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“To prevent burnout, stay focused on the music”

It’s the trappings that burn you out — The travel, the parties, the fake friends… If you stay focused on writing, playing and performing at your best then you can last...


Stay focused on the music. Everything else is just a side show. I believe it’s the trappings that burn you out — The travel, the parties, the fake friends… If you stay focused on writing, playing and performing at your best then you can last… and most importantly stay curious about music! Keep climbing that mountain!


I had the pleasure to interview John-Angus MacDonald of the celebrated band The Trews. They have had countless radio hits, ecstatic fans from Dublin to Des Moines plus multiple EPs, a pair of live albums and a retrospective. The band also inked a new management deal with heavyweight New York firm Gold Village Entertainment, helmed by legendary music executive Danny Goldberg. Now, with new representation, a new label, new drummer and a brilliant new album in the can, The Trews are ready for their proverbial close-up… some 15-odd years after they began. “REM was such an inspiration for us,” John-Angus MacDonald says. “Every record was an adventure. That’s what I love about rock and roll. It’s pretty simple — drums, bass, guitars — yet you have to go into the wilderness of creativity to find something new and bring it back.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

No problem, thanks for having me. I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember. My earliest childhood memory is of dancing around the living room to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ album. Music was constantly being played in my home both on the stereo and by my Dad and his friends and my siblings. So from a very early age it was really all I ever wanted to do, so it wasn’t so much a matter of being brought to the career path as bringing, sometimes forcing, the path to me! We did that by being really disciplined with band practice and jamming and writing even in our teenage years which was when we all started playing together.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your music career?

God, there are so many…we’ve been lucky enough to open for some of our heroes like the Rolling Stones, Springsteen, KISS, Aerosmith, Guns’n’Roses and Cheap Trick which is always pretty interesting. We’ve also traveled far and wide to play, from Tokyo to Dubai to Cuba to Canada’s Arctic. We’ve had band members be arrested, left behind in foreign countries, electrocuted, fall off stage and hospitalized. All in a day’s work! So the whole thing is one big interesting blur to be honest.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m most excited about our new album ‘Civilianaires’ which comes out in September. We haven’t done a full length album since our 2014 release so it’s been a long time coming and we dug pretty deep along the way to come up with some of our strongest material to date IMHO.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

I’ve had some very interesting and in depth chats over the years with the late great Gord Downie who was the lead singer for Canada’s biggest and greatest band, The Tragically Hip. Sadly Gord passed away last year from a rare form of brain cancer but one story that comes to mind is a night a few years back when both my band and the Hip had nights off on tour in St. John’s NFLD and we convened in a small pub on George Street called Christians. Gord and I spent the evening waxing poetic about everything from music to writing to politics to Bob Dylan. He was one of the most interesting and insightful people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

How do you think the music scene is different in the US than in Canada?

Canada is a bigger country with a much smaller population — about one tenth to be exact — so maybe it’s a little easier to gain national recognition but much harder to follow it up with touring as the drives between cities can be long and harrowing. In Canada we also have a culture of supporting the arts through grant systems which can help develop talent and get people off the ground. It also seems to me that rock is more popular in Canada than it is in the US at the moment, there’s a healthy amount of rock bands both on tour and on the radio at any given time up here.


How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We’ve been involved with several initiatives along the way but the one I’m most proud of is our involvement with the Canada Hero Fund. Back in 2010 we wrote a song called “Highway of Heroes”, which tells the story of Captain Nichola Goddard who was the first female Canadian soldier killed in the war in Afghanistan. The song is a tribute to fallen soldiers and when we released it we donated 100% of the profits from sales of the song to the Canada Hero Fund which provides assistance and scholarships to the families of the fallen. The song has been quite successful, its certified Gold in Canada, so we were able to make a real difference in the lives of some families struggling to move forward after tragedy.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Well l since you asked, I’m gonna think big! 🙂 I think it would be great to eliminate poverty. There’s clearly enough abundance in this world to feed, clothe and shelter everyone but our society and global community is set up so only a very small fraction of people truly benefiting — and those benefiting are living in obscene wealth and opulence when compared to how the how and poorest amongst us are living. There has got to be a way to even that scale.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Stay focused on the music. Everything else is just a side show. I believe it’s the trappings that burn you out — The travel, the parties, the fake friends… If you stay focused on writing, playing and performing at your best then you can last… and most importantly stay curious about music! Keep climbing that mountain!

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  • 1) You can’t please everyone so you might as well do what pleases you. We spent a lot of time in our early days chasing our tail trying to please the audience who eventually ended up liking us more when we were just being ourselves.
  • 2) Know your real friends and keep them close cause they remind you who you are. There’s a lot of the other kinds of “friends” that come out of the woodwork when you get any kind of success
  • 3) Get some sleep on the road!! Do I really need to elaborate on this one?
  • 4) Drink lots of water!! Boring and obvious but also extremely true.
  • 5) If you’re in it for the long haul then you gotta take care of yourself. In our earliest days I swear our biggest ambition every night was to party as hard a humanly possible but when you do that all kinds of other things start to fall apart — you lose your voice, you miss lobby call, your business and personal life start to get messy and confusing. I wish someone had told me to PACE MYSELF! (PS. They probably did and I just wasn’t ready to listen! 😉 )

I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this,especially if we tag them 🙂

Yes! Bob Dylan because he is my favourite writer in the history of popular music and because I can’t possibly imagine what his outlook must be like given the life he’s had, I’d love a chance to ask him about it!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

If you visit our website at www.thetrewsmusic.com we have links to all of our socials. We are @thetrews on Instagram and Twitter and if you search the Trews on FaceBook we’ll be that page other than whatever Russell Brand is up to! 🙂

Originally published at medium.com

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