Michael Nesmith on his solo tour and 50-year career (Includes interview)
Michael Nesmith, or Papa Nez, as he is sometimes called, is not a man to rest on his laurels. He started his career as a folkie in the early ‘60s, playing clubs in and around Los Angeles, then went on to become a bonafide star as Mike “Wool Hat” Nesmith, a member of The Monkees. When the smoke cleared from those hectic teen idol years, Nesmith formed The First National Band. I fell in love with their records and assumed critics did too, although Nesmith is adamant that this was not the case.
He was always on the cutting edge, making videos an art form years before MTV was a twinkle in the media’s eyes. His ‘80s recordings were experimental yet accessible. Although none were “hits” in the truest sense of the word, they were fun and somewhat strange, combining a country twang, calypso, and a dose of cabaret. Here was an artist doing what he liked, despite what was considered fashionable. And isn’t that part of what true artistry is all about?
Now Nesmith is embarking on his first solo tour since 1992, a real treat for those who know him more for his 40 years as an artist than his years as a Monkee. In a recent email interview, I asked Nez about his long and varied career and the forthcoming tour.
Over the course of your career, you seemed to enjoy pushing the boundaries of your craft. Releasing The Wichita Train Whistle Sings, the instrumental album you made while you were still a member of the Monkees, was a bold move at the time. What inspired you to make that record?
The professional music scene was in a strange state in LA at that time. There were some extraordinary players held in harness for commercial and short scoring cues and TV theme songs. I wanted to see what would happen if these guys were let loose in a creative unrestrained romp — and I wanted my songs to have a life in that kind of orchestra. Those two motives met in a deal from Dot records and the session was born.