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Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen Spent the Pandemic Writing Songs for a New Album

At the start of the pandemic, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen joked to Rolling Stone that he was spending quarantine “hangin’ tight in the Apple, baby, gargling Clorox under a sunlamp.” Luckily it turns out he also found time to write songs for a new solo album that will be his first since 2012’s Sunken Condos. 

“After [the pandemic] went on for a while, I ended up writing almost an album’s worth of tunes for a solo record,” Fagen says in a new interview. “It was actually a really good period for me.”

Fagen says it’s still too early to reveal too many details, but he says he’s already made a few demos for the new songs. “I’m really excited about it,” Fagen says, adding of the tunes, “Some of them are personal. There’s one I particularly like called ‘The Stellar Bartender.’ [Laughs] About a very empathetic bartender.”

Fagen recently released a pair of new live albums, Northeast Corridor — which boasts a smattering of Steely Dan songs — and a full live version of his 1982 solo record, The Nightfly. He’s also set to return to the road with Steely Dan next month, with a run of shows kicking off October 25th in Baltimore, Maryland (a handful of previously scheduled shows for earlier in October were recently pushed to 2022).

Fagen says the band will kick off rehearsals in the coming weeks, but despite more than a year off the road, he’s confident there won’t be too much rust to shake off. “We’re just going to brush up on some stuff, maybe add a few new things to dress up the show a little bit,” he says, before adding with a laugh: “It’s really a convenience that everyone can read music. You don’t have to sing parts, we’ve got charts — although most of the players don’t even use the charts anymore.” 

And while Fagen spent quarantine playing and writing at home, he’s looking forward to music no longer being such a solo endeavor. “I really missed it,” he says of playing live. “I haven’t played at all with anyone else since 2020. I’m really, really into it.”

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