The title is the subject line in an email I received from Michael Oliver Tighe. He recently signed a publishing deal with New York City's famed, Downtown Music Publishing, in anticipation of his upcoming EP, The Garageband Sessions. Tighe has dreamt up his own recipe of lo-fi folk-blues, with a tinge of disco that’s both fun and engaging. All of which appear on the disc he recorded in the kitchen of his NYC apartment.
The first single and video, “Party up in My House,” is a poignant “Aftermath, USA”-themed, lo-fi gem with minimalistic clapping, snapping, and tapping percussion, accompanied by electric piano, some acoustic guitar noodling, and falsetto lyrics that encapsulate the “life after the party.” This is the first I’ve heard of Tighe’s upcoming EP, and it leaves me wondering where he will take it next. Heavily influenced in the latter day blues greats, he also has a deep love for disco, thought it's a foundation not often built on. I’m on seat’s edge to see where it goes.
Tighe’s first single and video is simple yet infectious. At first engagement I found myself moving the cursor towards the “X” but it has grown on me exponentially, even more so as I looked into Micheal Oliver Tighe a little further.
As a teenager, Tighe played guitar in Jeff Buckley’s band. Yes, that golden-voiced rock singer of the '90s who brought us the beautiful, emotional-storm-starting record, Grace, in 1994, as well as 1998’s, Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk. The latter ultimately became a tribute album of sorts as Buckley passed away unexpectedly while Tighe and the rest of the band were meeting him in Memphis to continue making the record.
Intrigue and a flurry of questions immediately flooded my brain muscle. I mustered up some questions any true Buckley fan would love to know the answers to. Tighe was kind enough to answer them, along with some background on what he’s been up to since the untimely, and truly sad loss of Buckley in a May 1997 swimming accident in Memphis, TN.
Sad Songs Keep the Devil Away: You were you a part of the Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk sessions, correct? Can you describe them? How did they differ from the Grace sessions?
Micael Oliver Tighe: Yes, I was a part of those sessions. Second albums are tough. The bar was set pretty high with Grace. Although it wasn't a great commercial success at that time, we knew it was dope and I think we all felt a bit of pressure to make the next album as potent. While we were recording the second album, Jeff was listening to a lot of Jesus Lizard (Mouth Breather!) and Grifters. He wanted to make a dark punk album, or our version of that. He often said he wanted to make music that "scared people." The Grace sessions had this wholesome singer-songwriter atmosphere to them. During the Sketches sessions, it felt more like we were in a motorcycle gang or something.
I've heard rumors that he never really loved how those sessions turned out, and moved on to Memphis to give it a go by himself. Is there any truth to that?
We recorded most of those sessions in Memphis and, yes, we weren't so into them. When we started recording, it became apparent that it was going to take a while. He didn't hate the sessions; they just weren't that great. So, he rented a house in Memphis to focus on songwriting and arranging.
It's been stated, at or around the untimely and awful loss of Jeff, that you and the rest of the band were en route to Memphis for a visit. Was it for a specific planned session? What were you guys working on at the time? What had Jeff been up to musically at that particular time?
Yeah, we went there to finish the album and he passed away while we were en route. He had sent the band a cassette tape the week before, of the four-track stuff he was working on. A few days before we went, he left me a voicemail saying how excited he was about the new songs [and] arrangements. He said the music was starting to feel like the Grace stuff. By that, I think he meant special and good.
What have you been up to as of late?
Focusing on songwriting, mostly, and hustling when I've had enough caffeine. A few years back I went on a tour with Mark Ronson. It made me realize I still love performing. Since then I've been writing with different people and trying to get songs on albums and working on my EP.
What direction is your artistic approach to music these days?
I've always lived in NYC and, to this day, I still have such a deep love and fascination with this place, so I'm always trying to make music that reflects New York, I guess it's my muse.
Sonically, I'm a big fan of blues and country field recordings. I thought it'd be cool to make something like a field recording in a NYC apartment, on GarageBand. Partly because I liked the idea of it, and partly because it was all I could afford. I like to incorporate elements of modern pop and R&B, but in this lo-fi, acoustic framework with minimal production. Sometimes too many production choices suffocate a song, I try to strip it down to songwriting, emotion, and one rhythmic element.
Are there plans for a full-length album as well?
Yeah, I'll ride this sound for a while and see where it takes me, and hopefully record a full-length album sometime soon, with maybe slightly better recording levels... but only slightly.
Who, other than the genius of Jeff Buckley obviously, would you list as your biggest influences musically?
Well, Son House and Robert Johnson are the two reasons I wanted to play music. I saw you posted a “Death Letter” [a Son House song] video on your Facebook -- so cool. Curtis Mayfield, Barry Gibb, Sondheim, Lennon, Alicia Keys, Drake, James Blake: they've all had a huge influence on me.
+Words: Scott Zuppardo+