Local pop rock vet Pat McGee has been making records and writing music for over 20 years. But it’s safe to say that none of what he’s done in the past compares to his most recent accomplishment, his self-titled new record, Pat McGee. While it qualifies as a rare accomplishment, and it’s beautifully written, it’s also a star-studded affair that by virtue of its lineup alone could make it a highlight of the year in music around these parts.
“I never expected them to say yes!” Pat says, about the LA-based band he assembled for the recording. “If nothing else, I wanted them all to know that I felt they would have been the perfect band for these songs.” The band McGee refers to is: Waddy Wachtel (guitar), Russ Kunkel (drums), Danny Kortchmar, and Leland Sklar (bass). Dubbed the Section, these are the same players who helped create the signature sounds of Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac and so many more iconic stars. These artists also formed the base of McGee’s own musical foundation.
The Pat McGee Band has released eight albums (two on Warner Brothers) and a live DVD. They’ve shared the stage with The Who, the Allman Brothers, Counting Crows and many more. Pat also has performed for the USO in Greenland and more recently in the Middle East and Africa with Navy Entertainment.
Bob Gulla: Some of your records are “Pat McGee” and some are with the Pat McGee Band. Why the difference?
Pat McGee: Well, the first record I put out was under my name in 1995, 20 years ago! That’s insane just to think about. After that I put the band together, and named it after myself — because I had sold 10,000 of my own CDs, but also because I wanted people to know that I wouldn’t be showing up solo. Since then, I’ve made a bunch of records; this is my 10th, and six have been with the band. Sadly, my drummer Chris passed away in 2008; we regrouped in honor of him.
BG: You are soul brothers with Pat MacAloon.
PM: Yeah, he’s been through a lot with me. He’s been by my side for so much of what’s gone on, and he’s such an amazing musician. When I decided to make this new record in Los Angeles, I wanted him to come with me, so he and I could demonstrate the harmonies live in the moment.
BG: How did that go over?
PM: When the musicians hired to play in the studio with me, real seasoned guys, heard us sing, they couldn’t believe it. All three of them, said, “When was the last time you heard anyone do a live take on harmonies?”
BG: Those three guys were pretty famous! I mean, it’s a star-studded cast on this record.
PM: Well, yeah, it’s still hard to believe that it happened at all. Yeah, pretty big hitters. So, I’m standing in the middle of the studio, because these guys didn’t want to hear anything ahead of time, and they’re like, “OK, kid, whaddaya got?” Talk about intimidating. These guys have been in the studio with guys like Jackson Browne, James Taylor. And here they were, playing my songs. It was surreal.
BG: How did it go?
PM: To be totally honest, I wasn’t aware of the level of creativity in the moment. Like I said, they didn’t want to hear anything. Russ Kunkel wanted to hear my lyrics, so he could help lift the song up. We had a two-hour conversation about the role of a drummer in a band. I never heard anyone talk like that! They work together so effortlessly, too.
Russ plays something and Leland does a little something off of him and Waddy plays a little line, and together they brought my stuff to life. We pressed record on the first take with no rehearsal. I was freakin’ out! At one point, they were like, “Weren’t you supposed to be singing there?” And I was, but I was laughing, because it was blowing my mind beyond my wildest expectations!
BG: You had some other guests too, right?
PM: Yeah, I got Paul Barrere of Little Feat, who’s now retired, to play slide guitar. They were the first concert I ever went to, so it was pretty special. Then we got Pat Monahan from Train, John Popper from Blues Traveler. I don’t typically ask for favors, so it was weird. But they were all excited to do it. They said, “Dude, we wouldn’t play for you if we didn’t think the songs were great.” It was pretty flattering.
BG: It turned into something pretty epic.
PG: Yeah, you could say that! I thought I’d write a record, record it in my buddy’s basement and sell 5,000 copies. It feels great to have done it. Whether I sell 5,000 or 100,000, it doesn’t matter. I’m super proud of it.
BG: What’s this about your upcoming festival, Ocean State of Mind?
PM: Yeah, I’m really excited about it! It’s a three-day festival with 12 of my favorite artists. It’ll be all original acoustic music. I’ve always believed Rhode Island is such a unique place, so I wanted to showcase the state and invite fans from all over the country here to see it. It’ll take place in Bristol and Newport and hear great music wherever it happens to be. I consider it a full-on vacation, with a bunch of meals, including a clambake, all New England-type fare. So far I have Stephen Kellog, Chris Tapper, the Push Stars, Alternate Routes all set to play. It’s gonna be awesome. I hope to see everyone there!
Ocean State of Mind takes place Oct 18 – 20. For tickets and festival information: patmcgee.net/2015/07/01/pat-mcgees-ocean-state-of-mind-ri-destination-concertvacation-announced-2/