It get's colder, you start to think back on the summer of missed opportunity. All the things you wish you could have done. All the things you should have taken advantage of. That season of self-reflection starts settling in, and you mentally prepare for the long winter ahead. You believe there is more to life than just another year of changing weather. Find your soundtrack below.
Join us in welcoming MKE singer & songwriter, Nathan Honoré. With two released EP's and a handful of singles, Nathan has built a strong pillar of vulnerable songwriting for the world to hear. Half the battle is writing the songs. The other half is actually feeling good enough about yourself to put them out. His self-confidence in songwriting has pushed him toward new boundaries both lyrically and sonically. Linear and fragile vocals, coupled with a variety of drum machine percussion, beckons the listener to artists such as Noah & The Whale or The National.
Peep our feature with Nathan below and hit up his most recent EP release, Circling Sideways.
MM: How is life outside of music?
NH: My wife and I adopted a beautiful dog named Bear a few months ago, so things are in a state of flux with the little cub around. She's pretty great and brings a lot of happiness into our lives. I'm currently taking a break from gigging and using what time I do have to write, record, and release music as it comes. Always trying new things!
MM: It seems that you've worn quite a few hats before focusing in on songwriting and performing. Can you talk a little bit about the path that has led you to where you are today?
NH: The basic story is that I was going to be a professional tuba player, went to college, and then learned I hated it. I tried getting in to radio, recording, and creative writing, but went ahead and completed my music degree. After college, I seemed to be remarkably unqualified for any job that I wanted, so I rejected music as an outlet for a while. I kept writing a blog, short stories, and tried to stay creative that way. The various employment I had following college didn't help my confidence and I got pretty lost. Playing guitar and songwriting had always been in the background, but I never took it too seriously.
When my wife and I moved back to Milwaukee in 2011, I had sort of a creative, musical awakening. I was really inspired by the folk revival and started learning more about bluegrass, country, and folk. I focused on the craft of songwriting and realized how important it was to me. It became part of my identity and a deep part of my DNA. I've been writing and performing in Milwaukee for 6 years now in various forms, and I've learned an awful lot in a relatively short amount of time. A strange journey, that's for sure. But as they say, in the end it's the journey that matters.
MM: You allude to a few hardships (specifically in the year 2009). Could you speak a little more about that, and how they have motivated you creatively?
NH: Graduating from college in 2008 and 2009 was pretty tough for a lot of people. I think the sheer lack of jobs available, partnered with the fact that my education had left me largely unqualified really hit me hard. I had a period of unemployment, then just part-time work at a bunch of crappy jobs. It just gave me a different perspective on the world and made me a more balanced and empathetic human being. My writing has definitely been informed and colored by the experiences of the past 8 years. Most of my favorite songs that I've written have been about topics like time, hope, journeys, and self-reflection. Essentially, they're the songs I wish I had when I was going through the harder times.
MM: You released your second EP Circling Sideways back in April, and it was quite the sonic jump forward from 2016's 101 EP, adding in drum loops & other electric elements, dressed over the pillar of your acoustic guitar. Was there any specific motivation that led you to change drastically from 101's acoustic guitar-heavy backbone?
NH: Prior to 101, I felt my songs needed the other instruments and production in order to be good. They wouldn't work when stripped down to just my voice and an acoustic guitar, and I wasn't satisfied with that. So when I recorded 101, I took everything away and started over.
In my opinion, the best songs transcend the instrumentation. A great example is Johnny Cash covering "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails. It's a great song, no matter how it is performed or presented. For the last two years, that has been the benchmark. Can the song work with a ton of instruments, synthesizers, and drum machines? Can it work without? If the answer isn't "Yes" to both questions, it probably needs some work. When it came time to record Circling Sideways, I felt the answer to those benchmark questions was unequivocally "Yes," and that allowed me to push forward with my vision.
MM: There is one song specifically from your first effort off of 101, that intrigued me right from the title. Could you give us the story behind your song "West Allis"?
NH: That one is definitely an outlier in the catalog, haha! One night I had a crazy realistic and vivid dream that involved my drunk high school band director, Miller Park, and my old 'Stallis neighborhood. After some post-work beers, I got home and decided to try writing a song. The dream was still on my mind, so I just started singing about it. The verses are a play by play of the entire dream. I typically don't write about specific places, let alone include it as a song name. But this dream/song just screamed "West Allis" to me, I couldn't resist!
MM: Something you would like the world to know. Anything at all.
NH: I'm obsessed the musical Hamilton and unabashedly attempt to spit rhymes along with the recording.
MM: Being a Milwaukee native... hip us to your favorite spot in MKE.
NH: In true Milwaukee form, it's all about the beer. I'm a huge fan of our many beer garden options, which are dog friendly too! Another big favorite is supporting local breweries. There's been such a resurgence in the city over the last 2 years, I'm loving every minute of it. Third Space and Enlightened Brewery are my top two, by far. Great people and delicious beer.