Local artist Michael McArthur releases two back-to-back EPs this summer: EP1 Oh, Sedona released on July 3, 2020; and EP2 How to Fall in Love will be released on August 14, 2020. The EPs
These EPs are truly raw and profound. Read the story that inspired the soulful melodies of Michael McArthur’s newest EPs, told in the artist’s own words.
Cover art by Funeral.Studio
Cover art photos by Mike Dunn
Photos by Michael Flores
In order to describe the origin of these acoustic recordings, we must first go further back and visit awhile with the beginning.
The smell of newly mowed grass is a time machine. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I can still feel the dirt on my ankles, sweat in my eyes, and a sense of pride working for something even under the endless heat of our Florida summer sun. It was usually Thursday afternoons that I’d make the trip from Lakeland to Brandon, where my grandparents lived, to help in the yard. Lucky for me I drove a five-speed Ford Probe in Rio Red with a hatchback that opened wide and allowed for a lawnmower and weed eater. Sometimes I’d cut and run, as there’s always something else to do when you’re 16. But other times I’d stay for a ham sandwich and Crystal Light with my mom’s dad. We called him Abby. Short for Abuelo. He taught me to fish and to be a romantic, and about the significance of family, slowing down, and remaining grateful not just for another day, but another day with people who love you.
One Thursday after lunch and after Abby self-administered his insulin, we got to talking about music. I disclosed a desire to learn to play guitar and mentioned a kid at school who was selling his made-in-Korea Fender acoustic. Before I left for home that day, Abby stood up from the kitchen table, walked into his office, and came back with a folded check made out to me for $100. I opened it and hugged him. The very next day, I cashed the check, bought the guitar, drove it home, locked my bedroom door, laid it on my unmade bed, and stared in wonder. What a difference a moment can make. I’m still realizing the weight of that gift and how it has helped forge the course of my life ever since. He passed away just a few years later and would never see me play it, but I like to think he’s somewhere listening. He was young at 70. I mean “young” as it pertains to frame of mind, the only age that matters. Abby stayed young his whole life. He taught me that too, and I hope to do the same. As for the guitar, it now lives in my living room as a reminder of him and the beginning.
The life of a solo artist is inherently solitary, just as the relationship between guitar and hands is an intimate one. Whether suffering through the building of calluses on your fingertips or fighting for the finishing of a song, one’s search for a deeper understanding to better inform the art often requires hours and days alone in thought with a goal not to provide answers, but more compelling questions in an atmosphere safe enough to be asked. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed in 19 years.
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 those 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 this in mind. Since we can’t come together in concert right now, what better way to relate than through the sharing of music.