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20 Questions With David McLachlan

The singer-songwriter on reading the room, keeping the faith & going unplugged.

Singer-songwriter David McLachlan checked us into his Heartache Motel when he shared that new album HERE a few weeks back. Today, the hard-working Canadian roots and country veteran learns the real meaning of heartache when he sits down with my dumb questions. Check them out and see how he fared:



Introduce yourself: Name, age (feel free to lie), home base, other details you’d like to share (height, weight, identifying marks, astrology sign, your choice).
Hello, my name is David McLachlan. As a kid, my nickname was MacGoo. I just started collecting all the money I had loaned to the government, after a lifetime of work. I live in Toronto. My family tree dates back to 1624, 150 years before Canada became a named country. So, I’m seventh-generation Canadian.

What is your musical origin story?
Wrote my first song at age seven. Picked up the guitar late 1960s. Have been trying to learn it ever since.

What do we need to know about your latest project?
My latest album Heartache Motel was recorded in Nashville in September 2019. I’m as proud of this one as I am of all the others. It’s writing from the heart. It sounds great, and I wanted to go for “timeless” when we recorded it.

What truly sets you apart from other artists?
That’s a tough one. These are songs, they mean something to me. Otherwise, they would not have been written. I hope other people can get something out of them. This is my eighth album, I hope I’m learning to get it right.

What will I learn or how will my life improve by listening to your music?
I always remember the Joni Mitchell quote from the early ’70s: “Whether you buy my album or not, it probably won’t change my life. But if you do buy it, I guarantee it will change yours.” That’s confidence, and I feel the same way. If not, refund at point of sale. But give it time.

Tell us about the first song you wrote and / or the first gig you played and what you got paid.
The first song I wrote was as a seven-year-old kid. I hadn’t been kissed yet, but the song involved a girl and a marriage proposal. The first gig was at Fiddler’s Green coffeehouse. Adam Mitchell was the feature. I came downstairs, dejected, after I played. Adam asked if I was looking down. I replied, “Yeah, the whole time.” “What did you see?” I said, “People’s feet were tapping, in time.” He said, “It was like thunder down here, you had ‘em the whole time.” I’ve never forgotten that. It was an open mic, so no dollars changed hands, but I got a priceless lesson in reading a crowd, after the fact.

What is the best / worst / strangest / most memorable performance you gave?
In 1974, I was to play at the University of Windsor, in a chapel, on Sunday night. It was around Easter. Got there, and no sound system. So I wasn’t going to do it. Everyone said, “Come on, just play.” So I did. Finished with a Murray McLauchlan tune called Revelations, questioning one’s faith. Christ on the cross behind me. I guess it added to the show. I only thought about this after the fact. Anyway, it’s the only time I ever got a standing ovation after a performance. And 33 years later, the Unplugged phenomena started, based on that night.

What is the best / worst / strangest / most memorable performance you’ve seen another artist give?
Best show ever was Firefall at Convocation Hall, U of T. Worst show ever was Weather Report (way over my head at the time) at Convocation Hall, U of T. Most memorable was The Byrds at Massey Hall, Feb 1970.

What do you want to be doing in 10 years?
Drawing breath. And writing songs, cause the world needs them.

What living or dead artists would you collaborate with if you could?
Not a big co-writer, although this record, Heartache Motel, has two co-writes, and they are stellar. I guess Leonard Cohen.

What artist or style of music do you love that would surprise people?
I love Chicago, Lighthouse, horn bands. Lighthouse was a mix of rock, brass, and classical, amazing.

What are your favourite songs / albums / artists right now?
I still listen to a lot of Neil Young. No favourite songs, although I saw Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood do a version of Remind Me on Opry Live the other night that just slayed me. I listen to a lot of Bruce Cockburn and John Prine lately.

How about some other favourites: Authors, movies, painters, you name it.
Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues. Just read it, a bit late to the game. Forrest Gump, one of my all-time favorites. Got a tune on the wait list, He Loves His Jenny, waiting to be written. I love the paintings of Willaim deGarthe from Nova Scotia.

Who would you be starstruck to meet?
Rosamund Pike.

What’s your favourite joke?
I always try to remember a joke to re-tell it, and I can’t recall it.

What do you drive and why?
My car is a 12-year-old Mazda CX7, so you can load equipment in. But it has a Bose sound system, heavenly. It sounds amazing. A sound system on wheels.

What superpower do you want and how would you use it?
The ability to heal with my music, and the world would never be the same.

What skills — useful or useless — do you have outside of music?
I’m a pretty good carpenter. So was my buddy Jesus, I understand.

What do you collect?
Guitars. Only have eight, but they serve me well.

If I had a potluck, what would you bring?
Chicken caesar.

What current trend or popular thing do you not understand at all?
I’m pretty plugged in, so not much gets by me that I don’t see through or figure out.

Tell us about your current and/or former pets.
Just lost our Buddy, a Pomeranian Poodle mix, a few Thanksgivings ago. Was in Franklin, Tenn., doing a showcase. Driving back to Toronto, got a text from my son that he slipped away in the night. That was tough. Had two Samoyeds as a kid, at home with my folks, Duchess and Duchess II. Great dogs.

If you could have any other job besides music, what would it be and why?
Healer, because it’s needed.

What’s the best advice and/or worst advice you were ever given?
Best advice was, “You had ‘em all the way.” See Adam Mitchell above.
Worst advice was “Keep your day job,” from a DJ who had obviously given up.

Listen to Heartache Motel below and check out David McLachlan on his website & Facebook.