Telling Powerful Stories

After 25 years in Austin, Texas, working as a psychotherapist who played music on the side, eleven years ago John McDonough “took a break” from his therapy practice to recharge from burnout and allow his musical side to grow. That break has topped a decade, so John considers himself a retired psychotherapist and full-time musician.

About a year ago, John released a unique album, Second Chances, which featured “unplugged” versions of previous songs that he felt were better served without full band recordings. (You can check out John’s conversation with Americana Music Profiles about this project here.)

Checking in with John a year or so later, we found that Second Chances had captured listeners’ attention, and garnered two different nominations for independent Album of the Year, one from the Josie Awards and the other from Blues and Roots Magazine.

John also has some new music he is set to share, in the form of a five-song EP, We’ll Answer The Call. It tells “the true story of Joe Rantz, the Washington Husky rowing team, and their epic bid for gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games,” as John sums it up on his website.

Why tell this story through his songs? After reading The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown, the book containing the “true story,” John found himself fascinated with the powerful stories of all the people involved, centering on Joe Rantz, who had an “unbelievably difficult childhood,” as John puts it, but also including the coach, other rowers and the boatbuilders. “There’s just so many levels to it…What got me was so many stories intertwined in this—so many amazing stories. So many stories of perseverance and just overcoming obstacle after obstacle and unbelievable odds…” After becoming somewhat obsessed with the story, even traveling to Washington to see the newly restored boat on display, John found himself responding to what he had learned by writing songs that captured the essence of the story and retold it in ways that he hopes will resonate with modern listeners.

Check out John McDonough’s website here. Listen to the full interview here.

By Dan Walsh