In a world of bravado and swagger, Micah E. Wood’s unapologetically heart-on-his-sleeve music is a breath of fresh air. But where the local troubadour once sang about new relationships, unrequited romance, and the trials and tribulations of dating in modern times, his new self-titled record is a love letter to himself. It’s relatable for any listener, with each song acting as a sort of mantra on reflection, introspection, and self-care. Before his release show at The Charmery Ice Cream Factory on Friday May 17, we sat down with the artist to talk about owning your feelings, fending off imposter syndrome, and the love of his life—his dog, Ansel.
Okay, here we are, let’s find out the ins and outs of Micah E. Wood.
Is Micah E. Wood nice?
Read on to find out.
I want a clickbait-y title to this interview, for sure. I’m still trying to come up with a better term for myself now that I’ve decided that I hate the term “sad boy.” I’m not sad anymore. Any time a man uses emotions, he’s deemed a sad boy. Men should be able to just use emotions.
If you’re not sad anymore, what are you now?
I’m just self-reflective. Or trying to be. There are plenty of things to be sad about, and there are some sad songs on the record, but in general, I’m just processing emotions.
On some of the songs, you seem to get pissed, in a cathartic way.
Uh-huh. And not necessarily pissed at people. Like on “I Don’t Need Your Love,” I’m not mad at anyone, I’m just screaming into the void.
How did you shift from sadness to introspection?
Two years ago, I was still figuring out what it was like to be single and how to date and I wrote pop music because it made me feel better. This new record is still pop music—it’s just not as bright and synth-heavy. These aren’t humble brags, but in the last two years, I decided to get healthier, I lost like 55 pounds, I got to perform in France, I wanted to lean into my voice, so I started taking vocals lessons, and on top of all that, I bought a house and in that house is my grandfather’s grand piano. I wrote all of these songs on that piano.
It was also the first time that I really tried not to date and just be with myself. I was trying to figure out what I needed on my own, so I could be a full-functioning person for someone else. It’s me accepting that I’m an adult and in turn taking these songs more seriously. With my last record, See Me, I’d write a song and call it done. This record is a good mix of songs that came organically and songs that I knew could be better. I’ve never done that before—really tear things apart to figure out what wasn’t working.
Do you think you were able to do that because you took that time to yourself?
I think so. I think it’s also hard to accept needing help from others. And it’s hard to accept that some things need editing. A lot of us like to think if we can’t just organically do something, then we’re not talented. I’ve been trying really hard to say “fuck off” to imposter syndrome, but it’s so hard. I still feel it every day. I’ll have two weeks like, “There’s no point . . .” And then I’ll have two weeks like, “This is minorly good.” That’s my peak excitement. “This is slightly enjoyable! I might get four new fans! My mom will like this!”
I love that she’s your number one fan.
She has not heard any of this.
What do you think she’s going to think of “Take It Slow”?
Listen, I told her that this record is PG-13. There’s no cursing, but there are suggestive themes. The funny thing is, in 2019, she won’t be at all bothered by the fact that I said weed, but she’ll definitely be uncomfortable by that song. I said to Corynne [Ostermann], my work wife, who plays bass on the entire record [and in local punk band Natural Velvet], “This is the sexiest song I ever wrote.” She was like, “Yeah, it’s really good, but it’s not thatsexy, it’s more loving.” I mean, this is all I’ve got, but it makes me feel better than she said it’s not peak sexy, it’s romantic sexy, and I think my mom can appreciate that. The song is actually about that feeling of finally being comfortable with someone. A lot of people don’t talk about how uncomfortable things like sex can be. There’s your title, “Micah talks about sex.”
There’s a much bigger sound on this record that seems to draw inspiration from previous decades.
I figured, if I was going to make a record about myself, it couldn’t just be one sound. You know the typical dating profile, like, “I listen to everything, except for country!” Well, I actually listen to everything, and still do love country. I just skipped the kind that everyone in Virginia listens to where the guy’s first name and last names are both first names. But I grew up listening to a lot of psychedelic, dream-pop Beatles and Beach Boys. At the same time, I decided that I was going to use less humor, and when I did use it, I wanted to use it so seriously that people knew it was not a joke.
My personal favorite is “Summertime.”
That song is meant to capture the experience of your first crush. The first time you really feel your heart move is the first time you have some dumb crush for someone when you’re 6, 7, 8, or 9, or you’re at Jewish summer camp—very specific, I know. You meet someone and are like, “I loveyou” and that’s the first time you truly know what’s happening, even though you don’t know why it’s happening yet. And then when it doesn’t work out, it’s the first time you feel yourself sink to the floor. When they don’t like you back because . . .
You live like three states away.
Yeah, you’re like, “It won’t work!” And they’re like, “That’s just an excuse!” But really, that song had to be the intro, because it walked you in from where the last record left off. I really tapped into how I feel about love now.
How do you feel about love now?
I feel good about it. I’m not in love, but I feel less pressure about it. And definitely some relief. I met someone who lived across the country and it didn’t end up working out, but my barber said to me, sometimes experiencing that type of emotion for a person when you haven’t felt a strong connection for a long time, it just reminds you that it does exist, and it is possible even if it isn’t that person. It’s kind of just exciting to know that I now have a point to strive for.
You know what you want.
On “Tell Me,” I’m not singing to any one person, but like in a movie when a person sits down their partner and is like, “Listen, I’m getting older. I don’t have to get married right now, I don’t want to have kids right now, but I want you to know, I do eventually want these things.” It’s a disclaimer. I write the type of songs where a girl might see me on stage and think I’m cute but then hears my lyrics and is like, “Ooooh, that’s a lot more than I’m willing to take on right now . . .” I wanted to write that song for years, but I never had the confidence to just be like, “Yeah, I want kids some day!” That’s a bold thing to say, especially in a song, especially in 2019, when everyone’s like, “Don’t you know the world’s falling apart?” I’m like, “Yeah, I do know that, but that’s their problem!” No, I’m just kidding.
Speaking of children, you have a song dedicated to your dog, Ansel.
He’s scared of almost everything in the world, but he’s always liked music. I attribute it to raising him on [Kanye West’s] Yeezus. And I put his dog bed behind my piano seat and when I play piano, no matter what he’s doing or how anxious he is, he runs over and curls up behind me and goes to sleep. He loves the piano, and I never knew. I was writing a song that could easily be a love song, but I wasn’t dating anyone at the time and felt like I can’t write what I don’t know. But then I realized, I love Ansel more than anything. He deserves his own love song.
It’s just me imagining him running in a field. I’ve sung it so many times, just looking at him dramatically, that now I just hit that first chord and he lays down, like, “Okay, sing to me, this is my jam.”
What comes next?
That’s a bold question.
Maybe it’s a nap.
I have the release show coming up and I’ve pulled together a full band for it. I’ve never been a frontman in a band and I’m sure it’s going to go right to my head.
And you’re going to have your own ice cream flavor at The Charmery, where the album is being released this Friday?
Ginger-lemon-coconut. They came up with the idea of calling it “Self-Titled.” It’s my ultimate flex. Tickets come with a single scoop. I just hope people hear it and relate to something on it. I joked the other day that I can’t be famous, because I would be just such a disappointment. Like, “Micah is at Clavel, again. Eating the same thing. He just went home at 7 p.m. to hang out with his dog, again.”
This record seemed less self-deprecating, but I’m glad to know that it’s still alive and well.
Oh yeah, don’t worry! But I did make a conscious decision to try to make music that was self-reflective but less burdening. I don’t want a pity party. I want to be like, “Here’s how I processed things, maybe you can, too.”