He’d been a member for seven years by the time they split; and, in a new interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, he recalled that the idea of splitting hadn’t been on his mind until Patrick Simmons had decided to bow out.
“I don’t think I would have ever quit the band, except when Pat quit,” McDonald said. “It just didn’t seem like the Doobies anymore… that original creative core of the band was gone. Pat had written music for the band since the beginning.”
He became even more convinced when the band tried to rehearse without Simmons. “[W]e didn’t get through one song and we all just stopped and had a look around the room. And I think it was me that spoke up and said, ‘You know, guys, I think this doesn’t feel right. I don’t think we’re the Doobie Brothers anymore. I don’t think the Doobie Brothers exist anymore. I think we need to accept that reality.’”
McDonald continued: “It was a big decision for all of us to make because there wasn’t just the guys in the band – there was close to 30 people employed by this corporation. It was their whole livelihood.” But he knew they couldn’t face a crowd. “It wouldn’t have been fair for us to get up there and pretend to be the Doobie Brothers,” he asserted.
He said he didn’t take it personally when a different lineup later assembled without him. “I think rightfully they got back together as close to the original band as they could,” he said. “[T]here was always those moments in time when you had to make those tough decisions. What’s the best configuration here for music we hope to make, going forward? …[W]as there some part of me that felt left out? Maybe, but not when I thought about it, not when I gave it a couple of minutes worth of thought and realized, ‘This is what these guys are hoping to regain their roots as a band – and you can’t fault that.’”
Following the split, McDonald soon embarked on the solo career he’d been edging towards for some time. “Looking back it was a blessing in disguise,” he said, “because at the time what I felt was, ‘Oh, now I’ve been flushed out here… I’ve written 12 good songs for an album.’ And so then that became a whole other trial of fire.”