The anthemic, arena-filling “Scars From Another Life” (from his forthcoming album Hit Me Back) paints the a picture of how far singer-songwriter Michael McDermott has come: “I was so down... I had completely lost my way / When I hit Broadway I began to realize / That all they are are scars from another life.” His life since becoming a recording artist—full of myriad highest highs, gutter-skimming lows, and absolute rock bottoms of the past two decades—could read like a screenplay, but with stories so ridiculously outlandish that they couldn’t possibly be true.
All of it—the addiction, the failed relationships, the financial dramas, the career hurdles—have left plenty of scars, but McDermott’s moving on, moving up, and taking charge. He makes no excuses for his past—it has made him who he is today—but sings to everyone listening (and to himself): “Don’t run away, they’re scars from another life.”
It's been quite a ride since singer/songwriter Michael McDermott unleashed his debut, 620 West Surf, but one might even go so far as to say that his 2012 release, Hit Me Back, represents the work of a new artist: for the first time in his recording career, McDermott is a father, a philanthropic entrepreneur, and has experienced the loss of an adored parent. All are major life changes which have found achingly honest expression in his songs.
Hit Me Back also exudes McDermott's trademark embrace of faith and hope in the face of adversity. The lyrics are, as always, uniquely evocative: McDermott sings in poetry; his tunes are literate story-songs. On the haunting "Ever After," he offers the listener palpable insight into the jarring confusion and doubt felt in the days that followed his mother's passing (in October 2011). The wryly observed title track puts a new spin on fighting a long-time nemesis, alcohol. His demon-banishing in the aforementioned “Scars From Another Life” is echoed in the love-is-redemption refrains of “Let It Go.” The exploration of temptation and bowing to its siren call is explored in the Americana-laced “A Deal With The Devil.”
Influenced by such musical giants as Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, McDermott exhibited a talent for mature and lyrically dense songwriting that soon caught the eye—and ear—of then-talent scout Brian Koppelman (now a screenwriter, novelist, director, and producer; best known as the co-writer of “Ocean’s Thirteen” and “Rounders”), who immediately signed him to Giant Records. That first album, 620 West Surf, boasted a Billboard Hot 100 charting single, (“A Wall I Must Climb”). McDermott continued to write introspective, character-driven songs that won him an enduring band of appreciative followers. In the liner notes for McDermott’s self-titled album, bestselling author Stephen King wrote: “Michael McDermott is one of the best songwriters in the world and possibly the greatest undiscovered rock ‘n’ roll talent of the last 20 years.”
The recording industry shakeup that marked the mid-1990s left McDermott without a contract, and awash in debt and self-doubt. “Throughout the years, I had continued to feel like I was on a mission, of sorts, singing spiritual songs,” he once said, “but never really feeling good about the other elements of my life.” McDermott released five more albums in the next decade, some with label distribution, others independently. He also continued playing live shows, and riding a personal rollercoaster of addiction, recovery, and sometimes-misplaced ambition.
Having at last become more comfortable in his own skin, scarred but smarter, McDermott has in recent years begun to make more life-affirming choices. He has launched his own coffee line, with sales from each bag of his two signature blends providing meals for seven children. Understandably, he's found positive inspiration in his wife, Heather Horton (whom he married during a tour stop in Italy in May 2009), and the birth of their daughter, Rain (in July 2010). And he’s once again a signed artist, this time with New Jersey label, Rock Ridge Music, who will be releasing his forthcoming album. McDermott and wife Horton (a gifted musician/vocalist), and producer CJ Eiriksson (engineered albums for U2 and Matchbox 20, as well as McDermott's 2007 album Noise From Words) spent a whirlwind eight days in the studio to record Hit Me Back.Of course, recent positive inspiration doesn't mean he's forgotten his tumultuous past or that he no longer faces present struggles. For McDermott, a performer and storyteller to the depths of his soul, his connection with fans and his uncanny ability to communicate universal truths through his own personal experiences are helping fade the many of the scars that remain. The demons aren’t gone; he’s just found a place for them to dwell in peace. It is coming to terms with those demons and putting them in their place that continues to fuel his art ever further.