Whether musing on the wishful or the wistful, Lucas Miré’s music has a naked authenticity. From the folktronica flirtations of his OUTmusic award-nominated debut album to the stripped-down, subtle sincerity saturating his second and third, listeners can trace Miré’s unmistakable growth as a singer-songwriter and a person. That’s quite possibly what makes Miré’s latest album, “Heyday,” his most engaging effort yet.
While authenticity remains, Miré dresses things up a bit and trades in his guitar for a completely electronic production. “Heyday,” Miré’s second album in as many years, breaks the nearly four-year waiting period between previous efforts and is a merry marriage between his early electro-folk experimentation and the sublime storytelling skills he’s honed as a songwriter for nearly a decade.
Miré’s success across all his songwriting, but “Heyday's” 12 tracks specifically, is his ability to blend inspiration and introspection. The album’s reflective nature paired with its electronic production is reminiscent of Darren Hayes’ 2007 adventurous opus “This Delicate Thing We Made.”
“Heyday” will be released both in a limited-edition physical format and digital downloads on Aug. 26. We caught up with Miré to chat about his career growth and trajectory, the inspirations behind “Heyday” and the record release/retrospective planned later this year.
You’re throwing everyone a curveball with this album’s plugged-in production. After your last three, I thought they might have had to pry the guitar from your cold fingers. Was that case for ”Heyday?”
It's true, I still write exclusively on acoustic guitar and did all the ”Heyday” demos on guitar, but there was no prying necessary! The most stressful part of recording for me is laying down the guitar tracks. The sessions for “Heyday” were the most exciting and fun, precisely because I didn't have to play the guitar, just sing. It was awesome.
Where did the inspiration come for the evolution beyond your previous acoustic efforts?
“Heyday” has roots in the beginning – to me, it sounds most similar to my first disc, “Forever's Not as Long as It Used to Be,” which was produced by a fella named B.Calm. We had actually started working on a follow up that was going to push the electronic sound a bit further and harder. We'd even completed a version of my song “Never Regret the Nights” in that style, which was super fun. But, B.Calm ended up moving to Los Angeles, and then fate stepped in and I got a chance to be produced by Clay Cook (Zac Brown Band, John Mayer), and we went in a more organic version and did “Never Regret the Nights.” The record I released last year, “Following the Landslide,” ended up being more in that vein, too, even though I wanted something closer to “Forever's Not as Long as It Used to Be.”
So, this time, with “Heyday”, I was determined to get that more electronic sound I was chasing. I knew that I had to be really clear about the kind of record I wanted to make and completely commit to that and not waver or be swayed or be seduced by the producer's vision, even if it meant never producing it and walking away. I ran into Nate Borofsky (Girlyman, Django Jones) at a mutual friend's 40th birthday brunch. He immediately understood what I wanted to do, the sound I wanted to have, the record I wanted to make, and was undaunted by the task. We started recording the next week, which was odd, because it has usually taken me years between releases. But, I must say, we truly had a blast making ”Heyday.”
Was the creation process for these songs a radically different process for this album or did they just grow organically from an acoustic state to their much more atmospheric state?
As I mentioned, I wrote all the songs on acoustic guitar – some a long time ago (“Underneath,” “How It Goes,” “Somebody”) and some I wrote in between recording days (“You,” “Shotgun,” “Heyday”). Others – like “List of Names” and “Times Like These” – I'd been performing live for a while, and people knew them in their acoustic incarnations. “Once” was written right before I knew I'd be making a record, and “Night” was one of my secret songs I'd never played for anyone before. So, all in all, it was kind of a hodgepodge.
For recording, I'd send Nate a lyric sheet and a rough-hewn demo mp3, just me in front of my computer, a few days before our session. In session, Nate and I would talk through the lyrics and the song's structure and sharpen what could be sharpened, and in some cases, did some major editing. Then we would sit at the computer and keyboard and translate my demo into the sounds you hear on ”Heyday.” Songs like “Once,” “How It Goes” and “Night” sound radically, almost unrecognizably different from my demos. Having been friends with Nate for a while, and having done several albums now, I trusted the process and tried to follow the songs instead of lead them. It was a very collaborative connection and we worked fast – almost a song a day.
Your album titles reveal the stages of your life and I feel like since first discovering your music in 2006, I’ve grown up with you. Does ”Heyday” refer to where you feel like you are at in terms of your life?
You're very observant! Yes, that was part of I wanted to convey, sort of a top note. ”Heyday” is interesting to me because the name sounds happy and the songs are largely upbeat – there are no ballads on the album, for instance – but the underlying themes on the record are actually a little dour if you listen closely. There's a lot of intense retrospection going on; I cop to a lot more of my own weaknesses, vulnerabilities and shortcomings. There's a lot of what some might call unproductive nostalgia happening on this record. There's divorce, questionable decisions, depression, bad dates. You can only assess something as a “Heyday” when looking back. What I was trying to express was that in the moment, you might be judging an event as good or bad, happy or unhappy. But, when the timeline stretches out and you get some perspective you'll see that it was all good, no bad. That notion comes up on several songs, and there's definitely a fatalism theme woven in there, too.
For instance, on “The Best Lines,” I’m looking at the stars in Big Sur and say, “We’ll see the map that was there all along.” In the song “Heyday,” I talk about fate just being chance in disguise – “The divorce you didn't want, in five years' time, becomes a positive turning point in your life and you can see what looked like the bottom of the mountain might have been the path to the top.” So, in that way, everything is your “Heyday” if you claim it to be so. I'm a stubborn optimist, despite how some people perceive my work. I once heard that gratitude doesn't count if you're at a banquet table. So, to me ”Heyday” is about being grateful for the empty table, too.
I might have to admit to spinning around with my arms splayed to “The West Coast” and “The Best Lines.” Are you trying to make the boys dance?
That's a fun image. Pics please! Hmmm, let's see: I did think it would be a fun album to put on while making dinner and maybe doing a little dance in the kitchen. I didn't picture any arms splayed or real full-body dancing or any dance floors. Maybe a head bop. I guess I had low aspirations for actual movement. But now that you mention it, let’s have a kiki!
“Heyday” opens with the “List of Names,” a frenetic track that I think everyone can relate to. Can you share the inspiration?
There was someone who I'd dated a bit and it didn't work out. A few months later I was driving and the lyrics and melody to the chorus just popped into my head, so I pulled over and wrote them down. But, it was true, and very literal: I was surprised that he'd not crossed my mind in quite a while, and, by then, we'd both moved on to dating other people. I knew he wasn't thinking about me either. Some have said, “But you're writing a song about him, you're obviously thinking about him.” I get that, it's very John Waite, “I ain't missing you,” while writing a song about missing you. Truly, though, that wasn't my intention.
The track’s bridge might just be your sexiest and most suggestive lyrics yet. Can I admit I was turned on just a bit?
Aww. That's the sad part of the song. Sex doesn't equal love, does it? At that part of the song, the protagonist wants to be loved and sometimes you hear what you want to hear and see what you want to see, then you realize it's not true. But I'm glad you liked it.
How long is your list of names?
I'll never tell. (laughs)
Will you ever pursue music full-time?
Luckily, I had the experience of being around touring musicians in my younger days and saw in close-up detail the realities of that kind of working artists' life. So, I had no illusions about ever wanting that. There was nothing alluring about that lifestyle. It's not my temperament. I lived it for just enough to know it wasn't me. Also, I have a career that I've worked hard for, and grown in, and that I enjoy very much. Music is just one form of self-expression for me and a tool I've used to get to know myself and the world. That's the satisfying part. I've always viewed it as an art project. Before this, I wrote some short stories. I painted a little. Who knows, this could be my last record. The stakes are very low, and I like that.
“You,” the best of the love songs, can be applied just about anyone who has supported and loved you unconditionally. I know I want it on my playlist. Would you be surprised if people play this at their weddings?
That's a nice thing to say. Of course, that would be awesome if people liked it as their song; I could truly see that, and it's the song people have connected with the most so far. I'm really proud of it.
Care to share your “You?”
The great thing about the song “You” is, as you mentioned, it can work on a variety of different levels, and different situations, and I wrote it pulling from those universal connections that we all have. The song actually came about because my friend and creative buddy/writer/teacher/illustrator Tray Butler was listening to some cuts from the album and he said, “Have you realized you write in the second person a lot? There's a lot of you this and you that.” I hadn't noticed that, but I went home and said, “Oh, we're going to blow this out and write a song that is all YOUs.” In some ways, I'm still learning what the song is about myself. Sometimes my friend Hillary will have to explain my songs to me. I write from a very intuitive place. There's craft involved, too, but it's largely a trusting that this is what feels right.
I’m lost in the moody and desperate production of “Night.” Where did the song come from?
Have you ever awoken in the middle of the night, not exactly sure what time it is and maybe you just had a bad dream that you can't remember? You're kind of discombobulated and confused? I have nights like that very, very rarely. However, a few years ago, I woke up suddenly, feeling disoriented, and couldn't get back to sleep. As it happens, it was raining, and the light outside my bedroom window was falling onto this framed postcard on the wall that reminds me of someone who was once important in my life. The picture is of a puddle with the words je t'aime (I love you) written in it.
I was thinking about that relationship, but also how it was similar to other things in my life. And after being lost in that kind of mystical reverie for a few minutes, I got up out of bed, saw it was 3 a.m., and grabbed my guitar and pad and wrote the song in one go. I never played it much after I wrote it, but when I was looking at the songs I had, I thought it would be fun to record it since I didn't have much of a relationship with it. While recording it I saw that the song was also about moving toward the light in your life and away from the murky, dark and confusing things… it's not quite night anymore. The sun might not be out yet, but it's coming, however long it takes. I knew I was going to be OK. To me, it's the most hopeful, positive song on ”Heyday.”
Across your four albums you dissect relationships. Any love advice for gay Atlanta?
Well, I do like to talk about relationships, be in relationships, and write about them, too. I'm a preternaturally curious person and I've always been especially interested in couples, friendships, marriages, and how it all happens. What brings people together and what drives them apart? And of course, I turn that microscope onto myself and my relationships, too, though a couple songs on ”Heyday” were inspired by other people's situations. Once I start writing, I find my own way to relate to the song and see myself in it. Then maybe a while later, I'll have an aha about something, or a light bulb will go off. But, no, no love advice here. Let's leave that to the professionals. I'm still learning like everyone else.
You’ve mentioned forgoing an album release concert in favor for a 10-year career celebration later this year. Any details to share?
Looks like I'm going to be at Eddie's Attic on Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. (doors at 6 p.m.). I'll be performing these new songs and old songs from my other albums, too. I hope you can be there!
Can I submit a setlist?
That would be awesome, sure!