Micah P Hinson
In early 2020, Micah P. Hinson almost walked away from his music career. The esoteric Americana / folk singer-songwriter – who divides his time between Texas and Spain – had released ten critically acclaimed albums and built up a loyal fanbase (particularly in Europe), yet he felt trapped and deeply depressed.
“It hit me that all I was doing was writing about my previous relationships and situations, and that meant I had nowhere to go,” Hinson says. “How can you progress as a human being into the future if all you’re doing is writing about all the shit that chains you to the past?”
The COVID-19 pandemic’s onset was something of a blessing in disguise, as it gave Hinson the time to reflect and recalibrate. He vowed, from then on, to only write about things happening to him in the present – but first, he would gain closure by reworking and recording all of the remaining older songs he’d been saving from the previous twenty-five years. This approach utterly revitalized him, prompting him to create I Lie to You, his eleventh studio album, where he takes the listener through one final look back at his remarkable life story so far.
Born in Memphis but raised in Texas, Hinson didn’t initially understand his uniqueness. For one thing, he is of Chickasaw descent, a Native American tribe known for being particularly fierce warriors. For another, his family belonged to The Church of Christ, which is, as he explains it, “one of the newest and the strictest and the most bizarre sects of Christianity.”
As a teen, Hinson rejected his religious background and instead turned to music for inspiration, listening to industrial and alternative acts such as Skinny Puppy, My Bloody Valentine, and The Jesus and Mary Chain. Along with his older brother, he began playing the guitar, writing songs that reflected those musical influences. At his brother’s suggestion, though, Hinson began playing acoustic guitar, though he retained his edge – a trait that remains one of his music’s most distinctive qualities to this day.
Hinson began writing prolifically, recording the tracks at home and giving copies to his friends. He didn’t try to get a record deal, though, because his complicated living situation didn’t allow him to pursue anything that ambitious. “I was essentially homeless in Austin, Texas, and my life was going absolutely nowhere,” he says. “I couldn’t get a job. I didn’t have a car that worked. My life wasn’t going well.” He was in such dire straits that he didn’t even own a guitar anymore.
After his friend John Mark Lapham (from the band The Earlies) showed Hinson’s songs to a London-based record label, Hinson was finally given a way to escape his desperate situation. Besides signing him to a record deal, the label also supplied Hinson with funds to pay off warrants for his arrest, a passport, and a plane ticket to the U.K., where he recorded his debut album, Micah P. Hinson and the Gospel of Progress. Upon its release in 2004, that album earned him instant acclaim and a significant European following.
Hinson’s next nine albums fared equally well, establishing him as one of the more innovative and interesting singer-songwriters in the international alt-folk scene. His songs are touchstones from the various moments in his colorful life, from his unsettled early days through his more recent years when he’s been a husband and devoted father.
But Hinson’s determination to do things in a radically different way became apparent as he recorded I Lie to You, as he used an outside producer for the first time. Milan, Italy-based Alessandro “Asso” Stefana, who’s worked with PJ Harvey and Mike Patton, steered the songs into a stripped down style that beautifully showcases Hinson’s intensely honest and evocative lyrics. “I was flabbergasted – I was amazed at what he was doing,” Hinson says of Stefana. “It brought new life to what I do.”
Stefana also helped Hinson get a deal with Ponderosa Records, a well-respected Italian label that’s released work for Blonde Redhead, and organized tours for Patti Smith and The Jesus and Mary Chain (who had so inspired Hinson during his formative years). It also seemed like a positive sign that “Ponderosa” was the name of the ranch in Bonanza, Hinson’s favorite television show when he was growing up.
With everything coming together so perfectly, Hinson felt confident that he could give his past a proper send-off with I Lie to You. Knowing this would be his last opportunity to release songs he wrote in his teenaged years through his thirties, he dug out all his remaining old material and reworked it until it was ready for inclusion here.
There is only one album track, “Ignore the Days,” that Hinson wrote since he turned 40 last year. In this way, the song serves as a kind of bridge between his past and the new forward-focused life he’s just beginning, so it’s a fitting first single from the album. The song’s sweet but haunting animated video perfectly captured the way he’d been feeling like a ghost, invisible and unappreciated. Fortunately, Hinson is now in a much happier place, both personally and professionally, so this song serves as a poignant reminder of a major turning point in his life.
While Hinson has earned much acclaim by creating songs about his past – and no doubt I Lie to You will continue this tradition – it will be fascinating to see what he creates now that he can move on, free from all the things that had been weighing him down for years.
Already, he feels revitalized in every way: “It’s not only my songwriting that changed, but my family life, my views on religion, and my views on politics,” he says. “It’s really strange that I decided to make these changes in my life, and then so many amazing, beautiful things came to me. I’ll be forever grateful for whatever happened to bring me to this new place.”