Doug MacMillan of The Connells Makes Sparks at the Gas Station and Finds Cheap Eats on the Road

November 10, 2016

Tell us about your tour vehicle. Any notable breakdown stories?

A late ’80’s model Blue Dodge Ram Van that received the ‘van version’ of home improvement when we put in for a Dodge Van Fiberglass Top, which provided more luggage space up-above, but also gave those in passenger mode (vs. driver/shotgun rider mode), the ability to stand up! I know that doesn’t sound like much, but after 8-9 hrs. of cramped van riding & almost zero ‘stretching out’, that ‘high ceiling’ made our van interior feel cavernous.

We were driving into Charlotte for a gig late 80’s/early 90’s and we gassed up on the outskirts of town instead of waiting to fill up when we left late night. I remember it was cold and the van floor felt nice and warm…

While the gas pumping, we noticed the attendant behind the glass of the office wildly waving at those of us near the van to get away – Run!!”.  I was standing a good ways from the pump… That’s when I saw… ‘The Glow’.

The whole damn exhaust/pipe/catalytic converter assembly was glowing like a call ember – which is pretty frightening and of course at that moment the exhaust pipe burst into a small flame.   Luckily no one was hurt – & we could fix the van.

How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?

A cooler, tuna, peanut butter, etc. will help keep things cheap – Healthy? Good luck with that one.

How many strings (or drum heads) do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?

Well, I’m a singer – but on a tour the guitarists and drummer always had plenty of strings and heads, making sure to change them periodically (strings every few gigs).

Where do you rehearse?

Well, we had a great one – Steve Potak (Keyboard), had a bungalow behind his house which worked out really well for a place to rehearse – but no real late nights.

What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?

The first songs that Mike wrote remained untitled for months – they were numbered: 1-7. I think the lyrics to #3 were: “In time out of time, I go.”

Describe your first gig.

The first time we played in front of people, we set up in a fraternity house, and just started playing… hoping people would stop and come in – which they did to an extent.

What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?

NC State Employees Credit Union.  Member Services (online)

How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?

We were able to make a living playing music from the late ’80’s to late ’90’s – we don’t play enough now to make any real $.

What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?

There are a lot of things, but mainly record companies won’t always be looking out for the band’s best interest in the long term – they are not concerned with the big picture (although they will tell you they are).

The Raleigh, N.C.-based Connells have quietly built a fan base following their 1984 inception, cementing their status as a perennial college radio-era band that influenced an alternative-rock generation.   In the ’90s, the Connells finally broke through to international success with their second single, “’74-’75,” from their fifth album, Ring, reaching #1 across Europe and certified Gold in Germany, Norway and Sweden.

Thirty-plus years later, the band continues to tour and record, with a new generation discovering them.  Current members include Mike Connell, David Connell, Doug MacMillan, Steve Potak, Mike Ayers, Rob Ladd and Joel Rhodes.

The band has just released Stone Cold Yesterday, a 16-track “best of” collection.  Connect with the band online.