Micah Blue Smaldone’s latest album, "The Ring of the Rise," is far less tense than his 2008 release, "The Red River," one of my favorite records from the past decade. But that doesn't mean it's less intriguing. Written and recorded in a remote corner of northern Maine, the album expands further into full-band accompaniment without leaving behind the clean finger-style guitar playing and haunting vocal delivery from his earlier releases.
Bigelow Chapel in the heart of Mount Auburn Cemetery is a fitting backdrop for Smaldone. The decor feels as solemn as his music and the twang of his 12-string guitar seemed at home traversing the reverberant space above the altar.
Micah is quiet and friendly and I tried my best not to get too super fan on him when he arrived at the chapel. It became much more difficult when he played one of my favorites, "The Clearing." (Video above.) When I hear songs like that one — songs that get stuck in my head for days — I tend to imagine they were created effortlessly. Micah told me that songwriting is actually a struggle for him.
"It's a really frustrating thing for me because it doesn't happen until very suddenly. I can't force myself to write a song, you know? It reminds me a lot of the feeling when you can't remember the title of a movie or you can't remember somebody's name," he said. "And it bothers you for days, then all of a sudden you're like, 'Oh yeah, of course it's, you know, Roland, of course!' So that's kind of what it feels like and songs just kind of nag at me until they are materialized."
Listen to our full conversation with Micah below:
This program aired on September 13, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.