Doobie Brothers Talking Tour With Steely Dan and Making New Music

The Doobie Brothers, 2017
Andrew Macpherson

The Doobie Brothers

With summer looming in the distance, many of your all-time favorite artists are celebrating the occasion the way they know best -- by taking their music to the people. The Doobie Brothers are no different. The veteran rock band just kicked off a run with Steely Dan, and according to the band’s Tom Johnston, the Doobies still feel that adrenaline from the audience every night.
 
“It's pretty much the interacting with the crowd, that is still the pinnacle right there,” he tells Billboard. "That's why we keep doing what we do, because we love playing for people live. And the more action you get out of the crowd, I guess you could call it reciprocal, action back from the crowd, the better the gig is. And that's something that we always strive for every night.”
 
Of their touring partners, Johnston says Steely Dan makes for a good combination on the road. “Steely Dan sounds as good or better than they ever did. They're incredible. I mean, it's really a shame about Walter (Becker), that's the sad part, him passing away,” he laments. “But it's basically all about Donald (Fagen) right now. And he's got a band assembled with really great players. A couple of gals singing background, horn section, and they nail the stuff. I mean it sounds like a record. It's just incredible.”


 
Also on the group’s calendar is a Sep. 22 date at Petco Park in San Diego with Eagles, which Johnston says will be a thrill.

“They sound great, they've got a great visual show going, but if they didn't have the visual show, it wouldn't matter. They're sounding really good. We played with them last year at Dodgers Stadium, and then in New York at Citi Field.”
 
Playing live is something that has changed tremendously over the years for fellow founding member Patrick Simmons. He recalls the early years of his career, when holding the attention of the audience was a little difficult. Needless to say, he prefers how things are today – thanks to songs that have become a part of American culture.
 
“It’s nice to have a catalog to choose from in terms of what we present,” says Simmons. “That’s a never-ending dream for most musicians – to have material that the audience remembers and can join in on. When I was younger, I would struggle with bands playing, and people would be pre-occupied with anything but listening to you, and you are sometimes relegated to background music. But when you finally start having success on radio, you have people that are there to hear us and to hear the material.”
 
But, that material isn’t just limited to the hits. The Doobie Brothers: The Warner Brothers Years, a 10-CD box set of their recordings from 1971-1983 was released in 2015, and Simmons says it’s amazing to realize how many songs of theirs have become fan favorites, regardless of chart position. “We’ve had some songs that have stood the test of time. Some were hits, some weren’t, but they became hits with our audience. Sometimes you don’t realize the sheer volume of songs we’ve recorded. You never take that for granted, and as an artist, you appreciate that aspect of your career.”
 
Some of those songs received a country treatment in 2014, as the band teamed with artists such as Blake Shelton, Zac Brown Band, Sara Evans and Charlie Worsham for the collaboration record titled Southbound. Did the acceptance from the country audience surprise him? “Yes and no. I feel like country music has always a universal music. I come from an era where all music is kind of thrown together. Roger Miller, Glen Campbell, and Buck Owens were all pop stars. We heard their music on the rock station. It was nice to know that they were listening to our music, but it’s nice to know that music is such a universal language, and country music has affected people like me as much as The Doobie Brothers affected some country artists. So, it makes sense to me in a way. I was very happy about it.”

And, the music of the Doobies continues to affect fans, after all these years. The band’s John McFee says celebrating that musical legacy through touring is as much fun as ever, if not even more.  “In some ways, it’s gotten easier because people have figured out what to and not to do, and the promoters know what to do. A lot of the casinos have made it easier for us to route our touring. The main thing about being on stage is pretty much unchanged; you just want to get out there and make the best music you can. We are so lucky to still be doing this.”
 
The band is also spending some time in the recording studio, working on a new album, says McFee. “That’s our plan. We do want to make some new music. As a matter of fact, we have gone in and already cut four songs.”
 
The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan 2018 Tour Dates
May 19 - Atlanta, GA @ Verizon Amphitheatre
May 20 - Nashville, TN @ Ascend Amphitheater
May 22 - New Orleans, LA @ Smoothie King Center
May 24 - Houston, TX @ Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land
May 25 - Dallas, TX @ The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory
May 27 - Austin, TX @ Austin360 Amphitheater
May 30 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Forum
June 1 - San Francisco, CA @ Shoreline Amphitheatre
June 4 - Portland, OR @ Moda Center
June 5 - Seattle, WA @ KeyArena
June 7 - Spokane, WA @ Spokane Arena
June 9 - Boise, ID @ Taco Bell Arena
June 10 - Salt Lake City, UT @ USANA Amphitheatre
June 12 - Denver, CO @ Pepsi Center
June 15 - St. Paul, MN @ Xcel Energy Center
June 16 - Madison, WI @ Breese Stevens Field
June 18 - Kansas City, MO @ Starlight Theatre
June 19 - St. Louis, MO @ Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre - STL
June 21 - Chicago, IL @ Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre - CHI
June 23 - Cleveland, OH @ Blossom Music Center
June 24 - Indianapolis, IN @ Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center
June 26 - Detroit, MI @ DTE Energy Music Theatre
June 27 - Cincinnati, OH @ Riverbend Music Center
June 30 - Saratoga Springs, NY @ Saratoga Performing Arts Center
July 2 - Toronto, ON @ Budweiser Stage
July 3 - Syracuse, NY @ Lakeview Amphitheater
July 6 - Holmdel, NJ @ PNC Bank Arts Center
July 7 - Mansfield, MA @ Xfinity Center
July 10 - Bristow, VA @ Jiffy Lube Live
July 11 - Camden, NJ @ BB&T Pavilion
July 13 - Gilford, NH @ Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion
July 14 - Bethel, NY Bethel Woods @ Center for the Arts
 
The Doobie Brothers with The Zac Brown Band and Eagles
Sept. 22 – San Diego, CA @ Petco Park

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