It’s fitting that “Liberte,” the latest album by the Doobie Brothers, will enter the world Friday, which coincides with the long-of-tooth band’s concert at the Spokane Arena.
There’s symmetry to the release since guitarist-vocalist Patrick Simmons’ life started locally.
“I was conceived in Spokane,” Simmons said while calling from Salt Lake City. “My sisters grew up in Spokane. My parents were teachers in Cheney. I’ve always enjoyed the eastern part of the state, so it’s cool that ‘Liberte’ will be released the day of our show there.”
Many of the Doobie Brothers’ peers are nostalgia acts digging into their canon, but the mellow and soulful rockers, who are on their 50th anniversary tour, are compelled to write and record new material.
“It’s just what we do,” Simmons said. “We were just going to write an EP’s worth of songs last year, but when the pandemic hit, we just dug deeper, and before we knew it, we had a whole album’s worth of songs. What else were we going to do during the pandemic since we couldn’t tour?”
Well, the Doobie Brothers were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in November along with Whitney Houston, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, T-Rex and the Notorious B.I.G. Due to the pandemic, there was no pomp and circumstance for the recording artists entering the hallowed rock hall.
“We’ll all remember the COVID induction,” Simmons said. “It’s one of those things. What can you do? We were just honored to be inducted into the Rock Hall. Our work was recognized, and we received some kudos, and it was just great.
“There was no big concert, but how can we complain when we’re living a dream inside of a dream? We’ve been fortunate to have some hits.”
The humble Simmons, 72, has had an extraordinary career with the Doobies. The band has sold more than 40 million albums and amassed a pair of Grammy Awards and two No. 1 hits, “Black Water” and “What a Fool Believes.”
“It’s hard to believe we’ve had so much success and that we’ve been around for a half-century,” Simmons said. “I never thought I would be around for a half-century. But we’re still going strong.”
The Doobies will deliver a couple of new songs and focus on the hits.
“It’s not easy putting a setlist together,” Simmons said. “We know what our fans want to hear.”
With vocalist-keyboardist Michael McDonald back in the fold as of 2019, expect an evening of familiar tunes primarily featuring the 16 top 40 hits, which span the Doobie Brothers’ career. Expect favorites such as “Black Water,” China Grove,” “Rockin’ Down the Highway,” “Long Train Runnin” and “Takin’ It to the Streets.”
“We’re more than happy to play those songs that have become staples in our sets,” Simmons said. “We never get tired of playing those songs. It’s great to be part of something that has endured.”
Simmons is the lone Doobie Brother to have appeared on each of the band’s albums.
Vocalist-guitarist Tom Johnston, who formed the Doobie Brothers with Simmons in 1970, left the band in 1977 but returned in 1987, and McDonald is back after a 23-year hiatus.
“It’s all good now, and we really appreciate what we have with each other,” Simmons said.
“Being in a band is where it’s at for me. Some people like to be on their own. It works for us. Tom, Michael and I have always been the primary writers. That’s the way it worked out. We’re so thankful that it worked out for us. We always appreciated what we had. We never squandered this great gift.
“Look at R. Kelly. He was convicted (of multiple sex-trafficking charges this week). It’s quite Shakespearean. It’s a shame since the guy is so talented.
“Look at what he did in the world of music, and now look where he is. We always realized how fortunate we are to do what we love. It’s given us great lives.”
Simmons, who has been a resident of Hawaii for the last quarter-century, is prepping for a homecoming when his band returns to Spokane.
“We moved to California when I was a kid, but we traveled back to Washington often when I was growing up,” he said. “My grandparents were in Wenatchee. It’s apple country there.
“I remember seeing the crowning of the Apple Queen years ago. Who would have ever guessed that central Washington would be one of the wine capitals of the world? And then there’s Spokane. We’ve played there so much. Whenever I go back, I walk the streets of Spokane and look around.
“I found a quarter from the 1850s there at a shop. I’ll be back looking for comic books and stamps. I like things that are old, and Spokane has some of that stuff. It’s a cool place.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated on Friday, October 1 to reflect that The Doobie Brothers’ guitarist-vocalist interviewed is named Patrick Simmons. The original story gave the wrong surname.
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