Michael McArthur at The Stage, June 30

Michael McArthur will stop by WTJU this Thursday afternoon, June 30, at 1:30 (eastern) for a special half hour session. You can listen at 91.1 FM or online at wtju.net.  You can also live video stream it at WTJU’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

As a kid, Michael McArthur dreamed of becoming the world’s best guitar player; but every time he’d sit down to practice, he found himself writing a song instead. Two decades later, not much has changed. Despite packing theaters and garnering critical acclaim for his intimate live shows, McArthur still considers himself a hardworking songwriter first.

Music has been a lifelong companion for McArthur through trauma and triumph. He writes what he knows, with each song carrying an undercurrent of darkness in a river of personal experience. “Maybe I was born with it,” he says of his bittersweet streak. “And maybe one day I’ll master it. Until then, I’ll write.”

An unapologetically lyric-forward writer, McArthur’s words naturally wrap themselves around his listeners’ lives when put to melody. “Those are the kind of songs my heroes write,” he says, “and the kind of songs I seek to write.” He’s talking about heroes like John Prine, Bill Withers, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, and others; you can feel their influence like an invisible armature under McArthur’s signature sound and lyrics. “I want to do for myself and others what my heroes have done for me,” he says. “ If I’m feeling it or going through it, chances are, it’s universal. Music is about sharing those stories and emotions with other people. I don’t write for television commercials. I write to plug in a light for people who have a desire to listen.”

McArthur writes every day, collecting lines, melodies and ideas from his own life, coaxing them into song form, and polishing them into finished pieces. “Some days, I just write a phrase or two,” he says, “but just like the road to healing and a deeper understanding, every song begins somewhere.”

McArthur built his career the same way he writes his songs—by putting in the work to get the muse to visit. Leaving the family restaurant business to pursue a full-time music career in 2010, McArthur bootstrapped the release of several singles and EPs with producers David Bianco (Tom Petty, Lucinda Williams) and Greg Wells (Adele, Taylor Swift, Rufus Wainwright). In 2018, he founded his own record label to release his first full-length album, Ever Green, Ever Rain, produced by Grammy-winner Ryan Freeland (Ray Lamontagne, Bonnie Raitt).

Ever Green, Ever Rain earned praise from Billboard, including an exclusive premiere of the single, Elaine; and raves from American Songwriter, HuffPost Music & Culture, PopMatters, Americana Highways, Cowboys & Indians, Glide, Riffs and Rhymes, and others.

As Ever Green, Ever Rain gained traction, the entertainment world crashed to a halt in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“For the first time in a decade, I didn’t have a plan,” says McArthur. “That uncertainty and discomfort stripped everything away and brought me home to my creative source. Writing and playing became my lifeline, and every time I wrote a song, I recorded a demo of it. That’s how Milky Stars was born. This album couldn’t have happened any other way, in any other universe.”

McArthur took a chance and sent his isolation-forged demos to storied producer Jacquire King (Tom Waits, Kings of Leon, James Bay) in summer 2020, after the two crossed paths online. King invited him to record his sophomore full-length album in Nashville in May 2021, resulting in a 12-track album awash with imagery as intimate as it is mighty. The first single from Milky Stars, “Grocery Store Skeletons” was released on October 22, 2021. The full album will be released on Transoceanic Records in September 2022.

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