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  April 2008

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Smitty:  Well, I tell you, you did such a wonderful job.  I tell you, the arrangements on these are fantastic and I’ve gotta speak of your background vocals.  They are so hot, it’s ridiculous.  Man, I mean, they really supported this project so well.  I love those background vocals.  Wow!

MM:  Oh, well, thanks.  Yeah, there’s a lot of people singing on them.  I mean, over the course of time we always have our buddies here in Nashville that are so talented, the people that I know here and then there’s singers out of New York and some of them over in London—and I don’t think we did any vocals out in L.A. per se, but a lot of really talented people contributing to the overall beauty of the project.

Smitty:  Yes, and I love Abe Laboriel on the drums and Nathan East on bass.  I mean, this is just a beautiful project, man.  I love it.

MM:  Oh, thanks, Smitty.  I appreciate it.  And that was basically Eric Clapton’s band that played on it (both laugh), so these are the guys that go out with him live and play on his records, and we were lucky to be able to get them on some of their off time, rare down time, and get them in the studio with us.

Smitty:  Yeah, and you were talking about originals on this project.  I think that “Only God Can Help Me Now” fits perfectly on this project.  Wow, that’s a great song.

MM:  Oh, well, thank you, thank you.  Yeah, we were lucky, I think, on this project to be able to include some originals, yeah.  We wouldn’t have done that on the first two Motowns because we really wanted to dedicate the record to pretty much reviewing it and going back, in a retrospective kind of way, through the Motown history.  But with this record, like I say, it was more or less almost anything goes, you know?

Smitty:  Yeah, well, you’ve come a long way from Mike & the Majestics, my friend.  (Both laugh.)

MM:  That’s a while back.  Not too many people know what that means.

Smitty:  (Laughs.)  Yeah, but I tell ya, Michael, your career has just been a stellar one and I don’t think you’ve ever put out a bad record that I know of, and it’s just great to see you still out there doing your thing and really having fun with it because I really loved it when you said at the beginning of this conversation that it was more fun than work, and I think that’s the key to really doing something that everyone will love, when you’re having fun doing it, you know?

MM:  Yeah, I agree with you, Smitty.  I think that with each record we’ve ever done, myself and whatever producers—on these albums Simon Climie has done such a great job producing these records, and largely I think that the real goal for us from the beginning was if we’re doing this kind of project and we’re not having fun, we’re doing something wrong.

Smitty:  Absolutely, my friend.

MM:  And so that always seems to translate through music no matter what genre or what kind of record you do.

Smitty:  That is so true. How excited were you about having Stevie Wonder on this project?

MM:  Yeah, well, Stevie’s been pretty generous with his talent and really nice of him to kinda step out and do these—the problem for us was once you’ve recorded a song with a Stevie Wonder harmonica solo on it, it’s pretty hard to kinda put anything else there or get anyone else to even dare to play a solo, so he was awfully nice and on a couple of tracks on the last record and on this record he played some harmonica for us, so that was a big thrill for us.

Smitty:  Yeah, it was sweet too.  Well, you know what, Michael?  This great record Soul Speak is so appropriately titled because I think you really put a soulful touch to these songs and really reminded us of some very good times and maybe some rollercoaster times, you know?  It just depends, but for the most part, some fun memories, great songs, and I want to applaud you for doing this great project.

MM:  Oh, well, thanks.  I appreciate that.

Smitty:  Yeah, and everyone else involved.  And would you do me a favor, my friend?

MM:  Sure.

Smitty:  Would you go out and rock the world with this stuff?  Because it’s fantastic.

MM:  Well, I’ll tell you one thing, I can guarantee we’re gonna have a lot of fun playing it because these are the songs we would play in our spare time or I played them in clubs for years, and every chance I got since then, it’s a thrill to be able to actually play them every night in our own show, and it’s more fun than any musician should be allowed to have, you know?

Smitty:  Yeah, it’s a party, that’s for sure.

MM:  Yeah.

Smitty:  All right, well, Michael, thanks again for your time and for talking about this great record and for your entire career, all the wonderful things you’ve done and the fun that you’ve brought to us as fans.

MM:  Well, Smitty, thank you.  I appreciate your time too and it’s been fun talking to you, and hopefully whoever gets back to St. Louis first, give them my best, you know?

Smitty:  All right, my friend.  We’ll do that. We’ve been talking with the incredible Michael McDonald. His great new record is called Soul Speak, it’s available in stores across the country. I highly recommend this great project. Michael, all the very best in 2008 and beyond, my friend.

MM:  Same to you, Smitty. Take care, buddy.

Baldwin “Smitty” Smith



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