Happy Holidays! Here is a song from my Season of Light EP that I wanted to post to say “thanks” for all your support this past year.
Thanks again, and may you be safe, warm and happy this season.
Hello Friends, Fans and Family,
Happy Holidays! Here is a song from my Season of Light EP that I wanted to post to say “thanks” for all your support this past year.
There’s also a new place to see/hear my music: https://megonmcdonough.hearnow.com/. I hope you check it out. It’s wonderful!
Thanks again, and may you be safe, warm and happy this season.
This summer, I decided to do something for the kid in me. I signed up for camp! In July I spent five days at SummerSongs East, a songwriting camp in Stony Point, NY. Although I teach songwriting myself, it was great to get the chance to be a student and learn from other nationally-known touring artists and work on my craft.
We spent the days sitting out at picnic tables, under the shade of big, leafy trees and immersing ourselves in every aspect of songwriting from song arranging to co-writing, performing and more.
I also took a guitar/music theory class with musician extraordinaire Vito Petroccitto. Vito is an amazing teacher who insists on keeping it simple and relaxing. I found a lot of comfort when I realized I knew a lot already, and it was a wonderful refresher.
Abbie Gardner was another favorite teacher/artist of mine who taught a class entitled How to Get Unstuck. It was like taking thorns out of songwriters’ paws!
But my favorite class was called Shadow Songs with Steven Prasinos.
Dr. Steve started class with a guided meditation. As he spoke, I had a vision of a woman rising up out of the water. She was wearing a green dress and had long, flowing hair and long arms, and I couldn’t quite tell if she wanted me to pull her up from the water or whether she was ascending, like a goddess. In my meditation, I reached over to her and took her pulse, feeling strong and confident as I helped her.
When I awoke from the mediation, I was confused about exactly what the vision was trying to tell me, but I knew it would make for a great song. Dr. Steve was trying to encourage us to embrace both our dark and light sides, but for me, his class really inspired me to write a song that connected with something deep and soulful within me.
A few days later, I was driving home, still mulling over my goddess song, and I got a call from my marketing maven, Lauren, who said she had written a song called that she wanted to collaborate on. When I listened to her sing it on my voicemail I had to laugh. Here I’d gone to song camp and wrote this deep, Jungian song and Lauren, back here in Chicago with her newborn, Betsy, wrote a fun, upbeat song called, “I Wanna Go To The Beach”! Love that.
The entire experience at SummerSongs was so much fun, and I was grateful to be able to return home with lots of great ideas to share with my songwriting students at the Music Institute of Chicago, as well as for my own writing.
If you would like to write a song, come to one my songwriting classes or contact me and let’s get started!
Recently I saw a video of Fred Rogers accepting a lifetime achievement award at the Emmys in 1997, and in his speech he asks the audience to take 10 seconds and think about all the people who cared about them, believed in them, and helped them become who they are.
Watching that video was truly profound for me as it made me think about all of the people who have helped me along my way in my career. Everybody needs help, and I’ve received so much help from so many people.
Of course, not everyone I’ve met along the way has been supportive. I’ve also been through some terrible business dealings with sharks, but even those people have taught me a lot about what not to do in the future. But I think the ones who’ve made the biggest impact on my career are still looking down on me.
There was my first manager, Dorothy Danca, who submitted my demo tape of original songs when I was 14 to the WLS Big Break Radio Contest, which I not only got in, but won first place! I won a recording contract with Mercury Records and Ludwig drums.
Of course there was my mom, who was my first voice teacher and coach. She would tell me, “If you’re not going to enunciate, I can’t listen to your song.” ARGG! But to this day, I know people can understand the lyrics I am singing. And while there’s a thin line between help and pushing, between encouraging and being a stage mother, I will always be grateful for her advice, help and encouragement. It’s tough to be a parent of a kid who has a gift and passion for something. I’m pretty sure I was the most stubborn know-it-all at times! She was so smart about what worked, from fashion to song performance, and I didn’t want to admit that when I was young, but she was right every time.
And there was Sister Mary Martha who was my 5th grade teacher. She was from Ireland and about four years older than water. She would say, on a regular basis, “Dare to be different!” I took her advice!
And there was Bobby Monaco who produced my single for Mercury and who gave me a chance to move to California, live with him, his wife Patty and their two kids while he shopped for a record deal for me.
And I can’t forget Christine Lavin! I met Chris in 1979 in Aspen, CO, while playing a gig at The Jerome Hotel. She came in to the club after her gig to see if the woman singing was the same Megon McDonough whose LP she had heard while living in Florida, and loved. More good has come to me in my career as a result of my friendship with Chris than I can say.
And, of course, there were all of the amazing singers that I heard on the radio growing up: Dusty Springfield, Joni Mitchell, Patsy Cline, Cher. and more. I remember wanting to be these women, dressing like them, mimicking them by singing their songs into a hairbrush in the living room, hoping I could someday be in their shoes.
Recently, I’ve updated my show, Her Way, and renamed it Dedicated To The Ones I Love: Great Women Singers of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, where I am honoring some of these women who inspired me and my generation.
I’m so excited to put this show up and pay homage to all of those I’ve looked up to and those who looked out for me. Hope it inspires you, too!
I was just in California with the amazing and fun Four Bitchin’ Babes. We were mostly in northern California, and afterward I spent a few days in Los Angeles seeing friends and celebrated 32 years of taking life One Day at a Time.
On my way to LAX, I stopped at a beautiful café to squeeze the last bit of California girl out of my time there before getting on my flight back home. So, I get my coffee and gluten-free, $6 blueberry muffin and turn to find a table, and who is sitting there but film producer, author, curiosity expert and all-around brilliant creator Brian Grazer. Y’all he produced SPLASH! One of my all-time faves, among so many other great movies and TV shows.
Now, of all the people I could have spotted in Hollywood, Brian Grazer is in my top three. He is truly one of my heroes.
I didn’t say anything to him, but instead, smiled — and winked. What the hell? I winked! What? It was just an automatic response. He looked deep in thought, and I don’t think he even connected it, thank heavens.
I ended up sitting outside to take in the last bit of gorgeous California, and I took a peek inside to see him sitting and talking with a few folks, and realized I was witnessing a Brian Grazer meeting!
I finished my excellent cup o’ Joe, gathered my notebook and backpack, and headed for the airport, elated.
Elated to be so blessed to make a living at what I still love to do — sing and entertain. Elated and grateful that I still have heroes and mentors and people who help me every day realize my vision. People who, whether I know them personally or just have a winking acquaintance with them, are doing great work that inspires me.
Lately, I have been working on a new show called “Dedicated to the Ones I Love: Great women singers of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s,” (kind of an updated, 2.0 version of my “Her Way” show), where I honor some of my musical heroes, from Connie Francis to Dusty Springfield to Cher. These women paved the way for me and countless others who love to sing and perform. I can’t thank them enough!
I hope you have heroes, and know that you are thought of as a hero, too… most likely by someone who smiles and winks at you.
Do you have your own business? I’ve been self-employed since I was 13, but I’ve had my own business for the last 20+ years. And maybe you’re like me in that you’re president and janitor of your own business. Yeah, I know, you look forward to firing your janitor, right?
Well, this week I start a 10-week business class for performers, and I must say, ALL of my resistance is coming up. Resistance is the enemy y’all, make no mistake about it, and this enemy is – if nothing else – stealth. (See Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art). I go from “bring it” to terror at Concord speed.
You know what intimidates me most about building my business? Technology. I feel shame for not being as tech savvy as I “should be.” Shame is Resistance’s favorite weapon. Shame will tell you so much ridiculous nonsense! I have always loved the acronym for shame: Should Have Already Mastered Everything. I think I’m supposed to already know a lot of what my teacher/coach is going to teach me before I even get to class!
I’m reminded of a boyfriend I had in the ‘80s, who was a really cute singer in a rock band who wanted to learn how to play guitar, but he kept putting off getting a teacher because he didn’t want the teacher to know HE DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO PLAY GUITAR!
I don’t know about you, but I could totally relate.
I know that having resistance to learning is about wanting to feel like I’m in control. But by not learning more about my business and how to make it grow, I stay small. Oy, it’s an awful catch 22 isn’t it?
So, I will let you know how it goes. I’m not going to make any promises.
I’m just grateful to be willing to learn. I’m willing to take a chance, make mistakes, fail, succeed — and in the words of one of my favorite therapists — commit to sucking!
“Every time I’ve succeeded, it has been for many different reasons, but every time I have failed, it has been for the same reason: I said yes when I meant no.” -- Moss Hart
Have you ever done that, said yes when you meant no? Yes, of course you have. You’re human! I’ve had the experience many times, mostly because I’m a recovering people pleaser, but also because I don’t ask enough questions before I answer an enthusiastic “YES!” And that is something I want to redirect. I want to give myself the gift of my own time. Especially time to check in with myself to ask three very important questions:
If you struggle with wasting time, or spending too much time on things you really don’t want to be doing, I wanted to share a few tips that I use to make my time really count.
So, there you have it my friends. As we prepare for spring, and the hard work that is most likely ahead of us just to be good citizens of the planet, take time for yourself. Say no when you need to so you have space for to say yes to something wonderful!
"To learn, read. To know, write. To master, teach." -- Hindu Proverb
This month I will join the faculty at The Music Institute of Chicago as a teacher of songwriting, and I am really happy, excited, and truth be told, a little nervous.
I wrote my first song when I was 11, with one of my best friends growing up, Sid. Sid was 13. I thought she was really cool because she could draw, write short stories, swing highest on the tire swing in the lot across from her house, and run really fast.
But when The Beatles came to America, Sid and I were equals. We were equals in our devotion and unwavering love for the Fab Four.
Every now and then, when we could get a ride to Randhurst (the first indoor shopping mall!) and would don our bell bottoms and Beatle caps – well, Sid had a Beatle cap – and walk around Marshall Fields speaking with British accents, sure that everyone who heard us would think we, too, were from England, and knew The Lads personally. Yep, we were goners.
Sid’s dad had a baritone ukulele that she learned how to play, and we started singing folk songs. We took our act (uniquely called Meg and Sid) to every neighborhood party. And although we loved playing the folk standards, songwriting called us! And being 11 and 13, our songs were love songs, naturally.
Leaves Do Fall
Leaves Do Fall
Drift and fall
As I look out my window
And I think that I do know – why I loved you.
A sad lament…just the way I like ’em! Our first hit. And you know, to this day it still holds up as a respectable first attempt. The melody was solid, the lyrics sincere, and the performance was always from the heart. I loved singing and writing songs.
Sid moved from our little hamlet of Crystal Lake to suburb on the North Shore of Chicago to attend the same great high school my son would go to almost 40 years later! I was really sad she moved, and very grateful she taught me some guitar chords before she left that I practiced so much I had to tape my fingers they were so sore. I just wanted to KEEP PLAYING.
Then my dad passed away, and I just grieved on the page. I did a swan dive into songwriting to help ease the pain. Then I met (insert music from The Godfather here) Mike Ferraro, and I started writing true heartfelt love poems that turned into songs. We broke up – more songs. And the Vietnam War inspired “why can’t we all live in peace” songs because I didn’t yet understand the politics behind the war.
For each phase of my life, songwriting has been my compass, my guide and really, my reward. Songwriting allowed me to put all my feelings on the page, and loved the process. Though, I must confess, honing the craft of songwriting is as difficult as working at the barre for a ballerina, practicing scales for the pianist, and changing one WORD in the 10th draft/rewrite for the writer. And you realize it’s a job – and a very disciplined job at that. But when you love it, it’s not work. (Unless of course you’re writing a jingle, or commissioned piece, and you are on a deadline).
To learn – read
Read the lyrics and poems of writers you love. I really didn’t “get” Eminem until I went online and read his lyrics. Powerful.
To know – write
You will meet yourself in the songs you write. And you will connect with others who you are expressing for.
To master – teach
We are teaching every day. Teaching others who we are, what we believe and what we think about the world. And that makes us masters in training.
How does a student
Exuberant for learning
To keep the brain wheels turning
The hard work that it takes us
In search of portals
That will make us and not break us
Before the muse
Lights the fuse
Or before we lose another groove
That will spark us
Down the path our heart was
Originally planned for
The hands for
Write, write, WRITE!!
A couple years ago I performed my show, Her Way ~ An Interesting Bunch of Gals, for a fundraiser for an organization called CONCERN, a food and shelter assistance program in Bartlesville, OK, that helps a lot of people.
While my friend, Faye, was showing my sister Brenna and I around Bartlesville, we stopped at a wonderful place called Martha’s Task. Martha’s Task is a place where homeless women can come and learn how to sew and knit. The women can then come once a week to sew, and be paid, earning money to get diapers for their babies and food.
As we walked around the place, I saw a blackboard with the word VISION written on it. Well, I have been a student of “visioning” for many years now, and though I’m no expert, I have seen it work wonders in my life. So I asked about it. I learned that one of the women who had come to Martha’s Task had rebuilt her life and now runs workshops for the women who are currently there.
Unfortunately, she said the majority of the women who attend the class have no concept of a “vision” for their lives, or of goal setting for that matter, because they are in constant urgency mode. On a daily basis, they are in such deep need they can’t stop to imagine any sort of future, let alone an abundant one, for themselves or their children. Just like their mothers couldn’t stop for the “luxury” of imagining a better life. Poverty, our guide told us, is generational. These women have no blueprint for a better life. Their vision remains the one passed down to them.
Today I realize that before I can envision a beautiful, abundant life, I have to let go of some limiting beliefs, and that is not easy!
When my older brothers were kids, my dad took them to downtown Chicago for a life lesson. My dad had made it out of a pretty tough South Side neighborhood and had succeeded. He took the boys to Madison Avenue, which in those days was the skid row of Chicago. Then he took them to Michigan Avenue and The Gold Coast, and said, “You have a choice.”
So now that it’s a new year, it’s time to once again work on my vision and determine what I want to achieve in the coming year. It’s up to me to not only imagine all of the good things that the Universe can bring me, but to also put my faith in the Universe by taking action steps to making those goals a reality.
One of my favorite visioning teachers is Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith, who so wisely says: “We are pushed by pain, or pulled by a vision.”
I realize I have a choice, and today I chose to move forward toward my vision.
Hooray! I'm so excited to announce the launch of my new holiday album, "Season of Light" featuring six of my favorite Christmas songs: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "Season of Light," "Let It Snow," "Away in the Manger," and "Christmastime is Here."
I recorded the album a few weeks ago with the amazing trio of Peter Polzak (piano), Sarah Allen (drums) and Bill Harrison (bass).
It's now available for $12 through CD Baby (or you can buy one in person at my upcoming holiday concert at the Wilmette Theatre. Buy one for yourself, or remember, they are great stocking stuffers!
Maybe my mom was on my side
Or she was just my ride
It was the turn of the karmic tide – we were one
Then I was born
I’ve carried these bones for far too long
They’ve haunted the words of my every song
Not saying that’s right or that it’s wrong
It made me strong, and I got along
Can we let it go?
Can we say we may never know?
Can it be a mystery?
If not for Freud – then for me
(From “The Karmic Ride,” music and lyrics by Megon McDonough, 2015 ASCAP)
I knew when I saw my sister’s name on my phone at 5 a.m. on Oct 30 that it could mean only one thing: Mom had passed.
We’d been waiting. She had been switched from palliative care to hospice care almost four weeks ago, and because she was a fighter, and really wanted to stay at the party, we thought we had more time. Oh yeah, and denial was still holding strong. Even though she was 103!!!
But in our defense, this wasn’t the first time it seemed like she was dying. In fact, she’d had a heart attach about a year-and-a-half ago, and it seemed really serious, so my sister Brenna had called the priest for last rights. But the old gal was up the next day eating ice cream and watching baseball. Those must have been some powerful last rights.
However, eight months later, she fell and broke her hip. They performed surgery, and afterwards, when she was in rehab, Mom astonished the physical therapist by “taking 16 steps today!” But, truth was, she was done. She was tired and ready to go Home. Thankfully, she got her wish.
She was a Big Light, a Force of Nature, frustrating and gloriously wise. She was my first voice teacher and coach. She was brave and beautiful, and in our little town, she was a big draw for actors, artists and theater orphans who came to our house after my Dad died. She was inclusive. In fact, after she was widowed, whenever we would be out as a family, and she saw a woman sitting alone, she would ask her to join us. We kids were of course mortified, but my mom was kind, and she knew what she was doing.
I sat up in bed in the dark when I answered Bren’s call. We breathed a, “Thank you God,” and hung up. I sat there, cried, and got up, made a cup of coffee, and sat by the kitchen window to think. I saw in my mind a memory I love of my mom. She had just picked me up from Kindergarten in her convertible, and I was in the back seat. As she pulled away from the curb, her hair was blowing in the wind, her face turned up to take in the sun and she was whistling. I remember watching her from that backseat with my heart full of love for this person, and smiling and turning my face toward the sun. And I tried to whistle. It was a great ride.
I have so much to be grateful for this season. Mom passing and out of pain, the familiarity of work, as I am on tour with The Four Bitchin’ Babes twice this month. Releasing a holiday CD called Season of Light, which is also the name of my holiday show at The Wilmette Theatre on Dec. 17, being on Rick Kogan’s show on WGN radio on Dec. 4, and more gigs with The Babes in Wisconsin.
Thank you to every one of you and for your support. I’m so grateful.
Megon's thoughts on singing, performing, and spirituality.