Noisey has a great new interview with Michael McDonald, one of the greatest singer-songwriters to ever sit at a piano. The interview took place at Coachella, where McDonald was planning to perform with Thundercat, with whom he’s recently collaborated. (Most recently on “Show You the Way” from Thundercat’s most recent album, Drunk.) It’s worth reading in full, but McDonald’s thoughts about Thundercat—whose music he seems to greatly enjoy—are particularly nice.
First of all, McDonald and Thundercat only got acquainted because of Kenny Loggins, another yacht rock original. Here’s that story, along with his impressions of playing with Thundercat:
Kenny Loggins had reached out to Steve Bruner, Thundercat, after he had heard an interview where Steve mentioned Kenny and I. Steve showed some interest in writing with us, so he called me and I really didn’t know what to expect. But when I met Steve and I heard some of the stuff he had been cutting for the new record, I really was jazzed, and I became immediately aware of his past stuff. He’s an amazingly talented kid and got a great musicality, so I just wanted to kind of be a part of it on any, whatever level. We wrote the one song, and I’m hoping to write some stuff in the future. I was thrilled that he asked me. I did the Hollywood Bowl with him at the Flying Lotus festival. I love playing with this band because they keep it very simple. It’s very much a live experience, you know? Where the song is kind of a template, and the musicians bring whatever they’re gonna bring to it in the moment, you know?
Here’s some more thoughts on how much he enjoys Thundercat’s music:
I was surprised when Thundercat said, “Oh man, I grew up on you guys.” ‘Cause, you know, he does such a good job of reinventing R&B that I hear a lot of influences, and the last thing I would have guessed would be that me and Kenny were in there somewhere. So I was flattered. But all these guys, the kind of neo-soul thing, it’s right up my alley, I like that kind of harmonic, somewhat kind of more sophisticated harmonic sound sensibilities … When I first heard Thundercat’s stuff I thought, “Man, this is so original.” A lot of his ballads to me had such a beautiful harmonic, almost classically Hispanic feel, or like Brazilian kind of feeling. I don’t think he does that intentionally or anything. It’s just I think those are his influences on some level. And I think we all kind of did that growing up.
And here’s who he wants to collaborate with:
I wanted to do something with Brittney from Alabama Shakes, and I thought it really was the song that would have been perfect for her, but it didn’t work out. I don’t even know that she got word of it. I’d like to do something with Frank Ocean, you know, and I love working with Thundercat, and I’d love to do more with him. If the opportunity arose on the next record, if I could get something going with him and pull him in on that project that’d be great.
Michael McDonald: erstwhile Doobie Brother, yacht rock legend, Thundercat fan.
Listen to “Show You the Way,” a collaboration from Thundercat, McDonald, and Loggins: