July 13, 2024

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Interview with Doug MacLeod: I don’t think intellect should get in the way of soul

Interview with Blues guitarist Doug MacLeod. An interview by email in writing. 

Dear readers, get to know more about our US/EU Jazz – Blues Festivals and the activities of our US/EU Jazz – Blues Association in the capitals of Europe, we will soon publish program for 2024, enjoy in the July – August – Brussels, Berlin, Prague, Warsaw, Sofia, new addreses this year, also in Amsterdam, Budapest.

JB: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

Doug MacLeod: – Well let’s see. I grew up in three parts of the country. North Carolina, New York area, and St. Louis MO.. I got interested in music on the radio. My mother told me when I was 3 or so that our neighbor in NC played Louis Jordan music rather loud. His music room and my baby room shared a wall. She was worried if her baby boy was getting any sleep in his crib. She looked in. My eyes were closed but my foot was tapping to the music. So as my mother said, ‘Louis Jordan was my first musical influence’.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2024

I think I realized it was a passion after the abuse I had as kid and the subsequent stutter I got. I was shutting down and then music came along, I could express myself, and that changed things.

When did I realize I could make a living to this? I don’t know if there was specific time. I just knew it was I wanted to do and had to do.

JB: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

DM: – Well I started out as an acoustic player playing blues during the folk boom of the mid to late 60’s in Tidewater VA. Then I went to electric blues with a band for 4 albums. Then back to acoustic ever since 1994. I believe you look inside yourself to find your sound. It is what you like, not what you think you supposed to like. You just got to let it come out. My rule of thumb is “If it sounds good it is good, if it sounds bad, it is bad.” That simple.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023

JB: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

DM: – I really haven’t developed any in that sense of the word. I just play the guitar. Sometimes watching baseball with the sound down. As far as my musical proficiency- that’s my hands.

My left hand pinky is deformed so I’m really a three finger fingering picker. Been that way for about 12 years so I’ve had to find new tunings for songs and different ways to play things.

My right hand? I have no idea honestly what my right is doing and to be honest, I don’t think I want to know! 🙂 I know it just does it.

I don’t use picks. An ol bluesman named Ernest Banks asked why I was using picks? I said to be louder. He said, ‘why you want to put something between your soul and your guitar?’. ‘Just play harder boy’. Never used picks again!

JB: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?

DM: – Oh sure. With my song writing I’m really trying to make the songs/message more concise. Guitar wise. Just playing what I hear and feel. And trusting that. And remembering these sayings, “ Taste and Space” and “When In Doubt, Leave It Out.”

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JB: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

DM: – I don’t think intellect should get in the way of soul, but every once in a while I think more soul in intellect would be a good thing.

JB: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?

DM: – Are you kidding? I’m more than OK. You go back to what I said earlier. Luther’s saying, “Leave your ego, play the music, and love the people.” That says it all right there!

JB: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?

DM: – Being a blues musician, I’m not sure I’m the guy to answer this but … my two cents. Maybe do what the jazz musicians did in those days? Take the popular music and make jazz versions of it?

JB: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?

DM: – Well I think everybody comes here with a gift. And thing to do is give your gift whatever it might be. Musician, Mechanic, Plummer, Farmer. Whatever. Be the best you can be at what you came here to do.

JB: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?

DM: – Making streaming payments more fair.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Association 2023

JB: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?

DM: – Kenny Burrell, Cornell Dupree. The Temptations, Tony Joe White, Jimmy Reed, Jimmy McGriff, Ray Bryant, and Ahmed Jamal…

JB: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?

DM: – Kansas City in 1941 to hear the music of Kansas City at night, eat BBQ, and in the afternoon watch the Kansas City Monarchs with Satchel Paige pitching.

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Interview by Emmanuel Bolton

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