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The Doobie Brothers' John McFee thanks fans, discusses career highlights

The Doobie Brothers "Taking It To The Streets" in Georgia in July at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre.
The Doobie Brothers "Taking It To The Streets" in Georgia in July at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre.
Courtesy of The Doobie Brothers

Listening to musicians' music and buying tickets to their concerts or their recordings makes some fans feel that they know the artist personally, especially when the musician in question is very personable. And John McFee of the Doobie Brothers is like that.

McFee and the band will be in Alpharetta, Ga. on July 17 for a one-night concert that begins at 7 o'clock at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park. But before the big event, he took time out to answer a few questions for the Examiner on July 14, because he's just that kind of guy.

What is the one thing you would like to tell your fan base more than anything else at this point in your career, John?

Thanks for being there. We really appreciate it, I know I certainly do--if not for the fans we'd have to get real jobs...

What do you see as your biggest challenge or greatest reward regarding your current tour?

We really love to perform live, and the ongoing challenge is to do our best every night. We are talking about some ideas for changing the set or doing some different things with the arrangements, and that takes some effort too which would qualify as a challenge. Hopefully we will also get to do some things with some of the artists who participated on the "Southbound" project.

I think our greatest reward has been when the audience enjoys the music, and we certainly get some great positive energy back from them, and having had a chance to get together live on several occasions already with some of the "Southbound" artists (Sara Evans, Chris Young, Brad Paisley, and Zac Brown Band so far) I think it would be very rewarding to do some more of that as well.

You have achieved so much in your professional life, but at this stage in your life, what is your most important goal musically for the future?

That's a big question, so my simple answer may seem less than exciting; the fact is that my goal musically always has been and continues to be to try to make the best music I can. I've just completed work on something, producing the new John Cowan solo project to be released in August, entitled "Sixty" that I honestly think is the best work I've ever done--John Cowan is such a talent. And we had guests like Alison Krauss, Rodney Crowell, Leon Russell, Bernie Leadon, Jim Messina, Ray Benson, Bonnie Bramlett, John Jorgenson, Sam Bush, Chris Hillman, and I could go on, but you get the idea, it's an incredible project--so hopefully I'm heading in the right direction."

Note to public: John Cowan was asked to come back as a bass player for the Doobies in 2010, and while he is regularly on tour with them, he also continues to tour solo with his John Cowan Band as well. And in September he and John McFee will appear together on the Grand Ole Opry to perform three songs from Cowan's new album "Sixty," so it isn't too late to see them there together.

Did you play a specific role in any particular song on the new album coming out this fall by Sony?

Maybe my favorite thing I did on the project was playing pedal steel on "South City Midnight Lady". I got to trade off with Dan Dugmore, one of my favorite steel players and a great guy, and got some very gratifying praise from our producer, David Huff--when I did the solo work on the rideout, he said that he felt it really elevated the track.

That kind of feedback from somebody whom one respects musically means a lot, so I would say this track was special for me. I also have gotten some positive comments on my lead guitar work on "Taking It To The Streets" from other folks involved with the project. I feel very fortunate to get to play on such great songs, and try to do something new with them.

On a personal note, do you see you and your son Shane creating music together professionally in the future?

I hope so, and we have worked together in the past. Shane and I first worked together for Peter Lewis (founding member of Moby Grape) a number of years ago, and that worked out well--the album got a rare five star review from Rolling Stone magazine.

Shane also played on the Carlene Carter album "Stronger" which I produced, on a song called "I'm So Cool", and his playing was incredible--we traded off between him on guitar and me on pedal steel for an extended jam on the rideout, really fun.

Shane will not be performing with his father in Georgia this week when John, Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons join with the rest of the band at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park in Alpharetta. But as talented as his father is, there will surely be future opportunities for both to work together, so Shane's talents can be seen more prominently as well.

Tickets for the Thursday night concert are still available, but you better hurry before they sell out. The show starts at 7 p.m., but the doors open at 6 p.m. Also performing that night will be Peter Framptom and Matthew Curry.

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