Hi Don, where are you at the moment?
Los Angeles. Home.
How does the Corona crisis affect you?
Three months’ worth of gigs cancelled so far. Locked down.
How do you estimate the effects of the corona epidemic on the music industry?
It’s going to be catastrophic, especially for musicians and technicians who depend on live shows to make a living. I’m lucky, because I still have royalties coming in; I just got my first mechanical check from the Chicago single I co-wrote last fall.
What do you do with the time you involuntarily gained?
I am writing an authorized biography of Marc Jordan, and the downtime will accelerate the completion of it. I’ve interviewed a bunch of people for the book, including Michael Omartian, Jay Graydon, Gary Katz and Steve Lukather. Hundreds of hours talking to Marc, of course. I’m speaking to Olivia Newton-John tomorrow.
I also just finished writing about 3000 words on Andrew Gold for a boxed set of his Asylum albums that’s coming out later this year. Meanwhile, I have about twenty Monkey House songs underway — none of them finished, but a lot of them really close!
What does music mean to you in times of crisis?
Music is everything, at all times, but especially now. I’ve been spinning a lot of instrumental stuff that soothes my soul: Pat Metheny, Paul Desmond, Bill Evans, Herbie, Miles… And I’m finding more time to just play piano with no work-related intention. That feels good too.
Are you currently planning special online offers for your fans, e.g. online shows?
No live streaming stuff planned yet, although that could definitely happen. I haven’t been to my studio in over a week now. But I’m going into the archives for rare Monkey House tracks that will show up as singles, one at a time. The first one is a new remaster of “I’m Not That Guy,” from the Headquarters sessions.
How do you think it will go on for you?
At some point, the world will return to some kind of normalcy. And music will be essential, as it has always been. I’m making sure I will be locked and loaded with great new songs when the smoke clears.
Do you have a message for your fans?
Everybody hang in! Adapt to the new normal as best you can. Shower the people you love with love.
Don, I have also a few questions about your musical roots. What is your earliest musical memory?
Impossible to trace. My dad played jazz piano, and my mom was a really good classical soprano, so I can’t ever remember our house not being full of music. It was elemental for me, right from infancy. It was like oxygen.
Which artists and bands have influenced you?
Steely Dan, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Sinatra, Paul Simon, Oscar Peterson, Pat Metheny, Joni Mitchell, Duke Ellington, Rickie Lee Jones, Maurice White, James Taylor, Miles Davis, and a thousand others!
What was your first instrument?
Piano. I was playing before my feet could reach the pedals.
When did you decide to become a professional musician?
At about eighteen. By that time, I’d been writing songs and running bands for five years.
What did your parents say when you told them that you wanted to become a musician?
They were 100% supportive. They were creatives themselves.
Which profession would you have chosen if you hadn’t become a musician?
Probably something in the visual arts. Design, maybe illustration.
Do you remember your first gig? Where was it and how did you feel?
My first professional gig was with a six-piece cover band in a little bar outside Toronto. We were playing Chicago, Boz Scaggs, Tower of Power, Doobies — all stuff that musicians loved to play then, and still do. I felt completely at home right away. Like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.
What was it like when you first held an album of yours in your hands?
It was an insane thrill, but nothing beats the first time I heard myself on the radio. I pulled the car over, and I was screaming at people, “Hey! That’s me! That’s my song!”
Don, thank you very much for the short interview! We wish you and your family all the best for the future and especially health.
Photo: Don Breithaupt
This interview was published for the first time on March 23, 2020