On the Road: Michael Nau

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So it’s not your first tour in Europe. Do you like playing overseas? Will you have any new stops this time around?

I think it's about what we did last time, I kinda forget, I don't really know where we’re heading (laughs). It just doesn't really make any sense for me to worry about it until I'm actually at the airport. I have to get so much done ahead of time, and that three hours at the airport is when I finally get my mind right.

Playing in Europe doesn't feel too different, but we do get to do some pretty cool trips where every night is a really different venue or vibe. The sort of the tours that we've done over there have been pretty cool. Every day is a little different, your surroundings are changing, you pick the venue and all that stuff, so it's not just all clubs.


"But those times make for the best way of feeling like I've been to a place — if I've gotten lost and had to figure my way around a little bit."


Is there anywhere you haven't toured yet that you'd like to at some point?

Yeah, man. I'd eventually like to play in Australia. I've heard Hawaii is a beautiful place—never been to Hawaii. As far as a venue, I'd really like to play the Ryman someday, I lived in Nashville and saw a couple shows there, and that place is really unbelievable. Mostly I'm just really grateful for everywhere I've been so far.

Michael Nau & The Mighty Thread // San Francisco, CA.

Michael Nau & The Mighty Thread // San Francisco, CA.

Have you been surprised by any of the places that you’ve toured?

I remember one time playing in Flint, Michigan, and we were in town all day—this was a long time ago—but there was absolutely nobody around. It was one of those things where we were outside and there was nothing going on until it got dark. Then we were doing our sound check, and it was finally time to play, people were pouring into the place—so many people, just packed in. So there have been a couple of those where we've had no idea what it's actually going to be like going into it. It's the in-between stops that I've really started to enjoy more.


Is there anywhere you've stumbled across that you'd recommend we check out?

Ah, let's see, man, I went camping in Santa Cruz a couple of trips ago, and I don't remember exactly where it was, but there was a magical, magical spot. We used to camp a whole lot on tour, and this particular place in Santa Cruz was a lot of tents scattered about in this big field. I don't know if I could ever find my way back there (laughs) but, man, that was a good spot.

So, when you're on the road and stopping in all these different places, is there anything you like to hit when you're not performing?

Because we go to so many spots where you just kind of drive through, it's like I've spent most of my life going to these places without ever really knowing anything about them. I feel like I used to always go to a record shop or a music store, but now I've bought enough records that have melted in the van that I enjoy just walking around town. We're a pretty punctual band, so we get to where we need to be on time, and it's nice to just walk aimlessly around where the venue is. There have definitely been a few times I've gotten lost and had to find my way back. But those times make me feel like I know the place a little better—if I've gotten lost and had to figure my way around a little bit.


"...it's like I've spent most of my life going to these places without ever really knowing anything about them."


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Are you watching or reading anything lately?

Yeah, I just started the new season of Fargo. I blew through the first two seasons of that show and then I put off watching the third because of band stuff. And I have pretty good self-control until I get started, and then once I dive into something I kind of get lost in time.

It's been a long time since I've been to Fargo but, I played a really cool venue once called The Aquarium.

Is there anything you try to make a point to do before or after a show? Any rituals?

I've been trying to stay out of the green room. I'm so tired of getting to a place and sitting in the back looking at our phones. It just bums me out. So I've tried to forget about the show I’m playing later that night and just try to live the day a little bit and then find myself on stage. Things seem to go a little better that way.

It's so easy to just be stuck in this routine of the same thing every day in a different town. There's just so much waiting around. Even though it has to be that way, it doesn't have to happen the way that it does. I'm just trying to get out of my old habits because I like playing music, and I like traveling, but I don't like to be stuck in a club for six hours a night, and then drive, sleep, and do it all over again. You gotta try to break it up somehow.

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How do you try and make the most of that time spent waiting around?

I've been trying to write a little bit more, or at least be somewhat productive while on tour because it's something I've never really been able to do. There were one or two tours where I had this little recording kit—like a four-track—and I'd try to record stuff. Just doing things like that was encouraging, you know, because my head was somewhere else, not just aimlessly waiting to play a show.

But at the same time, it's really hard to keep up with. I start off really well. It's the same as trying to go for a jog on tour. You know, maybe you do it for the first two days, and then it's way easier to just....not. (laughs) Especially on tour, it's easy to find excuses like, "Well, maybe I won't have to worry about showering if I don't run."

Is there anything in particular that has made tour life easier for you?

I'm with my friends all the time, and it's nice. We were all friends before musicians, right? So it's kind of nice to be around people who you know, can take the edge off of whatever is going on.

I think that's what makes it easier. We all just enjoy playing these songs, hanging together, and so that's what the whole tour really ends up being about. And so even though being on stage is such a small portion of the tour, time-wise, I think that's what really actually still makes it work and makes it enjoyable.

Thomas McDermott