Singer and songwritter John McDonough retired from psychotherapy to focus solely on music because that was where his passion was. John has spent 25 years performing in and around Austin, Texas. Over those periods has toured Europe and United states.
John McDonough has released five CD’s of original music, and also played over 500 gigs, performed in eleven major music festivals, several times appeared and performed on local and national radio, and embarked on successful tours throughout the United States.
John McDonough’s new EP, ‘We’ll Answer The Call,’ has five tracks on it and was inspired by the story of Joe Rantz, the Washington Husky rowing team, and their epic bid to win the Gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.
Mister Styx of musicarenagh had an interview with John McDonough and he had a lot to talk about himself and music career, and here is what he had to say:
What was the role of music in the early years of your life?
There was a lot of music in my house growing up! I had an older brother and sister who were very into the rock and pop scenes of the early 70’s, and my parents were big jazz lovers. There was always music coming from someones bedroom, and there was always music being played in the car.
Are you from a musical or artistic family?
My father was a very good clarinet player, and my mom was a good piano player. I wouldn’t say I am really from a musical or artistic family however. My father was a businessman and my mother a homemaker. My siblings and I were very into sports and that was really our focus growing up.
Who inspired you to be a part of the music industry?
Even as a young kid, I was always drawn to the singer-songwriters like James Taylor and Harry Chapin. I was so moved by their lyrics and voices. The first album I bought at ten was Harry Chapin’s Taxi. I was mesmerized at their ability to captivate an audience with only their words, voice, and acoustic guitar, and I wanted to be like them.
How did you learn to sing/write/to play?
I started taking guitar lessons around 12 because I wanted to be able to play and sing James Taylor’s Fire and Rain. Because I was so into sports and was a competitive tennis player. I didn’t really have time to study the guitar seriously until college. In college, I started taking guitar, piano, and voice lessons.
I worked at it with the same commitment and discipline I had put into tennis, and I still study my craft with the same intensity all these years later. I love the challenge of trying to be a great musician, writer, and performer, and it’s something one can always improve on.
What was the first concert that you ever went to and who did you see perform?
I was eleven when my mom took me to see Neil Diamond! It was a big arena concert,and I was captivated and moved by the whole experience. I wasn’t even a Neil Diamond fan, but I still loved every minute!
How could you describe your music?
I describe myself as a singer-songwriter with a contemporary edge. I know that sounds pompous, and I hate sounding that way, but it’s the best way I feel I can describe myself. I am definitely a singer-songwriter at heart, but I feel that terms implies a mellowness that does not fit me. My voice and my music has an energy and edginess to it .
Describe your creative process?
I will have an idea for a song, and I will think about it for a while before even trying to write anything. I will know how I want it to sound, the musical style of the guitar I am after, and what I want to convey lyrically. I like to write the music and the lyrics at the same time, so I have to have a good idea of the direction I am going.
I write from personal experience, and I also draw a lot of inspiration from other people and their experiences. I am constantly reading and I love documentary movies. Often I am so moved by an individual and their story, that I will feel inspired to write about them! It’s also my way of sharing stories of amazing people who I feel deserve to be known.
What is your main inspiration?
My inspiration is to write my “Taxi” or my “Fire and Rain,” and to be able to captivate an audience with just my personality, my voice, and my guitar. This is really what keeps me going in the music industry. I have written some really good songs, and I am a good singer and performer, but I have not reached my goals yet.
I realize I have set the bar really high! I am comparing myself to some of the best musicians and performers out there. I am comparing my songs to classics that are as great today as they were 50 years ago! My dream is to play theaters where the people are there to hear my music, and where I have the opportunity to really connect with the audience.
What musician do you admire most and why?
This is so tough as there are so many musicians I admire for different reasons. I admire James Taylor for the depth of his music and lyrics, and for sounding as good today as when he started. I admire James Bay for being such a great artist while remaining so humble and nice to his fans. I admire Billy Joel for his incredible piano skills while also being so smart, funny, and engaging. The list goes on and on, and I cannot choose just one.
Did your style evolve since the beginning of your career?
When I started, my style was very mellow. I was not a great songwriter or guitarist, and this really limited the style of music I could write and perform. I wanted to write more upbeat songs and have more energy in my shows, and I worked very hard on my craft to achieve that. I even became more electric and rock in the middle of my career.
However, I realized I am a singer-songwriter at heart, and I feel my lyrics and my voice work best with predominately acoustic instruments. I feel I am in the third act of my career. In this final phase, I am still working to be upbeat and energized while remaining acoustic.
Who do you see as your main competitor?
My main competition is myself. I always try to be better than I was the day before, and if I am improving, I feel good about myself. Of course, there are many musicians out there who I admire and who inspire me. I wish I could play the guitar like John Mayer, and I use his abilities as inspiration to work on my musicianship.
I wish I could write like James Taylor and Harry Chapin, and I use their old records as inspiration to craft the perfect song. It would not be healthy to see them or John Mayer as competition as it would be a losing battle and demoralizing. It is much better to see these people, and many others, as inspiration, and only compete with myself.
What are your interests outside of music?
I have an eleven year old niece to who I am very close. I try to spend as much time with her as possible. I like to get outside and soak up the Chicago summer sun with bike rides, tennis, and outdoor concerts. I also love to travel! Traveling really fuels me as a person and an artist.
If it wasn’t a music career, what would you be doing?
I have had several careers in my life. I worked as a teacher, a tennis coach, and lastly, a psychotherapist. I always played music on the side and was generally pretty happy with this situation. About eleven years ago I became extremely burned out with psychotherapy, and the only thing that interested me was music.
I decided to take a break from doing therapy and work on my music full time. I really thought it would be a temporary thing, but eleven years later I still only want to write, record and perform. I could always go back to these other professions, but it would not be by choice.
What is the biggest problem you have encountered in the journey of music?
Burnout has been my biggest problem. I play a lot of gigs where people are only half listening, and it can be tough. As much as I love to sing and perform, playing those types of gigs where I am predominantly background music gets really old and can zap my motivation.
Luckily, I am at the point of my career now where I have enough good nights to counteract the bad. I love the nights when the audience is really engaged, and I can connect with them through my personality and my music. These are the nights that keep me going.
If you could change one thing in the music industry, what would it be?
My first reaction to this question is, ”there are so many things I would change!” But truthfully, I don’t think that is fair. Yes, this is a tough, competitive industry. We are all fighting for our piece of the pie. However, if I wanted an easier path, I picked the wrong profession!
The one thing I will say is that streaming platform’s payouts to the artists need to be higher. I do feel laws need to be enacted so musicians can make a fair wage from streaming companies like Spotify.
What are your plans for the coming months?
I just released my latest EP, ‘We’ll Answer The Call,’ on June 17th of 2022, so I am still very busy promoting it. I am also very busy gigging! Everyone loves to get out in the beautiful Chicago summers, and I am gigging 3-4 times a week. Come October, I want to start writing again for my next CD, and plan a tour for the east coast.
Do you have any artistic collaboration plans?
Not until I am back in the studio recording my next batch of songs. I love the collaborative process in the studio. The musicians I work with are all fantastic, and my songs really come alive when they add their parts. My producer is also brilliant and always comes up with great ideas for my songs! I have a lot of writing to do before this happens though.
What message would you like to give to your fans?
Most importantly, thank you for your support! I think we artists can say “thank you” so often that it appears to lose its sincerity. This could not be further from the truth. I say “thank you” so often because I really mean it! I only ask my fans for one thing. Please share my music with your friends and family.
With all the streaming platforms and social media out there, it is really hard to cut through the noise these days. The most effective way for me to grow my fan base is for my fans to share my music with their friends and family. And one more time, thank you!