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Perry McDonald

What the papers say

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Published April 23, 2006
[ From the Holt Community News ]
Resident to release music CD

Staff Writer

HOLT: Perry McDonald started playing music when he was 10 years old. He started with drums, caught on quickly and was soon playing in garage bands.
Now, 40 years later, the Holt resident and father of two adult daughters is releasing his first CD.

Music has always been a part of McDonald's life. From the time he was 12 into his early 20's, he would substitute for absent members of his parents' friends' bands. In addition to a variety of garage bands growing up, he also played for a time for a Christian band called Third Day (not connected to the current Christian band Third Day).
"Musically, that was a very important time for me," McDonald said.
The guitarist and keyboardist in the band taught McDonald to play guitar, and he began writing his own songs for the first time.
Writing songs would turn out to be a lifelong passion and the main way he stayed connected to music.

After Third Day, McDonald toured in a band with Youth for Christ and Billy Graham. He discovered it was not the kind of life he wanted to lead.
"We were constantly traveling," McDonald said. "I was married by that time and I wanted to settle down and raise children."

So McDonald found a full time job and music faded into the background. He never stopped writing songs, though.

Music returned to the forefront when McDonald's younger daughter, who is now at Michigan State University, played percussion in the school band. Interested again, McDonald purchased digital recording equipment and put the school band's music on CDs for the band boosters to sell.
"I was acquiring this equipment, and I was thinking in the back of my mind that maybe I would record myself someday," McDonald said. "I had been writing songs all this time, and it seemed like a shame that I wasn't doing anything with them."
McDonald began putting old tapes of his bands on CDs and on his computer and contacted some old band mates and friends of his parents.

Randy Carlson was an old friend of his parents who played bass. He helped McDonald get started recording again, asking him to contribute a song to his new album and showing McDonald how to do multi-track recording.

Through Carlson, McDonald met Eric Blades, founder of local label Illegible Records. About two years later, McDonald's first solo work is being released through Illegible Records. Starting at the CD release party April 30, McDonald will have a CD and DVD available for sale.

The songs on the CD have a lyrical, folk feel. McDonald lists among his influences the Beatles, Neil Young, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and John Prine.
"Music is a driving force in my life and always has been," McDonald said. "I remember my uncles, when I was young and they were in college, they were listening to Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, the Kingston Trio —and through them, that was the music I was hearing. You know, my first favorite group was Peter, Paul and Mary."
Like many of those artists, music is largely about the lyrics for McDonald.
"In my job now, I do a lot of driving," McDonald said. "I write the words first, in my head while I'm driving, and then I try to figure out the guitar chords later."
The words that mean so much to McDonald are often about his family. Several songs on the CD are about his wife, Susan. One he wrote about his daughters, Sarah and Jessica, when they were babies (now they are 24 and 21). The song "Long Way Without You" is about Alysha Salt, a best friend of one of his daughters who was killed by a drunk driver in August 2004. Two band members from Third Day contributed to the song.
"It's a special song because it's about Alysha, and it's special musically because it reunites three of us from that band," McDonald said.
Other contributions to the CD have come from other local artists on the Illegible Records label.

"It's a new label and they want to sign local artists," McDonald said. "It's small time, printing small amounts, but they're put a lot of money into equipment and they're great. Eric [Blades] is really exuberant. He's really good at helping motivate you and making you feel good enough about yourself to jump in and do this."
McDonald said he would have done a CD even if he had not had a label, but it helped.
"I'm printing a small amount, just testing the waters," McDonald said. "I'm going to keep on making music no matter what. I've done it all these years, just playing alone at the house. It's a part of my life. It would just be really gratifying to share it with other people."

Perry McDonald's CD release party will be Sunday, April 30, 2-5 p.m. at Magdalena's Tea House in Lansing. There will be a $3 cover charge at the door and McDonald's CD/DVD will be available for $10 at the show or can be ordered through Illegible Records at

By Anne Erickson
Lansing State Journal
Folk musician's debut CD has been a long time coming

Perry McDonald has been writing songs since he was a teen. He played with folk bands, in churches and coffee houses. He felt the calling and went to work for Youth for Christ and the Billy Graham Crusade.

"I was a member of a Christian rock band at the time called The Common Brothers Band," said McDonald. "We were hired by the Crusade to play at public high schools and colleges in the Detroit area a week before the crusade was to be held and pass out free tickets."

After the Crusade, McDonald took a break from the music world. He took up a job for a local bread company and raised two daughters.

Now that his daughters are grown, McDonald is turning back to his music- making roots. And now, at 50 years old, McDonald is holding his first-ever CD release party Sunday at Magdalena's.

"I never stopped writing and playing music, I just did it all at home," McDonald said. "I wrote a song for our daughters when they were babies, called 'Sarah and Jessica,' that I've included on this CD."

The disc mixes acoustic folk with a dose of rock and blues. It was released on Lansing's Illegible Records, an upstart of local musician Eric Blades.

Show details: Perry McDonald CD Release show, 2 p.m. Sunday, Magdalena's Tea House, 2006 E. Michigan Ave., 487-1822; $3.

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