Lawson’s work as a songwriter and performer is brimming with honesty, technical ability, and a genuine voice.
— Jake Hull | Producer (Jake Clemons Band, The Last Bison

Photo by Rico Marcelo

 
 

Michael Paul Lawson was born into a deeply musical family, with generations of band leaders, classically trained academics, and brass band legends before him. While his early inclinations were to follow in their footsteps, his contentious relationship with his father and the urgings of his family to pursue more lucrative career paths, dampened his musical ambitions. Trading in the rust of northern New York for the luster of Long Island’s gold coast, Lawson set his artistry to the side in pursuit of corporate life. Eight years later, saddled with student loan debt and weary from the relentless New York City grind, Lawson moved, on a whim, to Norfolk, VA. 

In Norfolk Lawson found space and clarity. He could watch the sunrise over the Atlantic and the sunset across the Blue Ridge Mountains in the same day. In Virginia the music started to flow. Plain-spoken ballads with deceptively straight-forward lyrics. A mix of beautiful prose and raw realities, conjuring up the early work of Jason Isbell and the slow burning, sobering lyrics of John Prine. Lawson was soon singing these songs in breweries and bars across Virginia, working it out, making up for lost time.

A disciplined artist with a punch-clock work ethic, Lawson began building a reputation as one of the most prolific writers and performers in the area, and he quickly began securing notable slots at the Norfolk Folk Festival and providing opening support for The Steel Wheels, and Sons of Bill. Eventually, his songs reached producer Daniel Mendez (Noah Gundersen, The Native Sibling) who offered Michael a development deal and an invite to track a debut EP in Austin.

Returning to Austin, where Lawson spent childhood summers visiting his father, was cathartic. It had been 16 years since Lawson was last in hill country, and 16 years since he last saw his father’s silhouette in the back of a squad car, when the constant drinking and violence came to head in the Texas night, ultimately leading to their estrangement. It was an odd place to return now that he was carving out a new life path, but it also felt strangely in step with the material he had written for his debut EP, Some Fights You’ll Never Win (July 12, 2019). He was reconciling his relationship with his father, there in the flesh, and in the studio, as he committed his highly personal songs to tape. It was a healing experience, coming full circle, continuing the lineage of musical craftsmanship that had run in his family for generations.

“It’s taken a long time for me to get to where I should have been going from the start,” Lawson reflects. But taking the ‘back roads’ gave him the clear understanding, as the songs on Some Fights You’ll Never Win attest, that the most important battles to dive into are internal.