Micah P Hinson may be only 27, but his voice already carries a lifetime’s experience.
This is an artist who writes in a style of music belying his relatively tender age and appearance.
Not that appearance counts for much today, mind, for we are talking on the phone – he in Austin, Texas, musicOMH holed up on a particularly dingy early London evening.
Previous encounters with Hinson might have darkened the evening still further, but tonight he’s in a chipper mood, and happy to extol the virtues of life to anyone who will listen. Which for now is his wife, a newborn on the way, and yours truly.
“I’m just hanging out, and it’s a very sunny day here. There’s no rest from the weather, and actually I wouldn’t mind a bit of rain it has to be said. I was living in Austin but then got married, and moved into a little house by the zoo. There’s a lot to do here at the moment.”
The prolific Hinson has completed and released album number three, Micah P Hinson and the Red Empire Orchestra. To begin with he confesses, “I guess a lot of my albums are very similar so far. I really don’t like being lazy though. For me, being a musician, I want to be as prolific as possible. This album has songs that I would have written in the previous year. I took a year off living in Austin.” Refuting his earlier notion that his records sound the same, he continues. “I wanted to be grander and escape the lo-fi sound this time around. Luckily enough John Congelton (the album’s producer) called me, and asked if I was interested. I didn’t know who he was, or what he did, so I got on the internet and found out, and was really taken.”
He goes on to talk about the album’s recording process. “We took 22, 23 songs that I’d been noodling around with, and found which ones would work. We began picking through the songs, and in total with mixing it took is about two weeks. I like doing things like that quickly.”
Congleton’s work was supplemented by others closer to home. “It was a kind of a mismatch to start with, but I bought my friend Eric in to do the string arrangements, with cellos and violins. In the end I feel like I have the record I’ve always wanted to make – the songs and the sounds. With the old albums I think there was so much going on, things got lost in the muddiness.”
He goes on to extol the virtues of live performance, with flashes of his vibrant humour. “I love playing this live. We did one show at Hoxton that went excruciatingly well, and then we did a two week tour in Spain. The Heineken shows went really well, too, we sold out nearly all shows. I guess an interesting thing about these songs is that we practised two or three times a week, and got the songs to a comfortable level, translating them to the live environment.” He exhales noisily, a satisfied sound. “Everything’s moving in a good direction – my life and the music!”
So are there any down sides? “I guess the tough thing is finding time to write the songs, but what I do I feel is very meaningful. My songwriting has definitely changed, and I don’t feel like the old sad bastard I used to be. It’s different to everything that went before. Songs like Tell Me It Ain’t So, and We Won’t Have To Be Lonesome are good examples of that. I feel much more confident as I have someone in my life who does love, not reel after reel of bullshit. It’s nice to have that, as my life has been in a big cloud up until now. I’m fine, and I’ve even got a kid on the way. It’s really interesting stuff, man!”
By his own admission, Hinson addresses emotions in a different way these days. “The new record is an expression of love – more so than in any of my other songs. It might not seem like it, but it feels like I’m dealing with it from a positive angle, knowing about love and what it actually means. It’s not superficial, but when I get out of bed in the morning I get out for two reasons – number one is my wife, and number two is my music.”
He’s on a roll. “I think somebody could pull the emotion from saying the simplest of lyrics and, getting across the emotion the simplest explains the most. I don’t feel like the last, depressed kid that I always was!”
A commotion threatens to cut short the interview. “Excuse me” he says as he returns. “I have two rabid Chihuahuas in the house!” He gets back to the point. “With John it was odd having him tell me while we were recording that he thought it was pretty shit, and he didn’t believe what I was singing. My first reaction was ‘this guy thinks I’m shit,’ but he wanted to hear the best out of me. He’s really a loving, kind individual. Once I got used to it I found it was a great experience, and I’d recommend him to anyone. I’d love to use him again, if he doesn’t get too busy working with Celine Dion! But he’s done some more reasonable stuff than that.”
Texas is dear to Hinson’s heart. “I’m definitely back in touch with Austin. Being home, I do feel very positive being here – and I think it was a really good decision. It helps with being creative, too, as where I live is very reflective of the music I make. It’s like a big kick to the crotch as far as I’m concerned!”
The area does have its quirks, mind. “A lot of people consider it to be full of hillbillies, and inbreeds and stuff, and there’s a few of those but there’s definitely something about the Southern living.” He can’t resist a story, though. “Me and the wife, we ride scooters around town, and we’ve had tobacco thrown on us, people going past at 80km/h while we’re doing 40km/h. The world can always be Texas sporadic’.”
Just one thing bothers Hinson right now – a persistent niggle in his back. When I enquire as to his health he audibly winces. “The back’s terrible, man. I guess you might have read some stuff about it on my website. The lower disc in my back just exploded, and actually I’ve just got back from a pain management guy I went to see this morning. In September I’m going to have electrodes in an epidermal area in my spine. You find out which ones work and which ones don’t. I’ll be like the bionic man!”
Still, that doesn’t deter the overall good feeling. “I’m heading in a positive direction, even though I’m a chronic patient at the moment. I don’t have a manager, or a tour manager, and that’s good I think – that way I stay completely in control of what I’m doing.”