Interview: Don McLean - Reverb - Reverb

Interview: Don McLean

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Don McLean headlines Saturday of the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, a three-day festival in Lyons this weekend.

This coming weekend, Planet Bluegrass will host the 19th annual Folks Festival at the Planet Bluegrass ranch in Lyons. The festival has a diverse lineup, including Madeleine Peyroux and Rufus Wainwright on Friday, Susan Tedeschi and Over the Rhine on Saturday, and Gillian Welch on Sunday. Headlining Saturday is Don McLean, who admits to enjoying playing festivals.

“I’m looking forward to coming to Colorado,” the 5464-year-old singer-songwriter says. “The festivals are a lot of fun; everybody’s there to hear music.”

McLean has just released a new album, “Addicted to Black.” The CD is a diverse compilation; “Besides Myself” is a rock song, while “Mary Lost a Ring” reflects a Cajun influence.

“I don’t really have a style like James Taylor or somebody like that; I do all sorts of different things, too many different things,” McLean laughs.

Currently, the CD is only available through his website, Don McLean, and at his shows, though he will be releasing it through Proper Records, an English company with a distribution agreement with Warner Brothers.

“As far as recording I’ve slowed down a lot because there’s no record companies and no CDs and no reason to make records at this point, which is sad but true,” he says. “Two members of my band, Pat and Mike Seavers, went ahead and made some tracks for some songs I had written that I was doing but didn’t know when I would get around to recording. That started the ball rolling; I liked the tracks so I put some vocals on them, then we did some more tracks and we were finally able to get it done. I think it was a few years to get it to where I released it.”

McLean is touring with a band that includes Nashville session players Tony Migliore on piano, Jerry Kroon on drums, Ralph Childs on bass, and Vip Vipperman on guitar. McLean changes his setlist every night, though some songs are always played, including “American Pie,” which he still enjoys playing. In fact, McLean has no patience for performers who seem to resent playing.

“As a professional, you deliver your best at all times,” he explains. “This is what I don’t like about some artists who go out there and complain, the Amy Winehouse kind of slobber all over the stage approach to performing. I don’t like it, because people pay a lot of money to see these shows, and of course people who behave that way, their careers are over very soon, but it’s still very disappointing to the audience and the things they expect. You’re there to give them a thrill, to make them happy. You’re not there to say, ‘Oh, I don’t feel like doing that song tonight.’ They don’t care either.”

McLean admits to still enjoying the challenges and rewards of performing.

“It gives me an enormous lift physically and emotionally, to feel that feedback and know I can still sing well and have the energy to really deliver a strong show. You go away feeling like you did something good for people.”

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Candace Horgan is a Denver freelance writer/photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. When not writing and shooting, she plays guitar and violin in Denver band the defCATS.

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  • dee

    i have seen don three times in concert, and he gives his audience an enormous lift physically and emotionally. please come back to texas, don.

  • folkfan

    Just wanted to correct something in your story. According to McLean’s official website (www.don-mclean.com/), he was born on Oct. 2, 1945, making him 63, not 54. I was in high school during his “American Pie” days, and knew he couldn’t be younger than me.

  • Anonymous

    hi folkfan

    The birth date you quote is correct and widely quoted so Don is currently 63. As a long time fan I have never known him to be other than honest about his age so I can only assume the error was made by the writer. Perhaps subtracting 1945 from 2009 proved too much for them!