What Michael McArthur calls “the hardest 12 months of my life” gave the Florida singer-songwriter his first full-length album, Ever Green, Ever Rain, whose track “Elaine” is premiering exclusively below.
McArthur had released a series of EPs and toured hard before taking that time off from the road, where he plays primarily house concerts. “I was tired,” he tells Billboard, and, with his marriage also on uncertain footing, he needed to “just stay at home and spend time with friends and family and write as many songs as I could.” He wound up with about 40 of those, and the dozen on the album focus on the thoughts he had and the lessons he learned during that time. “During that year of writing I asked myself a lot of questions and started answering a lot of things,” he says. And maybe the most important of those revelations occurs via “Elaine,” a gentle rumination which McArthur calls his favorite track on the album.
“It’s kind of about — this might sound corny — that love is the thing that matters most in life,” McArthur explains. “Having somebody you can love and who loves you back, as you get older you start to realize how important that really is. The line in the second verse — ‘Where do we go when the body dies?/What do you see when you close your eyes?’ — is me wondering what happens to that love, on one hand feeling like this can’t be it, on the other hand feeling like, if it is, then why not just love while we’re here? It’s a pretty simple message.”
McArthur — who ran a restaurant in Lakeland, Fla., with his brother before devoting himself full-time to music — started his own record label, Dark River Records, to release Ever Green, Ever Rain on Jan. 25. He recorded it in Los Angeles, in historic United Recording Studios, with producer Ryan Freeland (Ray Lamontagne, Bonnie Raitt) — who had McArthur cut the album in just four days, working live on the floor with a hand-picked group of players. “I’ve never done a record this way, or this quick,” McArthur notes. “Ryan originally wrote me and said, ‘We’ll do three songs the first day.’ I was like, ‘Are you sure? How are we gonna do that?’ (laughs). And we did. The next day we did four and the next day we did four more, and I couldn’t have been happier. On the drive back home I had this peace because I knew that I gave it all that I had and it was the best I could do. It just feels great.”
And despite its birth from troubled times, McArthur is satisfied that its winds up positive at the end.
“The album starts with a song called ‘We Live & We Die’ and it ends with ‘Ever Green, Ever Rain,’ looking back on everything and understanding you can’t have growth and life without hard times,” explains McArthur, who plans to maintain his itinerary of house concerts to promote the album. “I appreciate the hard times and the good times, because they’re both necessary as a part of life. I want to make the most honest music I can, because you never know how long you’re gonna be around, how long you’re gonna have your voice or be able to play. So you don’t want to waste any of that time you have.”