Searching for a Love that Doesn’t Die
A NadaMucho.com Interview with Michael Dean Damron
By Kasey Anderson
Michael Damron’s a busy guy. In 2005, his duties as lead singer and songwriter for the Portland-based (and NadaMucho.com favorite) band I Can Lick Any S.O.B. in the House found Damron touring behind the band’s 2004 release Menace (In Music We Trust) and making a live record, the recently-released Live at Dante’s, as well as releasing a solo album, Perfect Day for a Funeral. Somehow, he found time to answer a few questions about songwriting, what drives him, and the future.
NadaMucho.com: Let’s start with process: how, when, and where do you work? Do you need silence? A dark room? Candles? Massage oils (wait, what?) The back of a van?
Mike Damron: I write, but not as much as I should. I’ve only been doing this songwriter thing for five years actually; I hope to grow into a prolific one. I seem to write better when I’m in some sort of pain, emotional or otherwise: anger, righteous anger that seems to get the pen moving. As to the “whens” and “wheres,” I don’t do much of it on the road because I’m too busy dealing with the day-to-day business of touring. I like being alone so I can look at myself and this world with a completely honest mirror.
NM: Your songwriting process sounds almost like therapy, or an exorcism. Do you ever worry that you’ll reach a place where you’ve been “healed,” and run out of material?
MD: I don’t think I’ll ever heal. I’m pissed. I’m pissed at God, at my father, and at myself. I can’t seem to fix “it”. Every time I find hope, something comes along and fucks things up. Or more often, I fuck things up. I’m like everyone else; I want someone to love me. When it gets close, though, love always dies. There’s gotta be a love out there that doesn’t die. I always thought love is best kept an illusion, but damn, I’d love to feel it stick on me before I leave this planet.
NM: You and I have spoken before about the importance of honesty in writing, in making sure your audience believes what you’re saying. When do you know you’ve nailed it, or is it something that just comes naturally?
MD: I feel it physically when it hits. I start to swell with emotion, even to the point of tearing up, or I get fucking pissed. I need to be able to recall those feelings I had when I wrote the thing so I can bring it to life every time I play it live. As a band, we never phone things in. I like raw nerves, live. Every time.
NM: How many of your songs are autobiographical? Do you find it cathartic to write about your own experiences, or is it just another well to draw from?
MD: Bunches of ‘em are first-hand, seeing up close and family-of-origin stuff. I hope some folks who have felt or been brought up the same are moved by ‘em. If I can heal someone in some small way, maybe I can save myself; find some kind of God.
NM: Do you write songs specifically for S.O.B. and/or the solo project? How do you know if a song belongs to one band or the other?
MD: My songs belong to me, so I don’t think about it for a band or [a solo project]. The songs also belong to SOB, and if I play ’em with others, they belong to them for the moment, ya know?
NM: Who are your heroes, songwriting or otherwise?
MD: Steve Earle wrote the soundtrack to my life. I admire him. Cash, for sure. I’ve always thought Alejandro Escovedo was a giant. My 10th grade English teacher, Mr. Walters. He taught me about Henry David Thoreau, about being an individual. My brothers Jim and Paul and my Sister Paula are heroes to me. People who live their lives in service to others. Someday, perhaps I won’t be so self-absorbed and can do some hero things myself.
NM: You’ve been pretty outspoken in your disapproval for the current administration. Have you lost any percentage of your audience due to that?
MD: I could give a shit about losing some of my audience. I gotta say what I gotta say. God bless America for that. I know lots of fans and writers who think I’m just a dumbass redneck. There are still a buncha ball-less fence riders out there too, clever popster-hipsters. I don’t get it. Now is not the time to fear.
NM: What does the coming year hold for you?
MD: Touring, writing, trying to put together a place to live when I’m not on the road. To live simply, take it all in. That and make a Herculean effort to pull my head out of my ass.