"In my craft or sullen art/Exercised in the still night/When only the moon rages/And the lovers lie abed/With all their griefs in their arms/I labour by singing light/Not for ambition or bread/Or the strut and trade of charms/On the ivory stages/But for the common wages/Of their most secret heart." - Dylan Thomas from In My Craft or Sullen Art
The process of writing a song, performing that song, and then recording that song can be backed by many different motivators. The artist can be trying achieve a certain sound, make a living, change an opinion, build a following, and so on. However, it is the song that is built upon honesty and passion that shines brightest or plays the loudest. These are the songs that speak to the heart of the listener because they are from the heart of the musician.
One musician that consistently and prolifically contributes passionate songs to the American songbook is, Maryland native, Michael Nau. The word prolific can be defined in several different ways, but my favorite is "intellectually productive". Michael has penned three incredible full-length albums and three equally great ep's with his primary band Page France, an ep and two 7"'s with The Broadway Hush, and now he is finishing off an LP as Cotton Jones Basket Ride. Keep in mind that all of this has occurred in the last three years.
Recently, Michael took sometime out from recording, as he prepares for his upcoming Cotton Jones tour, to answer a few of my questions.
Orange Alert (OA): What was the motivation behind the forming of Cotton Jones Basket Ride? How does the sound and look differ from Page France? Who is in the band or will in the band on the upcoming tour?
Michael Nau (MN): I've wanted to do the jones thing for a while. I just wanted to make a record without any initial strings attached. I think that the whole concept and motive of jones
differ from page france. it feels different to me, but i'll leave sonic comparison up to the mind of the listener. i recorded most of this record alone in my studio, but had some lifesaving help from a few talented friends toward its conclusion. as for the tour.. I have a few buddies coming out to help me with the shows.
OA: Are there plans to release "Human Kindness and The Moon" through a label or in any manner other then at your shows?
MN: We'll see what happens here once any loose ends are tied. iIm not certain that that's gonna be the title of the record yet either - still trying to figure a few things out.
I guess we'll see what happens.
OA: Your lyrics for Cotton Jones and Page France are quite literary. How much time and energy do you focus on lyrics as opposed to the actual music? What are your thoughts on people reading to deeply into your lyrics?
MN: My approach to writing the jones songs are a bit different. i wrote a lot of the music first, which was a new method for me. as for people reading too deeply into lyrics...
to be honest, i'm just happy that a few people are interested in what we're doing, in any way at all.
OA: The musician, more then individuals in other arts, is placed upon a pedestal and praised. Your song "Singer in a Band" seems to speak directly to that fact. How have you handled the extra attention?
MN: i think that everything that i've touched has remained well under the radar, so i haven't noticed extra attention. i just go about my business.
OA: It comes as no surprise to hear that you have been labeled 'prolific'. With three know projects and probably others in the wings, how often do you write and can you briefly explain the process of turning what you write into a song?
MN: I used to write all of the time, and recorded every little side-thought that I wrote. As a result, I was throwing stuff out there left and right, without ever letting it settle in.
I still write songs often, but I feel that I'm finally growing a filter, so to speak.
OA: Are there any plans to work on new materieal with Whitney for The Broadway Hush?
MN: We'd both love to record more songs, if time ever allows. We've enjoyed the 7" stuff we've had the chance to do. We'll see.
OA: What is next for Michael Nau and Cotton Jones, and/or in general?
MN: I just want to finish up this jones record, play a few shows, and spend some time with family and friends at the moment.
OA: Coffee? If so what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee shop?
MN: It all tastes the same to me, so i don't really have a favorite type or a favorite shop.
OA: I know you tour quite a bit, but what was the last great book that you read?
MN: An assortment of dylan thomas poems that was given to me by a friend.
Upcoming tour dates as Cotton Jones Basket Ride:
Aug 31 2007 8:00P tryals @ good soil collective Frostburg, MD
Sep 5 2007 8:00P lit lounge w/ mean creek New York, NY
Sep 6 2007 8:00P the great scott w/ mean creek Allston, MA
Sep 8 2007 8:00P dante -apos's w/ royal army recording co & mean creek Frostburg, MD
Sep 9 2007 8:00P the red & the black w/ andrew dost Washington DC
Sep 10 2007 8:00P union hall w/ andrew dost Brooklyn, NY
Sep 11 20078:00P scene metrospace w/ andrew dost, that’s him! that’s the guy! East Lansing, MI
Sep 12 2007 8:00P blind pig w/ andrew dost, canada, & chris bathgate Ann Arbour, MI
For more information on Cotton Jones Basket Ride please visit their website.