Artist Spotlight: Richie McDonald

By: Chuck Dauphin

Listening to SLOW DOWN, the latest project from Richie McDonald, might give you a sense of déjà vu. While McDonald's talents are front and center, you just might hear some tips of the hats to some of his biggest influences.

For starters, many of the songs on the album may give one pause to take a cue from the album's title and appreciate the finer things in life---a la Mac Davis' 1973 hit "Stop And Smell The Roses." It's a comparison that McDonald is very appreciative of.

"I take that as a compliment. Mac's from Lubbock, and I'm from Lubbock," he said. "I grew up listening to his music, and have always been a big fan of his songwriting.

McDonald admits that the little things in life have made the transition from lead singer of Lonestar to solo artist a bit easier. After all, that was the reason for it.

"You know, that's one of the reasons I left Lonestar was because I just wanted to slow down a little bit. Spend more time with my family. I was on the road and gone so much....and I'm not complaining, as that goes with the territory, but it was just the time for me to get out of the fast pace a little."

Though his pace might have slowed a little, McDonald is still very much serious about making music that his fans can relate to. One song that many will smile about is "Guntersville Gazette," a song all about the stories that make the small town paper. Richie says it's about as "real" as it gets.

"Living in Carthage, TN---one of my favorite things to do is read the local paper, and see who's marrying who, and all the things that go on in a small town. That's where the idea for this one came up. We re-titled the song after a town in Alabama," he tells Roughstock.

The song is actually on two discs at the same time---Richie's as well as one of Country's all-time legendary artists. "We actually had this song written about eight years ago. It wound up that Charley Pride also recorded it. It's such an honor to have Charley---a member of the Country Music Hall Of Fame singing one of my songs. I have so many memories of listening to his music growing up, so that was a great thrill."

Getting SLOW DOWN out to his fans was a process that lived up to its' title, McDonald admits. "We've been trying to get this album out to the public for about three years now. I was on a label, off a label, then on a label, and so on. But my producer and I believed in the music and what we were doing that we just kept our faith."

A cut from SLOW DOWN that has been a fan favorite for a while is the haunting "How Do I Just Stop." Once again, tracing his influences, the song has a feel to it that brings to mind the best of Bread's biggest hits of the 1970s. "I guess it does have that kind of feel to it," he says. "It's interesting that you bring up Bread, as again, they were one of my favorites growing up. It's a love song, although sometimes, love is always not what you want it to be."

Something that was exactly how Richie and his former band mates in Lonestar was how they wanted it to be was the record-shattering success of their 1999 crossover hit "Amazed." The power love ballad became the biggest Country chart record in over three decades, and put the band right where they wanted to be. Looking back, McDonald says that it was a great time to be in the group, but there is one thing he wishes they had done.

"You know, I don't think we really had any idea what was going on at the time. To see that record do so well in Country, Pop, and other formats was a thrill. It was just one of love songs that you only see once in a while. I wish we would have taken a little more time to soak it in, but when you have a record out that big, you're so busy," he confesses.

As the spring moves toward summer, look for McDonald on the radio, lending his voice to charities such as St. Judes, as well as touring with fellow former lead singers Tim Rushlow  (Little Texas) and Larry Stewart (Restless Heart). All in all, it looks like another fantastic year for the singer is just around the corner!