Cotton Jones

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Cotton Jones masterminds balance real life and family on the road

:: Cotton Jones ::
:: w/ Parson Red Heads and Fruit Bats ::
:: Hi-Dive :: August 20 ::

By Timothy Dwenger

The music of Cotton Jones is the perfect soundtrack for an evening on the back porch, with a sunset and a tall glass of iced tea or an ice cold beer.  The tender harmonies, mellow melodies and Leonard Cohen influences that shine through give the songs a dreamlike quality that seems to dilute your consciousness as you get lost in the images they create.

The masterminds behind these haunting songs are the husband and wife team of Michael Nau and Whitney McGraw. While they legally married in October of last year, they have been working closely for the past five years in both Cotton Jones and Page France, the latter which disbanded in 2008 due to the fact that Nau and McGraw wanted to focus their musical efforts on Cotton Jones.

Though they have enjoyed some modest success over the years, and have steadily built a loyal following, Nau explained that it’s not particularly easy to balance life as independent musicians with the responsibilities that come with being an adult. “Our lives have been pretty hectic. We’ve been splitting our time between a place in Georgia and work in Delaware so we’ve just been up and down the coast a whole lot,” he said in a recent interview with The Marquee. “We love playing music and traveling that way, but whenever we have time off from that, we have to make money somehow and we haven’t really been on the road since we toured out the last record. To help make ends meet, I do some construction work and Whitney works at a dress shop in Fenwick Island, Delaware. We are looking forward to getting out as a full band.”

The full lineup of Cotton Jones that hit the road this summer consists of six members. “We’ll have drums, and organ, bass and guitar in addition to Whitney and I,” said Nau. “It’s a comfortable group of friends who have all been hanging out for a long time. We have been working on being sure that we are all doing it for the right reasons more so than being technically in-line. We are realizing that stuff is secondary and eventually falls into place, so it’s been a nice growing process.”

That kind of laid back attitude seems to be present in much of what Cotton Jones does. They recorded their new record, Tall Hours In The Glowstream — which they will release later this month — themselves as they traveled between Delaware, Georgia and western Maryland. “It was a matter of working with whoever was around,” Nau said. “We have a pretty mobile setup, a little tape machine and a computer, and everyone’s gear is kind of scattered around wherever they may be spending time. To be honest, we aren’t really too savvy or particular with our process of recording so it worked smoother than it should have, I think.”

From the slurred swell of a slowed down pedal steel guitar, to deftly placed wine glass percussion, the final product sounds much more professional than Nau made the recording process sound.

While the album’s gentle arrangements have faint touches of country, folk and chamber pop, Nau was hesitant to spell out the musicians that influenced their songwriting. “We listen to all different kinds of music but a lot of these songs aren’t as influenced by music as they could be,” he said. “More of the influences come from our day to day situation, our location, the mood we are in, and the peace, or lack of peace, that we have in our hearts and minds. I think all those things probably play a bigger role in how the songs come out than the records we listen to.”

What is clear in listening to Nau discuss his music and his life as a musician is that the journey is the most important part. He is learning every step of the way and making the decisions that are best for his lifestyle, his music and his family. “I feel like this record is a step forward for us, and it’s all a growth process. So as long as we keep moving forward, I’m happy.”

:: Cotton Jones ::

:: w/ Parson Red Heads and Fruit Bats ::

:: Hi-Dive :: August 20 ::

Recommended if you Like:

• Leonard Cohen

• M. Ward

• Bonnie “Prince” Billy

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