Michael Nau :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

Michael Nau opens his new album, Michael Nau & the Mighty Thread, with a Wall of Sound ode to thinking you might know, but knowing you might not. "Now in the middle summer/I'm thinking about the universe," Nau sings, his husky baritone floating over shimmering guitars. "I think I know how it works/But I'm a bit less than positive."

It's in that liminal space, between getting it and totally not, that Nau's best songs live. You might not pick up on the dissonance at first, as the 11 tunes that make up the album are all shades of "chill." "No Faraway Star" shimmies like Phil Spector invented dream pop; "Funny Work" shuffles like Bobby Charles; "Can't Take One" sounds beamed over from Planet Hazlewood. The pervasive warmness that defined Nau's work with Cotton Jones and Page France is still here, but listening closer, it becomes clear how often beautiful complications bubble to the surface. "There’s no second-guessing the real," Nau sings on "Funny In Real Life," before shading the resoluteness with a little doubt: "I don’t ever know how I feel.”

Recorded in collaborator Benny Yurco’s apartment studio in Burlington, Vermont, over the course of "four or five days," Michael Nau & the Mighty Thread is Nau's most "band-oriented" solo outing. Most of the songs were cut live. First or second takes ended up on the finished album. Much of Nau's solo work has been exactly that – assembled on his own – but the new record gave him the chance to lean on a wide cast of other players, as well as digging into his songbooks for songs and ideas that had been long abandoned. "Just having other people to play them with you, to do their thing, it just feels more like I’m a singer of a song," Nau says. "It just feels like I can step outside of it a little easier, instead of hearing 50 of me in the same song.

Michael Nau & The Mighty Thread by Michael Nau & The Mighty Thread

We caught up with Nau to discuss building this record live, how that immediacy shaped the songs, and how doubts fuel his seemingly carefree jams.

Aquarium Drunkard: This is a very natural sounding record. Most everyone I know has a low-grade anxiety going at all times now; we live in perilous seeming times. But this record feels like a respite from that, something that accentuates some peace. Does music provide that sort of space for you, somewhere to decompress?

Michael Nau: Absolutely. Playing music is that for me, hanging out with that group of guys. We can just sit in a room and give ourselves a task and work together on something. For those few days, I was there doing that. I can’t go back to it for that sort of peace, but while it was happening, I felt that in my world for a minute.

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