Singer-actor talks about the one who influenced him most — and her loss
There are tears in Duff MacDonald’s eyes.
His emotions are laid bare, as he realizes the title of his work-in-progress album, Naked, has more meaning after the death of his mother Doreen, who succumbed to pancreatic cancer on Dec. 30 at age 87.
She had a profound effect on the 47-year-old Mt. Pleasant and Erskine resident’s career in the arts, he says.
“I remember when I was a 7-year-old and she was in the front row of our local civic centre … competing in this thing called Saskatchewan’s Search for the Stars,” the prairie-born MacDonald recalls. “I could never remember my lyrics, so she sat in the front row with this huge cardboard sign with the lyrics written on it.
“My mom was a real life force. She was always doing skits and dressing up for events. She was the lady that everyone loved. She played piano. She clogged. She did pottery. She was a painter. She taught me how to paint.”
Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet Child o’ Mine is on the radio inside Fresh on Eglinton as he talks about the influence of his late mother, whom he remembers being “an all-round artist.”
“Maybe a never-realized artist,” he admits, “but she’s where I get my joie de vivre, my passion for life.”
MacDonald’s passion for life and art has manifested in many forms. Roots, released in February 2011, was his first album. He’s in the process of putting together songs for Naked, his second solo album.
When it comes to stage, he has a lengthy list of shows on his résumé, including Killer Business, which wrapped production Jan. 19 at the Next Stage Theatre Festival.
He played Guy, the costume designer on the set of a production that’s part of a musical murder mystery.
MacDonald flashes a cheeky grin, saying he had some fun with that role.
“The good part about doing a new show is that you’re able to put in your own artistic landmarks,” he said, adding that famous costume designer Edith Head was the inspiration for his character. “I had a lot of fun. It’s really kooky.
“It’s nice to be able to put your own two cents into a character.”
He’s also finished work on three shorts — Billy The Kid, Something Like This and Insight — done by students at Ryerson University and Humber College. They will be released in March and April.
Then there’s Naked, which is shaping up to be a rootsy homage to his prairie upbringing, with some influence from electronic-pop musicians Imogen Heap and Gotye.
MacDonald admits colleagues have been critical of his casting a broad showbiz net, but he’s doing it all for his greatest influence.
“It’s funny,” he said. “As you get older you just start to own these things.
“[A really good] friend said you should just focus on one thing — keep doing one thing — but I can’t. With the death of my mom, I want to honour all those parts of myself.”