Inspiration: Dan Michaelson and The Coastguards

20 Aug 2014

Find out just what it is about Leonard Cohen, Montauk and the works of John Cage that inspire the singer-songwriter. 


Dan Michaelson and The Coastguards Distance Interview

Ex-Absentee frontman Dan Michaelson has just released a new album. Now, those that follow the man's work might not find this so suprising as he's done so every year for the past five with each offering a considered and affective re-imagination of the assumed combined works of Leonard Cohen and Will Oldham with nods to Johnny Cash and Tom Waits thrown in for weights and measure. Michaelson's tales are built on heartache and heartbreak and the world they inhabit both weary yet still more than capable of learning and better understanding the 'what's' and the 'why's'. Latest effort Distance may well be his finest work yet, taking all that we've mentioned and accompanying it with some of his finest musical arrangements to date - it really is something of a triumph. 

As Michaelson enters this period of his songwriting and creativity we were curious as to what inspires his and whilst we weren't suprised to hear of an affection for Leonard Cohen, his appreciation for other auteurs is particularly interesting. Read Dan Michaelson's Inspiration's, below. 

Mickey Newbury

Theres something so stone cold real in Newbury's voice that makes it impossible to mistake him for anyone else. The only way I can try to describe it is to say that when I put his record on, its like he didn't sing into a microphone but instead sang into champagne bottle which was then immediately corked and put in a cellar for 40 years. When the needle hits the record, the cork is popped and his voice spills out. Theres something so direct from him that it bewilders me. A few minutes of investigation into the man reveals a wealth of treasure and humanity amongst the debris of his life. 

Richard Long

He's a land artist drawn to epic walks through foreign landscapes. Each journey is signposted by the environment, he follows a piece of driftwood down a river, he takes a right turn after every second stone, he sets up camp for the night when he hears the call of a certain bird. These experiences he documents either with short text, photography or maps. The results are simple, universal reflections of a man on his own path. He also wears a bandana , I've not yet been able to reconcile these things.


John Cage

A beautiful man who creates innovative and spellbinding music from everyday sounds, sometimes leaving chance and chaos to guide the score before he shapes it in his own hands. Also a passionate mycophagist, his passion for picking mushrooms is as strong as it is for making music. Making music doesn't depend on you being one dimensional. 

Leonard Cohen

I can't imagine I've ever made a record that didn't owe a little to Leonard. The first time I heard 'Hey, Thats No Way To Say Goodbye' or 'Famous Blue Raincoat' I knew I'd always prefer to talk my way through a song than sing it.

Montauk, New York 

A lot of my new record Distance was written here, in an ex-army bunker close to the beach at the far tip of Long Island. Not a lot goes on here but every change in the wind or shift of colour in a tree seems magnified to epic proportions, and a mist rolls in from the sea each morning and burns away by 10am.  

Raymond Carver

'What We Talk About When We Talk About Love' left me in pieces after the first reading.. I didn't fair much better the second and third time either. He packs such rich detail and emotion into the shortest of sentences. Together with his editor, the clipped and almost stubborn style in which he wrote about men and women trying to keep it together in the face of everyday trouble is a constant reminder to mean more but say less.

Ben Rivers - Two Years At Sea

I was utterly captivated by this documentary about one man alone in the wilds, going about his business, his routines, with only himself and what he sees in front of him for reference and reflection. Both the director and his subject share the skill of being able to create their own singular universe and exist in it. This film offers a rare opportunity to step into another world.

Watch the video for Dan Michaelson and The Coastguards latest single 'Burning Hearts', below. 

Distance is out now via The State51 Conspiracy, pick up a cope here.
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