Interview | FFS 5 with Michael McArthur

Filling out the summer with the dual release of intimately familiar folk EPs Oh, Sedona and How to Fall in Love, singer-songwriter Michael McArthur continues his mission of developing honest music to heal the senses. Inhabiting acoustic spaces enables McArthur to vividly express his touching voice without any accompanying frills. Offering his vibrant soul to ‘3 Warmer Months’, for instance, captivates the heart.

In celebration of July’s Oh, Sedona and in anticipation of August’s How to Fall in Love, McArthur is the latest artist to take part in our ongoing ‘FFS 5’ series of interviews.

Tell us about your latest releases.

For this summer’s EPs, I thought it appropriate to honor songs and how they are written by going back to the beginning. Much like the early days learning to play alone in a room, most of my songs start in the same way, just artist and instrument. Over time, they get dressed in spectacle to draw your heart to the intended message which is beautiful in its own right, but one way to see something for what it truly is is to undress it. There’s something about the uncovering of a song that invites you to reach out and touch, to listen with both ears. For the same reason, an honest live performance is so endearing. 

I spent most of last year on the road with a guitar, a backpack, and some t-shirts and vinyl. When I performed, I performed alone as if I were at home, and felt a deep connection to the people in each room because of it. I made these recordings with all of that in mind. Since we can’t come together in concert right now, what better way to relate than through the sharing of music.

What are some of your biggest folk influences? Do you have a favorite folk album?

Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, John Prine, & Johnny Cash.

I find it difficult to decide on a favorite anything. But a few important folk records are Mule Variations by Tom Waits, Tree of Forgiveness by John Prine, and American Recordings by Johnny Cash.

What have you been listening to music-wise lately?

It’s always a mixed bag for me, so I’ll reach in for my most recently played: Yebba, Paul Simon, Nick Cave, Foy Vance, Brent Cobb, Hiss Golden Messenger, and Glen Hansard.

How have you been affected by the current pandemic?  

The life of a solo artist can be at times inherently solitary. One’s search for a deeper understanding to better inform the art often requires hours and days in thought. The dynamics of that change though when we have no choice, but to be alone. My greatest challenge during this period of isolation has been to relearn to be ok with it. To slow down and mind each step. Bad habits have come uninvited to the front door, and I’ve let a couple in. I’ve shown them out too. I haven’t slept well either, but I have had mostly good days and I’ve managed to maintain a peaceful mind. It’s during times like these that we’re afforded the chance to find another way to get where we’d like to go.

What are your plans for 2021?

My plans for 2021 are the same as they are for this year and every year. To remain actively creative, to enjoy life, to learn, to grow, to love, to not be taken by the idea that success is what’s important, to understand that to be cherished is better than to be popular, and one’s worth isn’t measured by how high you go, but by how high you lift others. Maybe I’ll make a record too.

Words by: Jonathan Frahm