Michael Compton BIO
‘Wooden Spoon’ was created out of gorgeously homemade, drum-looped anthems from his bedroom, then ingeniously realized through collaborations with legendary Pacific NW producer Steve Fisk (Car Seat Headrest, Unwound, Nirvana), bassist Yuuki Matthews (Shins, Crystal Skulls) and drummer Michael Musburger (Posies, Fastbacks). It also features performances by Lori Goldston (cello) and Jacquie Dillon (vocals).
“Artistically, this is typically how I like to develop my songs and album projects. They always start with some sort of specific inspiration, or epiphany. Often, I don’t fully understand when the idea arrives and my process is somewhat like solving a riddle or putting a puzzle together. The more I’m able to let those initial concepts sit with me, the truer the output tends to be.”
The sweetness at the heart of the album conceals a very personal melancholy that Compton experienced in its inspiration, reflected upfront in its title. “The title of the album came about through meditations on life, current realities we are all facing, as well as personal experiences I was going through,” he says.
“I was clearing out my childhood home after the unexpected death of my father,” Compton explains. “My parents had lived in that home for over 30 years and I grew up there. It took me months to go through all of the stuff my parents had accumulated. It was tough to comb through this huge amount of stuff while also dealing with the grief of losing my father. It was also therapeutic in its own way. One item that weirdly stood out to me was this wooden spoon that for some reason brought back memories of my dad,” Compton says. “I remember at the time that I thought how odd that this basic wooden spoon could hold these very distinct memories.”
Taking advantage of the recent need to hunker down and focus on what really matters, he has made his most personal album yet, putting together a miraculous culmination of his tastes and desires on his delectable new full-length.
This is Compton’s first time being produced by Fisk. “We recorded bass and drums to tape at Crackle & Pop Studio in Seattle, then I recorded guitar and vocals at my home studio. I sent the tracks back to Steve and he recorded all of the keys at his home studio. Lori recorded her cello parts and Jacquie’s vocals were recorded at Retro City Studios in Philadelphia, PA. Steve mixed the album and Ed Brooks from Resonant mastering in Seattle did the final mastering on the album.”
The record is Compton’s 20th independent release for his label missingrecords - “and definitely the best work I’ve done to this point,” he says. Through this collaborative recording process Compton has evolved these soul-seeking, open-hearted tunes into a part-live and part-virtual indie rock solo project, combining recorded drums, bass and keys with his lushly strummed, shimmering guitar work and crisp rhythms built around dynamically soulful vocals.
With attention-grabbing lyrics like “Are you love or are you pain, or everything in between?” (from the hope-heartening “I’m Here to Help”), it shows an emotional intelligence and spiritual maturity often missing in music these days. “I would compare it to the ‘Free Association’ model of accessing the unconscious mind,” Compton explains. “For this project, I let ideas come naturally, rather than trying to manufacture ideas.”
Regarding key tracks on the release, 'I’m Here To Help' is a stand-out and a favorite of his collaborator Fisk’s. “Musically, it started as a challenge. I was hanging out with a jazz musician friend who was giving me a hard time about the simplicity of my ‘indie’ music. I was advocating that music doesn’t have to be complex to have impact. She ended the conversation by giving me a playful little jab saying she could never be satisfied playing ‘three chord music.’ I thought that was funny because my music typically utilizes a few more than three chords — but I also thought it could be a fun songwriting challenge to write an actual three chord song! I wondered how you could make the song engaging with that type of limitation. ‘I’m Here to Help’ is three chords in the same progression for both the verse and chorus. I experimented with subtle ways to create dynamics and played with the arrangement. Lyrically it explores subconscious thought and the voice inside our head. What is that voice that guides us? Is it separate from us? Is it morally superior to us or is it our moral guide? I also played with the notion that maybe it is an outside force that inhabits and guides us.”
“‘Headband’ is my favorite song on the record,” Compton admits. “I love how it turned out and it has a lot of personal meaning for me. Musically, it works off a chord progression that I had written a while ago but I kept coming back to. Lyrically, it employs a technique where I speak on two different topics and craft lyrics that can be representative of both. One is more straightforward and explores the difficulty of losing a loved one and recognizing that the grieving process takes time and comes in spurts, not all at once. There is also a parallel story that I think about often, around how music has played an important role in my life and that no matter the circumstances, I always turn to it when I feel the need.”
“’Shapes’ is a groove-oriented song that manifested very quickly. Sometimes as a writer you get on a wavelength and ride it. I love these moments but they don’t happen often. I like how this song moves and I think it might have the most universal appeal and message out of all the songs on the album.”
As for playing out live, which Compton is already doing regionally, he also has a dream of touring all 50 states at some point. “But for now I plan to do a Northwest tour later this year. It will include Portland, Bend, Boise, Missoula, Spokane and Seattle. Following that I am preparing for a Northeast tour including NY, NJ, Philadelphia, Boston, and Providence. I can’t wait for the opportunity to share these songs and connect with others through music. It’s taken a while to get to this point, but it’s really only the beginning“