantastic new modern kind of theatres. I also do a show in my own village hall just along the road here, it’s just a little village hall, where I learned to play the harmonica when I was little and it only holds 100 people. They are very special concerts that I put on during Easter. It’s an old wooden village hall. The village hall used to be the centre of little rural communities and all the people would go to dance there. The guys who worked on the land, the teenagers, the elders; there was no difference, people of all ages would go to this village hall. So I get a big kick out of doing my concerts there. People travel a long way to come to just hear me singing in my own back yard; I mean, literally in my own back yard.

RT:    Yes!

DM:    You can see the landscape and the nature around that made the songs, made the melodies that I’m singing, it’s quite special. I never used to do that; I always used to be touring and doing shows away from home, and I’ve decided that I want to play in this little village hall. Someone said to me, “you can’t do that”. I say no? But this makes sense of my music. If anybody wants to get to know me and my songs, hear me playing them right back at home. That’s it, that’s the thing, you know.

RT:     Most of the time I’ve seen you, you’re alone. It’s amazing how you will pack the place, totally enchant and entertain, maybe even educate people in the audience; alone with just one guitar. And I’ve seen you with a band and, on the internet, I’ve seen you with a whole orchestra and chorus, and children love to listen to sing along, and I do too. I love that song you sing, ‘I’ll be your Loving One’. Besides the land and the environment, do you favor being alone or with a band? What is it like to be with a giant orchestra and chorus singers?

DM:    Yeah, these things are fantastic. I did that song with a big orchestra and a big choir actually, we had around 112, we had the Scottish Youth Choir. It was one of the ‘Poems in the Park’ shows I think. It was amazing when 112 voices behind you start singing along. It puts the hair up on the back of your neck. These are huge big things, but when I’m just singing with me and my guitar, and my voice is in good form, and I’ve got a good audience, there’s a kind of communication that you can only get when you’re doing it on your own, which is very interesting. The acoustic band that I’m working with now, I’m kind of educating them into the fact that they have to really sit behind my songs, you know the song is what it is. My singing and my song is what’s … you know, sometimes bands will overpower the song and you can’t hear the words. I’ve had to really re-educate the guys now but they’re a wonderful bunch of guys. They know exactly how to sit in behind the song. The song is king, kind of, you know?!

RT:    That’s good.

DM:    There is something magical about doing it on your own. I’m always looking to experiment with different musicians and different instruments and they can add colors. I remember I worked with a harmonica player, he used to be in a band and he was a brilliant harmonica player. There was something that he could get sometimes when he was doing little solos. It was very soulful. The way he would play the harmonica would bring a tear to your eye. Just the sound of the harmonica in the song did this. So it doesn’t have to be a big fancy instrument to be brilliant. It was just a tiny little harmonica.

RT:    It’s very good, the things you’ve done, I saw you on YouTube recently. Are you sitting at home playing? It looks like you’re sitting in the kitchen at home, or living room, alone with the guitar, those little video songs are very good. Is that your house?

DM:    Well I’m doing it all the time, it’s one of the things about the way that we designed it over the years. We really didn’t mean it to be that way, but we didn’t get involved with record companies. We didn’t get involved with fashions and trends, we just did it. I just did it and now my son plays with me and we still do it as family and it’s a very natural thing. It’s not contrived. I’m not forced to do it because it’s some record company’s saying to me, “you know, you need new songs for a new album”. It doesn’t work that way, I just do it. It happens when it happens, and it just becomes an extension of you. You eat, you sleep, you play guitar and sing songs, or pick up the fiddle, and that’s the way it should be. It should just be part of your life. You can go out and make a living at it, but I try to take home with me when I travel. Even with the hardships of traveling and the fatigue, the stresses of audiences and things like that, I try to think about it like I was just sitting at home and singing, you know.

RT:    Oh that’s good.

DM:    It works for me and I think the audience gets that as well.

RT:    Yes. I think that this part of the conversation leads into other important questions. I meet a lot of musicians who go to a lot of concerts. Do you have any advice for people who wish to be a musician? For those who wish that one day they are going to play live music? Any advice to those just starting out? You already gave a lot of advice by accident, I know ...

DM:    Well, I think the big thing is to find your own music. Don’t be tempted to try to play a particular style or play a particular thing because it’s fashionable or because you’ll get shows by doing that. You have to find your own natural musical rhythm. Find your own musical and physical rhythm and color of the music you are going to make. You’ve got to find your own. That’s the journey as a musician. You learn to play. I did the same thing you know, you play and then you just keep going. You ask yourself, am I being really true to what I am? You know what you feel, or what you really like to hear and it’s that kind of process of getting in touch with your own natural musicality. Once you get there, once you get to that point, it becomes very easy I think. It becomes natural. Not a forced something that’s not you. I used to try to sing the odd blues song. I love to try to sing blues but I could never say anything, because it’s not my thing. I don’t know much about it. It doesn’t come naturally to me. So my melodies are based more on the things I grew up with, my own kind of Scottish background. So it’s about finding your voice, finding your musical voice.

A heaven for the hunger, a poison for the pain, until pieces of the strength to dream are all that will remain... for hearts can never hide, can never hide" from 'Hearts Can Never Hide'



RT:    Do you ever go look for a song, or do songs just come to you? Do you ever go look for one, or go somewhere to make one happen?

DM:    No, I’m always sort of playing about. If I’m just sitting around, I might pick a guitar up and just play away. Most times, you just play away and it’s quite nice to just play away and sing sometimes. One time you’ll sit there and you’ll sing something, without even realizing it, you’ll have the seed of the song. It’s being able to recognize when you’ve got that! When you’ve got it, that something, that something that may need to be developed a bit. But I don’t go searching for it, it usually happens by accident. If I look back at the moment that the seed of the song appeared … with all the songs that I’ve written, and try to think about them, I can’t always remember where I wrote them, why I wrote them. I can’t remember the situation, or barely part of it. I re-listen and say ‘how did I get that?’. Where did that come from? There’s a beautiful melody, I can’t even remember how I made it, it just sort of happens.

RT:    But you also mentioned earlier that sometimes the songs live in some kind of place where you can go back to again. It’s a feeling, or something?

DM:    No that’s what happens, once you’ve got that seed, you build the song from that seed. But what I’m talking about is that very first spark of thing, it’s not defined by a place, or where I was when I wrote the song, it’s a picture of the content of the song. For example, I might have been backstage in a dressing room somewhere and been playing around and the whole thing may have come to me there, but it’s about the west coast of Scotland or something. You don’t have to physically be in the place to … I tried that when I was young. I used to take my guitar out and just see if there was any connection. If you were in a particular place, could it transfer some kind of thing to you. It doesn’t really work that way for me. I’d climb up to the top of the hill and sit on the hill with my guitar. I’d think if I go up here and the place is so amazing, then I’m bound to find melodies up here, but it wasn’t like that. I would find melodies just in the kitchen, or sitting outside the back of my house. I remember sitting outside the porch here and it happened within 5 minutes, I had the whole song written. You know I can’t remember the day, but with a guitar, I sat down, I don’t know what made me think of it, it just happened all within 5 minutes, the whole thing was made, the song was made.

RT:    OK, that was good. We just talked about people who were just beginning, do you have any suggestions for people who have already been musicians for a long time, and maybe they are playing out at bars or playing wherever they play, churches. Do you have any advice for people who are already out there making music?

DM:    Just to enjoy it, you know, if you enjoy it yourself, others will. People want to develop what they are doing, you mean, to make it? I know people who were kind of … it happens kind of organically. When I started, I would go out and play tiny, tiny, little places. I always ... it was one of those old things … it didn’t matter how many people were there or how big the place was, you give your whole 100%. And then it slowly grows organically, and you never know who is in your audience. People tell their friends, and next time more people come to your concert. It just grows like that, organically, until you get to the age of 54 like me with an amazing kind of public all around the country and travel and sing. But it was all built up one person at a time almost, sharing it organically. So don’t get disheartened if you’re only playing to 30 people. Keep doing it because eventually 30 people will grow to 300 people or more.

RT:    That’s good. Is there anything else I should be asking you?

DM:    No, I think we’ve almost covered it all! We covered a lot of stuff.

RT:    I wanted to do something a little different. I’ve been writing these reviews.

DM:    I enjoyed the chat. You’ve asked questions that normal interviewers wouldn’t ask because you’ve got an interesting spiritual side of things. You end up kind of talking about it. I’ve enjoyed thinking about it along these lines because normally I just get the usual questions. What’s the next record, da da da da da. What’s interesting about this side of things is the magical side of it.

RT:    I think too, a lot of people who come to all these concerts, these acoustic kind of concerts at The Ark, and even many rock concerts, want more. I meet people that aren’t just going to a concert to ‘be done’. Not to say “do me”, but they are going there to have a sacred experience. They may even want to be a musician, or already are a musician. They want to be a participant and there’s some kind of love thing going. [DM laughs]. At all these music things, I think there’s some kind of higher love or spiritual possibility in the air.

DM:    Yeah, it’s certainly been a lovely way to live and make it, for me, I’ve had a fantastic life, been able to travel. I mean, I’ve had some fantastic letters from all kinds of people all over the years of just how much my little contribution has meant to their life. And that’s a brilliant thing, as a human being, to be able to go around and share something, which is simple. I take it for granted.  I grew up here with the simple perspective of life that I’ve got. But it’s when, to be able to go and share that, and to make your living from it. If humanity was a little bit more like that, you know, if people were giving a little bit more, and sharing a little bit more, maybe it would be happier place.

"He walks he does not run, he has no overwhelming need to fly, his heart remains unbroken, no need to search the sky, but me I've never found that place, I wander recklessly... I know that she will find me" from 'She Will Find Me'



RT:    Yes, I think that’s true. Do you want to say anything about the world situation or …

DM:    No, I worry for the place, we’ve lost a lot of the magic, the beauty, we were talking about that the other day. You know, about learning apprenticeships. Young guys would learn to …, it’s like that Scythe Song, you can’t learn it quickly. It takes years to learn something like that, stonemasonry or woodworking. It’s almost the same kind of magical thing in that, as there is in music. Making beautiful wooden things, or beautiful stone things. Beautiful functional things. Even the old guys when they were doing something on the farm that was just pretty mundane. Maybe they were building a simple haystack or something, but they would build the haystack beautifully. They would stand back after they had built it and get an artistic sort of satisfaction from the work they had done. Now I think the world has very little of that artistic satisfaction for people anymore. The spiritual satisfaction of making something beautiful or being able to work with your hands, it is almost quite magical. It takes a long long time to learn. I would like to see humanity getting back to more like that. I think it would solve a lot of our problems.

RT:    I agree.

DM:    People would have more of a sense of why they are on this planet. They are connected to that magic of singing and working. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it can be. I’ve watched old guys working with wood and I’ve just been fascinated that they are like a magician with it. They just know it so intimately. They can tell the grain going one way and they learn that from years and years and years. I wonder if we are making a society with much youth culture that haven’t learned anything. I remember being with the aborigines in Australia and I wanted to learn to play the didgeridoo. I met a couple young guys who played didgeridoo and I asked them if they could teach me to play didgeridoo. They said “oh no we can’t teach you, it’s only the old people who can teach you, we don’t know enough about the didgeridoo yet to be allowed to teach you”. I thought that was lovely. There’s so much more to learn and the old people were the ones who taught. In our society, we trash our old people. We kind of disrespect them, but they are the ones who have got the knowledge. Anyway I won’t ramble on anymore about that.

RT:     No, that’s good. I mean, it seems like we are in a situation where there aren’t masters or teachers, there aren’t any apprentices who stoop to learn. There aren’t many elders nor old trees.

DM:    We’ve lost the knowledge, we’re losing that kind of old big worried knowledge at the expense of technology probably and it’s the big wide deep knowledge that we really need to get in touch with.

RT:    I know on your website you have some beautiful items, you’re definitely not selling any old thing; you’ve got art carvings, and ...

DM:    Yes, my wife carves and she paints stuff. When we got together, we decided that I would do the music and she would paint the covers for the albums.

RT:    Beautiful album covers, beautiful art.

DM:    Yeah, and we’ve done that all over the years, we’ve kept to it. These are the things that bring you close together.

RT:    In interviewing a number of other bands recently, I started to realize how much of your music is just all beautiful and harmonious; it doesn’t jab you and knock you over with giant noises. You really do seem to lean toward harmony and melody and beauty, and there’s always a kind message … often about our connection to the land and friends.

DM:    Yeah.

"But I'm steady thinking, my way is clear and I know what I will do tomorrow, when the hands have shaken and the kisses flow, oh I will disappear..." from 'Caledonia'



RT:    Yeah. Well cool man, I think we’re probably done … you’ll be happy to know Mayflower Bookshop is still selling your CDs. Thanks.

DM:    Thank you. The lyrics are on the website if you need them.

RT:      Bless your heart.

"Lift up your glass to tomorrow, say your own sad farewells for today, but how can parting be such a sweet sorrow, when you can't find the right words to say..." from 'Till Tomorrow'



Dougie MacLean
’s latest double CD compilation consists of over 2 hours of favorite new and good old songs, and is available at Mayflower Bookshop in Berkley Michigan, as well as on Dougie’s website.

"Oh I can see I will have to be moving, I've been standing here for too long, but I know all the friends I'll be losing, I will see them again further on" from 'Till Tomorrow'

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