"Because, frankly, I've seen hundreds of singers who are young and good-looking launch the start of some lucrative record deal, and I can tell you I'm none of those things."
The Scots tenor's discography runs to 40-odd, so this is not the first time he's gone into a studio. But at the age of 47 it's the first time he has felt ready to commit a solo recital disc.
These days, MacDougall is best known as the cheeky, chirpy voice of BBC Radio Scotland's Classics Unwrapped and as one of the "three Scottish tenors" of kilt-clad Caledon. But his career began on a different tack, headed for major opera houses and serious song recitals. It was a car accident that took him off that course in his twenties. Now, two decades later, he's aiming to pick up where he left off.
Born in Glasgow's Dennistoun, MacDougall's father was a joiner and his mother was a medical secretary. "Neither was musical, but after my gran died we moved in with my grandpa, who besides working as a builder was a fabulous tenor with a range from Scots songs to Wagner," he says.
Young Jamie would listen to his grandpa's Franco Corelli records and the two of them would team up to sing Panis Angelicus around the piano. "So from the age of five, whenever someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I'd tell them in no uncertain terms: 'tenor".
He took up the violin, was accepted into the music school at Douglas Academy and became the first student there to specialise in voice.
The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) and a postgraduate at London's Guildhall followed. With a glossy, dark-hued tone and a charming stage manner, doors opened with the likes of Deutsche Grammophon and Hyperion, Trevor Pinnock, Graham Johnson and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
MacDougall was courted by agents, record companies and opera scouts before the crash when he was 22. He was lodging with the pianist Malcolm Martineau, and borrowed his car when he had a head-on collision at a roundabout in Pimlico.
He walked away apparently without a scratch, but the damage had been done internally to his neck and upper thoracic. Slowly the impact seeped into his singing as he began to seize up, and eventually couldn't produce a note without having to tilt his head at an awkward angle.
"I didn't realise it was a physical thing," he says. "Several teachers in London tried to pep-talk me through it, telling me to give my voice more welly or to get over my anxiety issues.
"Unhelpful things were said at unhelpful moments. For instance, after struggling through a night of Don Ottavio at Glyndebourne, I rang up a teacher for support. She told me she'd heard terrible things about my performance. That kind of thing did for my confidence."
One night he seized up in the middle of Handel's Acis and Galatea in Salzburg, and went to see an osteopath on the suggestion of a friend. She told him that the top of his spine was so far out that she was surprised he hadn't trapped a nerve.
Diagnosis was the first step; next he needed to rebuild his technique to accommodate the injury. "On stage at Glyndebourne wasn't the place to be doing that..." MacDougall looks pained at the memory. "It was exposed, but I had to keep working - I had two wee babies to support by that point."
He was singing Tamino in The Magic Flute at Opera North when he hit a wall that he couldn't get past. And that's when he got a call from BBC Scotland: would he be interested in presenting while Iain Anderson was on holiday?
A few months later the station wanted to revamp its classical music show, Grace Notes, and asked MacDougall to record a pilot. That was 13 years ago.
Presenting has given him the chance to "get off the operatic treadmill," he says, and to move back to Scotland to take the time and space needed to properly rebuild his voice. He helped set up Caledon "to relax and enjoy singing without any pressure," and performing with that group has been a vital catharsis.
He describes the process of relearning his technique and regaining confidence as "a slow, painful slog," but three years ago he felt something shift. "My voice was in a condition where I felt I could let people hear it again. I dipped my toe in with a Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall, and it was fantastic to be back on that stage. Then I sang Dichterliebe with Malcolm [Martineau] at Crear. It felt right."
The new album, Inspirations, combines songs from two concert programmes: the first a tribute to tenor Kenneth McKellar, the second to MacDougall's own father. It's a sentimental mix, from Danny Boy to My Ain Folk, but it shows off his warm sound and what he calls his new-found "ease of production". He only intended to print a few hundred copies, but his close friend Bryn Terfel advised him to promote it more widely. "People will want to hear this," Terfel told him.
So what's next? In two years' time MacDougall sings his first Winterreise with Malcolm Martineau at Milngavie Music Club. In operatic terms, he's looking at heavier tenor parts - the sort of Mozart roles young singers are not ready for but are often pushed into too soon.
"I remember being there: cajoled or blackmailed by an agent telling me if I didn't do it, some other young singer would." Does he resent the industry for what he went through? "No, I don't resent anyone. It was me who wasn't delivering. Opera management look for any little chink in a young singer simply because they need an end product they can trust. Now I'm more clued up. I'm physically and mentally ready for it."
Jamie MacDougall sings at Merchants House in Glasgow tomorrow at 12.45pm. His new album, Inspirations, is launched on September 16.