I admit it. I forgot about Michael McDermott. Since tending bar in the early 90s allowed me the luxury of playing whatever I wanted on the house stereo system, I kept McDermott’s debut release 620 Weed Street in heavy rotation. It was great to see a local artist sign a major label deal and receive airplay on WXRT. He soon appeared on MTV which played the video for his first single "A Wall I Must Climb.”
He earned his stripes in the Irish taverns and pubs in the Chicago area while he began writing songs. Influenced by local legend the late John Prine, among others he soon hit the big time and signed with Giant records.
Soon the ridiculous comparisons followed, the “new Springsteen” among others, as expectations exceeded reality. Subsequent releases, though critically hailed, failed to live up to the hype, and years of well-documented substance abuse dominated his once promising career. But despite personal issues, the music never stopped as the major label releases morphed into independent releases.
But rarely has a performer made such an impressive return to form. McDermott has been sober since 2014 and has released several stellar recordings in the last five years. He moved back to the south suburbs with wife Heather and his artistic rebirth has not gone unnoticed. The career upturn began with 2016’s Willow Springs, which reached #1 on the European Americana chart. Showered with critical accolades, the prolific songwriter released the follow up, Out From Under in 2018. Less than a year later Orphans was released, consisting of songs left off Willow Springs and Out From Under and older recordings. In June 2020, McDermott continued his run of great recordings with What in the World.
Since it appears live music venues are booking again, take the opportunity to see McDermott live. You won’t forget him.