Interview – Patrick Simmons of The Doobie Brothers

When thinking of some of the most memorable Rock-n-Roll bands to come out of the 1970s, many come to mind but chances are atop that list would be the Eagles, Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, Journey, Chicago, and The Doobie Brothers.

One of the most successful bands to emerge from the Bay Area Rock scene during the ’70s, The Doobie Brothers have sold more than 40-million albums worldwide, had more singles in the Billboard Hot 100 than you could imagine, and yet they remain the odd men out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Surprising, isn’t it?

While their supporters know the truth, The Doobie Brothers continue to tour heavily and rock audiences around the world, and all while maintaining the same motto – play music because you love it. Taking the time to talk about the legacy of the band, founding Guitarist Patrick Simmons sat down for a vivid recollection of their history, the key to their longevity, plans for the future, plus more. – The Doobie Brothers history dates back nearly 5 decades and through it all the band has been extremely successful with platinum-selling records, world touring, and so much more. Through everything, how would you describe the journey of the band?

Patrick Simmons – Arduous. (Laughs) I think just like any gig anybody does, in this life, everything you have you have to hang in there. You have to be tenacious and work at it. Anything that you don’t necessarily inherit – something you create or start from the beginning – it takes some time to get to a point where it’s a little bit easier.

Then, when it’s a little bit easier, that’s when you have to pay attention, right? Just to make sure you pursue it with integrity. Some people take what they do for granted, like they deserve it, and it really isn’t that, I don’t think. The arts, in general, it’s not a thing you deserve, it’s a gift, you need to treasure and cultivate it.

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. – Absolutely, once you start to take things for granted, that is when things go south with anything in life.

Patrick Simmons – I think so. All the people that I admire – I try to see what other people are doing, and I don’t pattern my life after what other people do – but I certainly take lessons from the great artists that I admire. They nurture their craft, try to get better, and try to find other ways to express it. The Paul Simons, Eric Claptons, Elton Johns have all made a concerted effort to not reinvent themselves, but just to explore other aspects of music. I would hope that’s what we’re doing as well. – The history shows The Doobie Brothers have! Like any band, The Doobie Brothers’ story has not followed a linear path. Through those ups and downs, the band has sustained themselves and are as strong as ever in 2018. What do you think has been the key to the longevity?

Patrick Simmons – It’s always the music and songs. We continue to write songs and try to be creative. The songs that we have recorded and certain accomplishments we have had, we continue to just do it. I think playing live has a lot to do with it, at least for our band; I think that has contributed to keeping things alive for us. I think when it becomes, “We need some money, let’s go out and tour,” then it becomes like a job. We think of it more like a hobby. (Laughs) We have always played music. When I was a kid growing up I was always in bands, and I loved that. Sometimes I would be in a band, then I wouldn’t be in a band anymore, and I would look at it and think I wish I could be in a band again because it was so much fun. That is really how I still look at it; it’s a lot of fun.

It’s always a work-in-progress. You are out there and you say, “Let’s try this song and see how it goes over.” You play something and say, “Eh, that was okay. Did the audience like it?” Then the guys start second-guessing, but my philosophy is do it because you enjoy it, don’t do it because you are necessarily looking for some sort of feedback – you certainly are consciously and unconsciously. The bottomline is, if you start second-guessing yourself, you get sort of gun shy about trying. I think it’s always important to recognize you are trying to enjoy what you created; it isn’t always going to necessarily connect with everyone, but it has to connect with you and the rest of the guys that you’re playing with. It has to be fun, challenging, and something you want to do whether everybody likes it or not. – Yes, and that always goes back to your musical integrity, as you had mentioned.

Patrick Simmons – Yeah. For example, I am not necessarily a big fan of David Bowie, but he wasn’t afraid to get out there and just do that. Some people would say, “I hate Bowie, what’s he doing? The Disco thing – who does he think he is?” But he wasn’t afraid. Always because of that, he always landed on his feet. He would just say, “The hell with it, I am going to go out there and do what I want to do.” And everybody loved that about him; it made him more than a musician, it made him a real artist.

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. – Yes, David Bowie was very good at being fearless artistically. What is interesting about The Doobie Brothers is the sound, while always rooted in Rock-n-Roll, has had also interjected Country, Blues, and even some Soul. Growing up in the Northwestern region of the United States, did that influence you as a songwriter?

Patrick Simmons – I have always been fortunate that I have always lived in beautiful parts of the country. I think as human beings you always go to other places. Most of us are suburban kids, but I always made a point to get away from things, getting out to the country, getting to the ocean, etc. It always is inspiring. Like you said, I was fortunate to live in the Northwest, and that’s a beautiful part of the country. Then I moved to California, and that’s a beautiful part of the country as well. It has gotten pretty citifed, but you don’t have to go very far. Even people in L.A., you don’t have to go very far to get away.

I’ve always been fortunate, but I get a lot of inspiration from cities too; there is something about the energy in cities. Sometimes I found myself on the road sitting in a hotel room, looking out the window at the action/activity and life going on in the streets. That can be just as inspiring as total isolation in a beautiful part of the country. I am getting inspired, if you can call it inspired, but getting pissed off about children being kept in cages. It makes me want to write a song to channel that and bring attention to it. – Inspiration comes in different forms. For example, look at all the wonderful music that came from the Vietnam conflict in the 1960s.

Patrick Simmons – That’s right. I think you take inspiration where you find it, really.

The Doobie Brothers live at Jones Beach, New York 7-13-2014. Photo credit – Jonathan Weingarten. – At this point The Doobie Brothers still tour relatively heavily, and you are actually out again this summer with Steely Dan. How has the tour being going thus far?

Patrick Simmons – Really great, can’t say enough about it. I love the band, I have always been personally a fan of their music. I continue to be amazed by the musicianship and their songs. It was Donald Fagan and Walter Becker who created so many of those great songs, but Donald still channels what Steely Dan is; I love that. The audience has been great, I think there is a certain complement in terms of our music.

Like you were saying, we do a lot of different styles of music – I would say we have a little more R&B, Blues, and Roots in our music. I would put Steely Dan in more of a Jazz vain, but they rock pretty damn hard. (Laughs) It’s very complimentary. Also, members of Steely Dan are in our band as well, so we really have a connection there. – And The Doobie Brothers put on a energetic show, so it’s exciting to see.

Patrick Simmons – We probably tour less than we used to. God, we probably did about 200 dates a year at one time in the ’70s. We are maybe doing anywhere from 80 to 100 shows, but probably more like 75 or 80 this year. Which is comfortable. It seems like a lot of shows to some people, but it is not as many shows as someone like Willie Nelson. (Laughs) I asked Willie not so long ago, “How many shows do you do?” He said, “I do about 150.” He is a brave soul and a road dog, he can’t wait to get on the road again. (Laughs)

DooBro Entertainment / HOR
Arista Nashville – Wow, that is a lot of shows, good for him. The band last released a studio album of new material back in 2010, and in 2014 you put out a really cool album with various collaborators re-recording classic Doobie songs. That all in mind, can we expect some new music soon?

Patrick Simmons – We are working on something right now. We did a little bit of recording a couple of months ago, we went in and recorded a few tracks. We are still chipping away at it. I have been writing a couple of songs while I am out here on the road, and I know Tom (Johnston) is doing the same. We have Billy Payne from Little Feat is with us playing keyboards on the road. I have been working on a couple of things with him, I also know Tom wrote a song with him. John McFee joined us in ’78, and I work on things with him occasionally, I am hoping to do that again. I kind of work with everybody.

I have been working with my son a little bit, he writes. He has his own music going on, so it’s been kind of fun for me to try to do something with him. My wife and I have written some songs together. It’s an ongoing thing that I am not afraid to try anything with anybody. I have written a couple of songs with a buddy of mine from Nashville, Bill Lloyd. John Cowan is playing bass with us now and I am hoping to write something with him as well. I am always working on something on my own; I have got about a half dozen starts and couple of songs finished. I have been working on one recently that is almost done. – It will be fun to hear the music once it is ready to be released.

Patrick Simmons – Yeah, we just take it as it comes. This tour with Steely Dan has particularly been a long one; it will be 10 weeks by the time we are done, but it’s good. Like I said, I am a huge fan of Steely Dan. It’s really great to be out here and very inspiring. When you are a writer, it’s so great to hear close-up with other people are doing and helps you to focus your own ideas. I love that. I am always jazzed when we are out with other great acts – we were out with Chicago for a while, we were out with Journey. It’s always fun to see what other people do and it inspires you in your own music, I think.

The Doobie Brothers live at The Classic East Citi Field Queens, New York 7-30-2017. Photo credit Mark Schoen Photography. – That makes sense. You find inspiration everywhere, especially from others around you. Last question. CrypticRock also covers Horror and Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of either genre, what are some of your favorites and why?

Patrick Simmons – I am a huge movie fanatic. I could have my own show reviewing films. I go see everything! Hereditary was a pretty good Horror film, I liked it a lot. It’s scary, but not scary as things jumping out at you, but it is psychologically freaky. It also had great acting, a great atmosphere, and pretty good horrific special effects now and then.

I went to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, it doesn’t get much better than being chased by a Tyrannosaurus. (Laughs) All the Jurassic Parks are sort of the same – dinosaurs are going crazy and everybody is running away from them. I love that! (Laughs) I loved Solo: A Star Wars Story, it is getting funny reviews, and I don’t get that. I thought it was a great movie, in fact, in my opinion, it was one of the best Star Wars movies. I loved Woody Harrelson, I thought he did a great job. I liked the backstory, I thought it was really good. Those 3 movies got stand up and clap reviews from me. – It is wonderful to hear how into films you are.

Patrick Simmons – I have always been a movie freak. I do like Horror movies, it has always been something I’ve liked a lot. More recently, I got into all kinds of films, I love everything. Whenever there is a good movie, some of them are kind of cheesy and they don’t quite get there. Another one I thought was really a great movie was A Quiet Place. It was a really good, imaginative kind of film. The thing with Horror, it always stretches your believability, but that’s okay, everybody knows it’s fantasy and fake.

Universal Pictures

Tour Dates:
7/02 — Toronto, ON
7/03 — Syracuse, NY
7/06 — Holmdel, NJ
7/07 — Mansfield, MA
7/10 — Bristow, VA
7/11 — Camden, NJ
7/13 — Gilford, NH
7/14 — Bethel, NY
9/20 — San Francisco, CA With Eagles
9/22 — San Diego, CA
10/20— Clearwater, FL
11/7 — Greensburg, PA United States The Palace Theatre

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