Pat Simmons says: 'just listen to the music'

FAR greater than any of the riches that may come with success, the real payola for any musician is having people know their songs, says singer-songwriter Pat Simmons.

That being the case, it would be fair to say Mr Simmons' cup runneth over. As a founding member of The Doobie Brothers, his music has been hailed an American institution, with songs declared vital to the cultural fabric.

"That's the pay off ... that people know your songs," Simmons said. "For years we were out there playing, and people liked our music and we would connect with an audience, but nobody really knew the song unless we did a cover tune and then people would respond to that, but your own music, that's the dream."

The Doobie Brothers celebrated the 40th anniversary of their debut self-titled album in 2011.

Over the years that have followed they have amassed a catalogue of hits, including their first, Listen To The Music, and other indelible tracks like Black Water, Long Train Runnin', Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me) and What A Fool Believes.

"When we got our first hit, we'd go out there and play a show and play a dozen songs and out of the dozen songs people would know one, and it was like, 'yeah, we made it'," said Simmons. "What you work so hard for is to get that connection with the audience and to have people know your songs and be singing along. That's a dream come true really."

In April, Simmons and fellow band members, including Tom Johnston and John McFee, will head to Australia for a string of solo shows and an appearance at the annual Deni Blues And Roots Festival at Deniliquin.

Simmons said that playing live was still quite a buzz.

"The newness of it has not completely worn off, but certainly it's a little more subdued," he said. "But I think the idea of getting up and performing is always something that you sort of get yourself ready for. You get out there and look into the audience and it's always a rush to see the folks. We kind of have those great moments where we look over at each other and I think silently everybody's thinking the same thing - 'gee, we're sure lucky to be doing this and we got a great audience tonight'.

"In terms of doing concerts and playing live for people, that's what we got started for and to have it continuing … it's always a reward. I don't think you could ever take that for granted, it's always appreciated."

While it's not something many of us will have to consider, integral still to the modern set of The Doobie Brothers are tracks that are now into their fifth decade.

Simmons is quick to point out, the sheen hasn't worn off, specially on a song like Listen To The Music, which he cites as carrying the basic theme of the band.

"The message in the song is very simple: really it's about the idea of listening to the music and the enjoyment of it," he said. "It's so simple and straight-forward.

"The philosophy is we want people to leave our shows feeling better than when they got there, and that at least for the time when we're playing they would forget politics and any bummers that they were on before they got to the show, any conflicts that were going on, that they would leave it behind and at least for that hour and a half or two hours, enjoy themselves and feel good and have their spirits lifted.

"That's really what our band is about and that's exactly what that song is about.

"If you listen to the lyrics, 'what people need is a way to make 'em smile, it ain't so hard to do if you know how'. It sounds trite and simple but to me it is what music for us is about."

For The Doobie Brothers Australian tour dates visit:

The Doobie Brothers: Long-serving band members, from left, John McFee, Tom Johnston and Pat Simmons.

The Doobie Brothers: Long-serving band members, from left, John McFee, Tom Johnston and Pat Simmons.


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