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Saturday, January 31, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 24.0° F  Overcast
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Elephant Micah's rural roots
Songs blend rustic themes and a bit of rebellion

A song doesn't have to be complicated to be meaningful. For musicians like Indiana multi-instrumentalist Joseph O'Connell, an eye toward nature's parables and a stripped-down approach to recording can result in music that transcends simplicity.

I recently chatted with O'Connell, who goes by the name Elephant Micah when he's in performance mode, about the process of creating his newest album, Echoer's Intent, and what it's like making music where the North and the South collide.

How did you get started as a musician?

I think I started trying to write or sing songs as a kind of musical independence strategy. This came after a lot of failed jamming in a Martinsburg, Ind., basement with people who more or less wanted to imitate Marilyn Manson. I remember announcing to one of them that I planned to transform into a "folk singer." It was an enjoyable way to shock the shock-rockers.

How did living near the Kentucky-Indiana border shape your sound?

It's possible that the folky turn had something to do with trying to make sense of this rural place where we all lived. But so did the screaming basement music, in its way. And the two were never fully separate.... I picked up on the way this [folky] stuff sounded in large part by playing with my dad and his friends.

What was on your mind when you were creating Echoer's Intent?

I wanted to make a recording that didn't rely too heavily on overdubbing. I've been playing without a band for years, but none of my previous recordings have attempted to represent that "solo" live performance mode from start to finish. I've always felt more comfortable with the challenge of constructing recordings piece-by-piece than the challenge of performing takes that sound good on their own. This time I tried to change my approach somewhat, to create a different kind of relationship between the recording and what happens at a gig.

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