Who is michaelnathan? An easier question is probably who isn't michaelnathan?
He is not predictable. With lyrics that dig deep and a musical net cast wide
across many genres he is a talented one man show. We talked shop
michaelnathan? A one man show? Do you play all your instruments?
michaelnathan is a one man show in theory... I write the songs, arrange
them, and sing them. I play (or plan to) the guitar, bass, synth, and some
percussion instruments. I also use samples when they fit. I say michaelnathan
is a one man "in theory" because I can not take complete credit foranything
I do (especially not the samples). I believe we are all connected from birth
and everything creative grows from the soil fertilized by those before us.
My goal is to become good fertilizer.
Your songs have amazing lyrical content, do the words come before the
music? Describe your typical songwriting process.
When I think about it, I guess the lyrics always come first. Sometimes
they don't have a melody or music and they have to wait patiently buried
in a notebook somewhere, but they are definitely the main starting point
for me. Occasionally I will write some music with no words in mind, but the
lyrics I end upusing were there all along -- half forgotten and faintly
scribbled, hidden under a stack of papers.
On a few rare occasions, words and melodies have come together, but thatis
not common for me.
Uncle Jim. The guy goes gonzo when he's drunk and starts calling people
at random. Is he real?
Uncle Jim was a composite of two very real people. One was a friend in
college who would get drunk and call random numbers late at night. The other
was a friend's father who would get drunk and call up people he knew and
loved (and cuss them out). Both were ridiculous, but the combination gave
the song more depth.
Got it. Just make sure neither "Jim" gets my number! One of your biggest
digital hits has been Lovesong
Fi) -- which hit #3 on the Experimental/Post Rock chart on MP3.com --
how did that song come about and what does it mean to you?
Those are hard questions to answer... I have many confusing and complicated
feelings about Lovesong. Let me just give a quick and vague rundown on this
The song is to me and you and everyone else in the world. If you can figure
out who it's from, then it will begin to make sense AND you will be left
with twice as many questions. The music and melody were heavily inspired
by Radiohead. I was absorbing
Plastic Trees at the time.
You give your songs such texture, with enough local color to give Mark
Twain a run for his money. Wondered
Fi) has to be based on actually seeing this old guy reflecting about
life while rocking back and forth in hisfront yard? Right?
Here in Alabama, such a sight is not uncommon. I think it is a custom
carried over from the days before air conditioning. A nice shade tree and
a comfortable chair were all the ingredients needed for a relaxing afternoon
of contemplation. The song was not written about any one such individual,
though. It is pure fabrication.
My favorite part of the song is where the man kicks his slippers off side
by side and "a burning loneliness" erupts from him in a sigh. The song doesn't
really spell out what's going through his mind when he looks at the pair
of shoes, but in my mind I am sure he is still grieving over his wife's death.
I think that the way that verse is interpreted could change the whole meaning
of the song and I often wonder what people wonder he is wondering...
My take? He's an elderly man who is almost embarrased in the presence
of the youthfulness that surrounds him. Yet, deep inside he is still in touch
with the child he once was -- while fully aware that his time has come and
gone yet he is unable to control his passing. You know, Live
Fi) is one of my favorite tracks. What's the story behind that one?
I always say that this song took me 27 years to write, and I really don't
think I'm joking. One of my good friends asked me to explain it and here's
a copy of what I sent to him.
Here are the lyrics (in blue) with my current interpretation (subject
to change hourly -- that's why I'm sort of hesitant about nailing down a
complete, packaged meaning for this song. I think it was partially birthed
from subliminal fodder).
isolation is not location
so much as the motivation
of those hiding inside
Is this line obvious? Basically it means that you don't have to move to
the middle of nowhere to keep everyone else away and hide inside an invisible
barricade. The opposite of this is opening up and taking a risk. Becoming
vulnerable to people who may or may not be worth the risk. The opposite is
being honest about who you are with people who could care less and who don't
really deserve the insight into your character.
to make an amenity of anonymity
doesn't require any divinity
so much as something good to hide
Obvious again? I know you didn't ask about every line, but it's kind of
neat for me to go through and dig out where I'm coming from [oooh, therapy!].
Being unknown can be very desirable (a situation that doesn't take a miracle)
if you have something to hide. The word good here is not used in the moral
and a lie isn't just a lie but a cry
for someone- anyone
to know without being told that you lied
In this cocooned state I believe thateveryone has a secret desire to find
someone else who will know exactly where they are without having to have
everything explained to them. Someone who will see past the barricade --
not because they are a great lie detector, but because they genuinely understand
where you are coming from without judgment. Such a person would be no risk
to open up to. They would be completely understanding and filled with
unconditional love. This person would not misinterpret anything. This person
doesn't exist here on earth...
it's a crazy maze, a lazy haze
a never ending stream of days
that makes hours drag while years fly by
I'm sort of catching my breath with this line. Pulling back and getting
perspective on what's going on while the subject is in hiding. Sort of adding
a touch of urgency to the whole situation because life is flying by and it
doesn't promise to make any more sense 10 years from now than it does
so tie the knot, sing the song
you know we'll all sing along
everyone here knows all the words
Tie the knot... could be a reference tomarriage or to relationships in
general. For some reason I always picture a noose as well-- again, could
be marriage ;-)
You know we'll all sing along... I think everyone who lives a tightly
guarded life secretly thinks that they are either unique or that others won't
understand how they are the same (same as guarded person). In reality, I
think everyone deals with the same stuff and most people are really willing
to sing along. [This could be taken to the extreme and the analogy sort of
breaks down there... I would have difficulty empathizing with a child molester.]
Of course we all know the words. The song is life.
breathe and dance, break the trance
live your life taking the chance
that everything will turn out bitter and absurd
Breathe... sometimes my chest feels constricted and it spreads through
my heart to my mind. I will breathe free in Heaven. I try to occasionally
Dance... meaning to stop waiting, hiding, and fearing what will happen
if you did what you want to out on the dance floor of life.
Break the trance... escape the malaise. The everydayness. The stupor of
an endless succession of routines. You know what I mean?
Part of the reason for the barricade is a lack of faith in our faith :-)
We don't have guarantees on anything. After a few bad experiences, a
disillusioned cynicism can result. This can infect the overall perspective
of the BIG PICTURE. All of a sudden even our most holy faith has a drop shadow
of doubt beneath it. What if all of this is for nothing? What if I look like
a fool? What if I am a fool? What if my doubt nullifies by beliefs even though
they are right? What if nothing that happens in this entire world matters
and everything will be swept away in the end? Inductive reasoning would lead
us to believe (after a short time living life on this planet) that fairy
tales and happy endings only come true on movie screens IF the movie is made
for children!! Hope is slowly strangled (especially hope for anything worthwhile
in this lifetime). Love begins to decay in the sour swill of mistrust and
Faith slowly becomes incomprehensible. Why should we believe doctors,
preachers, teachers, politicians, lawyers, and other "professionals"? How
do we decide what to believe? God will not tilt the scales for us. If we
demand Him to, we are more lost than when we began.
Let me start over... The short explanation of this line is that there
is a real chance everything will turn out disappointingly meaningless (regardless
of what "everything" is in reference to), but we can't let that stop us.
If we do, where are we then?
kick the door and stomp the floor
we know that you won't find much more
to appease your senseless senses till you die
This is all there is. Like it or leave it (or- like it till you leave
it). I think the fact that our senses are not satisfied here is evidence
to the fact that we were created for something else- something better. If
we could be happy and content here what would we need Heaven for?
consult your friends, confess your sins
change your world, begin again
we'll all watch in silent hope if you'll just try
A disillusioned look at conversion completely laced with a hope that we
all share (converted or not).
Amazing stuff Nate. For someone who can marry deep philosophy with pop
culture, you clearly have a lot to say. Why is the song for your daughter
-- Ali's Song
Fi) -- an instrumental?
All the words I could find for her have been debased and blasphemed in
common use. I can not use such words to describe her or my love for her.
It is supernatural and metaphysical. The music is not enough and words would
only push farther away from the divine truth I see shining in her eyes. That
said, I am constantly trying to condense my feelings for both of my children
into words. So far, the words justhaven't been good enough for them. Maybe
I should just aim at simplicity?
Your newest cut -- The Seeker
Fi) -- is a raw hardcore contrast to some of your softer works. Your
music is all over the map. I'm dying to know what you're going to try next.
It's hard to say. I love acoustic guitar, but lately I've had the
urge to go more electric. Also, I'm going through a sample stage now and
I'm not sure when that will end. And I can't forget about thesynthesizers!
I'm working on a song right now that uses a combination of synth, drum loops,
programmed drums, and string samples. It falls somewhere between Live and
The Seeker. In the not to distant future I also plan on recording a bunch
of stripped-down acoustic songs as well.
Since I don't really have to rely on music as a sole source of income,
I am free to do whatever I want and that is really where the diversity comes
from. I'm not aiming at a "target market" -- I'm justdoing what I love!
Crippled At The Table is michaelnathan's digital debut. It
features the hauntingly mesmerizing MP3.com favorite Lovesong and
eight more gems. Just $5.99!