Michael McLean's Interview with LDS Living

In the November/December 2011 issue of LDS Living, we published an article on Michael McLean's Forgotten Carols in honor of the 20th anniversary of the musical. Though most of our interview couldn't make it into the article, he was so much fun, we wanted to share some of it with you anyway.

For example: my favorite part of the interview was not even an official part of the interview. Michael was sitting in his car, talking to me on the phone, when he happened to see T.C. Christensen (the Mormon movie mastermind behind 17 Miracles, Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration, and The Testaments) walk by. So he honked his horn, rolled down his window, and shouted out, "T.C.! My brother from another mother!" (Keep in mind, these are two 50-ish grown men.) T.C. Christensen replied in kind: "You still hanging out with those Mormons?" I nearly fell out of my seat laughing.

Unfortunately, with a two-hour interview on my recorder, it still wasn't feasible to put all of it online. But for you I've compiled some of my favorite humorous anecdotes and inspiring stories to provide a more in-depth view into the workings of Michael McLean's amazing brain and the magic of the musical that has touched thousands of lives around the world.

LDSL: What was the process of creating The Forgotten Carols?

MM: I had a week. So I did this really unusual thing for me, and I tried this really interesting experiment. I had heard about people who use their creative subconscious to help them when they were really busy. And so I wrote as much as I could one Saturday night, and just before I went to bed I had this little moment where I told my creative unconscious, “You know, I've gotta sleep, but you can work on this all night long. That would be great. Here's the stuff that I'm thinking about and here's the stuff I'm worried about; I'll get up early tomorrow and I'll see you about 6 or 6:30, and don't worry about editing this stuff, just try to help get the story moving along, and I’ll see what you’ve got in the morning.” And I went to bed. 

And I wake up in the morning, and I have an appointment with my subconscious. And I say, “Well, thanks for working all night long on this for me—this is great. Just share with me what you’ve got, and I’ll type as fast as I can, and don’t worry about editing. I’ll do that later.” And then I would type until I had to leave for work. I would type from like 6 in the morning until like 8:30 or something. And then after I finished typing, I thought to myself, “Well here are some other ideas, and here’s some stuff. I have to go to work now, but could you work on this while I’m working at Bonneville? I’ll come back tonight about 6:30 or 7, and here’s some things I’d like you to kind of figure out, because I don’t know what the answers to these are—but--work on this for me.”

So then I’d go to work all day and then I’d drive home to Heber, and then after I had dinner I’d sit down at my computer and say, “Hey, you’ve been working on this all day long while I’ve been working at Bonneville, and I’m really grateful. I can’t wait to see what you’ve got, I’ll just type it up and then we’ll see how we’re doing; I’ll probably go to 11 or 12 tonight.” And then I’d just start typing as fast as I could.

And I did that every day, and then that Saturday came, and I just asked myself: “I’d just like you to work on this full time for me, because I have these other things I have to do—to pay the light bill and take care of my kids and whatever.” 

And at the end of the week, The Forgotten Carols was written. The book was written, and some new songs I had added to it, and some new thoughts I hadn’t thought of. I don’t say that to suggest that every second of what I do is all inspired and I’m this great conduit for Heaven or something, but it was just kind of a remarkable thing for me that it happened.

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