Thinking Songs

Americana strummer finds inspiration everywhere

Julia van Allen, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Singer-songwriter Mogey McDonough’s new album is called Dichotomous Thinking. It was produced at Drum Farm Studios in Menomonie.
Singer-songwriter Mogey McDonough’s new album is called Dichotomous Thinking. It was produced at Drum Farm Studios in Menomonie.

‘Now, Lemme Get This Straight” – This album is the perfect soundtrack for the summer ... Imagine Bruce Springsteen and The Eagles got together and brought a musician under their collective wing. Now imagine this performer just released his latest album in the heart of the Midwest: Menomonie, Wisconsin, to be exact.

Mogey McDonough, singer-songwriter of Elysium and overall “stand up guy,” combined the characteristic stylings of pop, folk, and rock to create his latest album, Dichotomous Thinking. The CD dropped on Feb. 14, marking the last Valentine’s Day as a “Lilac Scented Love Affair.” Straight out of Drum Farm Studios in Menomonie, Dichotomous Thinking may just be the album “For You.”

Dichotomous Thinking features 11 songs that speak to any Americana fan. A mix of upbeat and somber songs, the album blends the stylings of McDonough’s musical inspirations, including Springsteen, Tom Petty, and The Replacements, among others.

“I don’t know if my sound has really changed over time,” McDonough said. “I’ve always been acoustically oriented. I love guitar music – acoustic and electric. My songwriting has improved. I’ve gotten better at putting a good story out there.”

McDonough himself is a transplant to Wisconsin, born and raised in East St. Paul. From a young age the music has flowed through him. After picking up the guitar in his ’20s, he expanded beyond an appreciation for others’ work into a motivation to create something of his own. After getting his undergraduate degree at the UW-River Falls in elementary education and coaching, he moved on to UW-Eau Claire for his master’s degree in professional development and on to UW-Superior to study education administration. McDonough found himself in Altoona taking a job as a Chapter One program teacher. He taught in Altoona for 15 years before moving on to Cadott, where he took the job as the junior and senior high school principal.

Dichotomous Thinking is an album made up of disparate messages coming together to make a family of meaning. “Dichotomous thinking is a psychological term,” McDonough said. “It’s not a good way of thinking and seeing the world. If there is a message in there somewhere, it is to not go too far to the left and far to the right. Look at the grey areas of things, rather than the black and white.”

McDonough’s songs follow along some of the greatest struggles people face. His song “Russian Roulette” describes the conflict of a person who continues to play the titular game with their own life. While this person may be OK for now, eventually something is going to happen. Another story in the grand scheme of Dichotomous Thinking is in the song “Crucifixerupper,” which tells the tale of a person who had struggles in the past but has rebounded – in McDonough’s words, “a fallen angel with a crucifix.”

When asked about what inspires his music, McDonough said, “Various life experiences. You hear something, you see something, somebody says something. I’m constantly writing notes to myself. You write a line here, you write a line there and start putting things together.” Inspiration is everywhere, you just need to pay attention when it comes knocking. You never know when a “Jam” could fall right out of the sky.

Dichotomous Thinking can be streamed through Spotify and is available for purchase at The Local Store, on Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes among other brick-and-mortar and online retailers.

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