“Make art that makes you feel good. That’s what is important.” Words to live by spoken from a 20-something musician who has a bright-lit future of music-making ahead of him. Nathan Ferraro, lead singer of the Toronto-based band, The Midway State may be baby-faced and have enough curly locks to cover heads of bald men across the city but don’t let his youthful, boyish looks fool you. With their sophomore release Paris or India, Nathan and his bandmates have created something that is as intricate as it is beautiful. The engines are just warming up for The Midway State, and are they ever going to purr.
Torontette: So you guys just put out a new album. Tell me a bit about it.
Nathan Ferraro: The record is called Paris or India. We’re really proud of it, it’s a really important record for us. It’s our second official record, but we’ve made some other records in between. I really feel like this is the best record I’ve ever been a part of. And I say a part of because it was very much a collaborative record as opposed to the first record, Holes. With this record we had grown together so much as we had toured around the world for three years on the first record. Some of the songs come out of jams, some of them were inspired by moments by myself in my apartment or one of the songs ‘Paris or India’ – the title track – our guitar player sent me the chords and the general structure and I instantly was really moved by and from there the words and the melody just came out.
I feel like we all grew as not only musicians on this record, but as people. We really pushed ourselves and when you push each other, there are a lot of times when it can get a little bit rough and muddy but everyone’s personalities really shone through and we were able to get through the hard times. And we’re all better for it. And there’s so much on the record that I see of the other guys that I’m so proud of. I’m proud to be working with them, proud to be on stage with them.
Torontette: Where was most of the work on the album done?
NF: We started writing and pre-production in Toronto and then we moved down to this little studio in this really old, deciduous forest in Fort Erie. And it was awesome. There were turkeys flying around, and deer and even though we didn’t plan it, being there really aided us in the process of not being too influenced or distracted by outside things. And it also helped with the vibe. I feel like the record as a whole feels almost like Georgian Bay, and my cottage and the outdoors. It’s funny how that stuff works itself in. And that is also really honest for us. We’re four suburban kids that grew up around camping, and the outdoors and because it is also a coming-of-age record it was important for us to highlight that part of our youth.
Torontette: I find that a lot of my musician friends actually don’t go to a lot of live music. Do you find that’s the case with you?
NF: Yeah absolutely. That’s a good question. I used to go so much and I couldn’t even say why but I hardly see any live music these days. But sometimes I like to make an effort – like last week I found myself at the Cameron House because I had heard that there was a really cool live band playing but then I ended up in the backroom with the DJ most of the night. And a lot of it too is that there isn’t really a ton of live music that is really easy. In most of the clubs it’s all DJs. And it’s really nice when you actually see a legitimate, artistic, cool DJ that is doing something unique but unfortunately a lot of the time it’s not like that. I do catch some live music when we’re playing a festival, like at Osheaga or Hillside Festival but nowadays that’s about it.
Torontette: Do you still get nervous when you’re on stage?
NF: Yeah, that’s something I’m trying really to tackle. The live shows are a whole different medium than recording. When I’m in the studio, and I’m singing in the dark with my headphones on, or I’m writing, I can really open up and bear my soul but it’s a whole different ballgame when you play live. You walk on stage, and there’s nothing between you and the audience. And you really have to open up, and bear all. Otherwise you’re not going to win. That’s not the job. And that’s been difficult in the past for me. When I was young and in high school, I didn’t even think about. I remember stage diving in the gym. But on the first legs of playing festivals with this record, I felt more childlike on stage than I ever have. So I just want to keep that and focus on that. I’m not so much nervous on big stages, it’s more so the smaller shows when you know you’ve got family and friends in the crowd. It’s hard to be a rockstar when you’re playing in front of your mom.
Torontette: In our day, with social media running rampant, do you think that it is more challenging to be a musician or that it actually aids in your endeavours?
NF: My opinion is that it’s neither here nor there – that it’s kind of both. You’re much more able to distribute your music easily and get your music out there and because of this I think that there is more music than ever available to us. But it makes it more difficult on the other hand because there are that many more people to sift through and there’s that much more competition. So my motto is to just ‘keep your head down’ and try to make the best music that you possibly can so that when people do hear it, it moves them and inspires them, however that’s going to be. Our job really is to create the music and the live show and be the artist, the best you can be. But the cool thing is that we as a band, focus on online so much and on a lot of direct communication with our fans because at the end of the day, if this all goes away (as he scans the EMI offices we’re sitting in) you want to make sure that your fans are connected to you. That’s actually what allows you to be an artist day in, and day out. If fans aren’t with you, and on your trip, then it’s not going to happen.
One of my favourite tracks from Paris or India, ‘Hartley Salters Kite’:
Watch the official music video for their first single, ‘Atlantic’: