chris mcdermott
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chris mcdermott


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The best kept secret in music


"The kind of guitar he plays in the context of all this soul. Amazing
songwriter. Great presentation all around.
Tom Clark-Hittin the noter magazine
- hittin the note

interview by Brian Owens - 2-2007

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Chris McDermott continues to evolve as a songsmith as is evidenced on his latest album Radio Ghosts. In the late eighties and early nineties, McDermott was called upon by many of the blues world's finest players as their guitar sideman. He learned about life on the road and sought honesty for the blues. In 1995, McDermott struck out on his own and never looked back. Now, in 2007, McDermott is still making music on his terms. Melding classical guitar stylings with jazz, blues and pop, McDermott is forging new territory. I had a chance to talk with Chris and he told me about his travels through music...

METRONOME: Tell me about yourself. Where did you grow up and what got you in to music?

Chris McDermott: I grew up in Newark, Delaware listening to my older brother's blues and jazz record collection. I got in to a blues jam band when I was in the 4th Grade. I had a friend whose older brother was an amazing blues guitar player. He taught his two younger brothers to play bass and drums and they were really good. I went over and he had another guitar and put it in my hands and said, "Do what I'm doing." He wanted a rhythm guitar player. Every Saturday and Sunday throughout my childhood, we would be in their basement jamming away. My way of learning to play would be him saying, "Now take a solo... do what I'm doing." Then I started getting into bands and studying some jazz and playing with some blues players.

METRONOME: Did you attend Berklee College?


METRONOME: Is that what brought you to New England from Delaware?


METRONOME: What year did you come to Boston?


METRONOME: You graduated and decided to stay in Boston?

Yeah. It's interesting because all my friends from that time were moving out to L.A. and getting famous and I thought, If I move out there I'm going to get buried or become a drug addict. The same thing with New York. I went down and played with John Scofield once and he said, "Why don't you move down here and starve with the rest of us?" That image of going down there and starving with the rest of them like John Scofield, whom I really admired, that kinda scared me. So I hung out here and did the whole falling in love with somebody and getting married and had a daughter.

METRONOME: Who are some of the people you have played with over the years?

Carrie Bell, Hubert Sumlin, Zorah Young, Eddie Kirkland, Nappy Brown, Marva Wright...

METRONOME: You were a sideman to all these guys?


METRONOME: What years are we talking about?

Mid eighties to the mid nineties. About ten years. I would get calls and go out and do dates with different people. I was never a steady guy in anybody's band for longer than a few months at a time.

METRONOME: You struck up a long term relationship with Eddie Kirkland. Tell me about that.

I played with him at a time when I was going through a change in my playing and searching to really solidify what I was doing. I had gone through a period where I was playing nothing but jazz for a while. Then I just stopped playing jazz because it completely turned me off. I just felt like there was no social point for it. It just didn't serve a real purpose. So I completely went in the opposite direction. I started playing rockabilly, punk rock and blues and getting as far away from that and playing just as primitive as I could. I played with a lot of blues based and rockabilly based bands in Boston and had a lot of fun.

METRONOME: Name some names.

I had my own thing called the Black River Snakes for a while. Then there was The Jitters, a rockabilly band; The Assassins, a rockabilly band. None of them were really challenging to me but it was just fun. Then I really started getting back in to blues and funk. Eddie was the first guy I had ever played with that was completely organic. In our basic musical terms, he doesn't know what the hell he's doing. In his terms he does. He would turn around and face in to his amp and come up with some wild tuning and just look at me and say, in front of a thousand people at a festival, "Follow me in C" when really he'd be in A flat. He'd be playing a bar of 5 here and a bar of 7 here... it was all about being completely on your toes, and I just loved that. It was all about the feeling. That's what I loved about him. That's why I was always disgusted with all the records from him during that era. There was never any of that wildness that happened live. They always wanted to sell him like a Delta bluesman. He was way more than that and way ahead of his time. I produced that record for him a few years ago. It's very different. There's moments of what I heard him do live that I was lucky enough to be a part of.

METRONOME: In the early nineties, you struck out on your own. Tell me about that.

I had been writing a lot of songs. I've always had my own thing happening at different times but thi - metronome


CHRIS McDERMOTT/Radio Ghosts: Take a well traveled blues guitarist that has wide open ears, toss him in the deep end of the reconstructed music biz these days and see what develops. Celtic R&B? Why not, Van Morrison did it. Some of the stuff on here seems radical on paper but sounds great when laser hits byte. With an incredible range of talent backing him up, you get the craziest salmagundi of sounds that you've heard in quite a while, but it manages to work throughout. Clearly uncatagorizable, this is music for the sake of it and playing for the passion of it. If you want to check out something wild and wonderful, this is the next stop to make. 20234 (P&N) - Chris Spector - midwest records


"Radio Ghosts"-P&N records 2007
"Leaf"-Soul kitchen-2005
Wound up whitey's Messed up thing-Soul Kitchen2003
2-B Soul Kitchen 2002
"Trippin Out"-Soul Kitchen 1999
Got it made-Soul Kitchen 1996


Feeling a bit camera shy


Based in New England, Chris McDermott has played regularly in Europe and the U.S for over 16 years, promoting his own original soul and funk music, as well as backing some of the world's greatest blues artists. With four previous releases of his own as well as producing and playing on recordings for other artists, Chris set a goal of creating a new CD which would reflect on his childhood love of early soul music production crossed with acoustic guitar virtuosity. The end result is Radio Ghosts, a combination of those elements and more, set into a framework of great songwriting, playing and production that is already generating strong radio airplay across the U.S.

Although Radio Ghosts is full of airplay contenders, the current focus tracks are these four songs:
“Under The Water”- Successfully combines soul music with traditional Celtic into a cinematic story told from a dream Chris had. The listener is transported into a noisy, smoky pub witnessing a young girl with a guitar who began singing a song to an oblivious crowd. After one chorus, the girl stops unable to waste her very personal message on an uninterested public. When Chris awoke from the dream, he remembered the chorus verbatim and uses it to then transport the listener “under the water with the shells and rocks and the fish swim through my hair” A beautiful piece featuring some fine acoustic guitar and soulful gospel style backup vocals.
“Let Them Think What They Want”- What could be more fun than combining funky New Orleans beats with Spanish guitar rhythms and an almost Otis Redding style approach to a funky staccato vocal with gospel backups? This song tells it from a guy who is no longer worried about what people think.
“Get That Smile”- As unpretentious as modern “old school” soul music can get. (As it should be.) A stellar band playing a superb arrangement of a great song with a solid, soulful vocal and guitar delivered by Chris telling his own true story of hope and dignity through years of scraping by in the music scene.
“Waiting Out A Hurricane”- Already getting lots of airplay throughout the Gulf states, this is a soul ballad featuring rich harmonies, intertwined melodies, a sad/smooth vocal and bluesy acoustic guitar telling the story of a man whose life has spun out of control as he watches helplessly waiting for his feet to touch solid ground again.

The players currently in his band all have impressive resumes of their own, ranging from being original members of the James Brown band, to playing with Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Stanley Turrentine, Ricky Martin, Dickey Betts, Jimmy McGriff, Matchbox 20, among many others. Although far from being a traditional blues band, most of his group’s “bread and butter” gigs have been playing blues-oriented clubs in the northeast circuit, as well as the south from D.C. to Key West and St Thomas V.I. The band’s also played in blues clubs and festivals in Latvia, France, Belgium, Spain, and Italy.

The band’s instrumentation live is generally 4-piece featuring guitar/vocals, Hammond B3 organ, bass and drums, although some northeast gigs have included three back up vocalists/ percussionists and occasionally trumpet as well. Band members often include such well known players such as Clyde Stubblefield on drums and Greg Hopkins on trumpet, among others.

In the past, Chris has toured as a sideman to blues greats Carrie Bell, Eddie Kirkland, Nappy Brown, Hubert Sumlin, Zorah Young, Marva Wright and Toni Lynne Washington. Chris produced and played on Eddie Kirkland's new release, Booty Blues.

His own bands -Chris McDermott and his Wild Combo and The Chris McDermott Love Perimeter - released three CDs and played across the U.S regularly from House of Blues venues in four major cities to a prime time slot at Woodstock '99. Both these bands were featured openers on tours with an extensive list of national acts.
Radio Ghosts represents the maturity of an American guitar player, songwriter and singer who has spent much time absorbing the music of his travels. Growing up outside Philadelphia, the "Philly Soul" sound was a natural part of his environment and had a major influence in the shaping of Chris' musical ear. Featuring rich arch top acoustic guitar tones, Hammond B3, piano, gospel group backing vocals, horns and even some strings, Chris McDermott once again blends old and new into his own genre. As always, Chris' live performances are what it is all about, showcasing masterful musicianship, fire, funk, and fun.

Based in New England, Chris McDermott has played regularly in Europe and the U.S for over 16 years, promoting his own original soul and funk music, as well as backing some of the world's greatest blues artists. With four previous releases of his own as well as producing and playing on recordings for other artists, Chris set a goal of creating a new CD which would reflect on his childhood love of early soul music production crossed with acoustic guitar virtuosity. The