Nahko wants you to take your power back. Since announcing his fifth studio album, Take Your Power Back, due out on tomorrow, May 15th with his band, Nahko And Medicine For The People, the Apache spiritual songwriter has released five new singles off the album as fans across the globe listen to his enchanting lyrics amid their self-quarantines.
Partially recorded in the same Los Angeles studio as Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, the forthcoming album is Nahko’s latest project, giving hope to The Medicine Tribe of fans with real and raw emotion, stories, and awakening songs as the globe presses “pause” on our usual constantly-moving routines and inspires us to go within ourselves for much-needed reflections.
Live For Live Music’s Mikala Lugen took the time to chat with Nahko about his forthcoming album, arriving at Envision Festival via parachute, new moon intentions, Instagram live streams, fried dandelions, music in politics, and more.
Live For Live Music: You returned to the 10th annual Envision Festival in February for your second time since playing there six years ago. How was your experience being back?
Nahko: On so many levels, it was stellar. Just being in the country of Costa Rica and seeing how much has changed within the festival since my last time performing six years ago and being able to connect with old homies, that was great. I haven’t really been playing festivals like that a lot recently, so it felt good to be back. And God, jumping out of a plane. It was so epic and crazy and hilarious. I was asked last minute, and I’ve always wanted to so I took the plunge. Went down a rainbow straight into Carebear land haha.
Basically a huge grand entrance into the festival. Next time they could have you land right onto the stage. You also treated fans at Envision to a live debut of one of your new singles, “Lifeguard” off your forthcoming album, Take Your Power Back. This marks your fifth ever studio album and first release in four years. What’s happened in the past four years that inspired this new project?
Nahko: Oh man, so many things. In the interim between the last band album, I put out a solo album, My Name Is Bear, in 2017. It’s been many years since our last band album, and a lot changed for me personally, along with our band and world. With any project, I like to give a lot of options on what the direction the story wants to take itself. I had a number of different titles for this new album, but it kept coming back to Take Your Power Back. It felt so appropriate for the times, and now more than ever and well-timed. We were supposed to release the album last year, but the process delayed that.
I recognize that this is all perfectly timed and fans needed this music now amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s exactly what everyone needs to hear right now. The magic of music is always perfectly timed. It was a long process to live through the songs and tell the stories and I came to a lot of conclusions. It was a pretty rough patch there for a while, I think life has many different chapters you go through, and some are great and some are sh!tty. As an artist, I’ve always strived to write about that experience. There are some old-school familiar sounds that fans will find on the album, but we also dropped some new styles of recording on there. I’m really happy with this new album, and I don’t think I would take anything back from it.
I’m currently in the process of writing a short story to go along with it. I did that for my solo album as well. It’s a great process, writing the stories to go along with the songs. The short story “Take Your Power Back” will follow each song with a story, along with its lyrics and sheet notation, for a “yearbook” sort-of project to go along with it. These will be very personal, real stories about how the songs were formed, going off into where they stemmed from. In this single-driven industry, it’s hard to come by with a full album that people listen to from top to bottom. I work in a way where I hope that people do listen to the full thing. Having something physical to go along with the music itself has gotten lost with streaming, but the physical copy has so much touch and feel to it. It’s art and I like to prepare to preserve all of that with handwritten stories and lyrics in it.
It definitely sounds like the new album has a lot of heart and soul into it, and those handwritten stories will be an added cherish to the album. You’ve released six singles ahead of the album’s full release, and I’ve noticed you’re releasing them based on the lunar calendar. What is your intention with and reason behind this?
Nahko: Well I love astrology. And I know that a lot of my fans and people around the world f*ck with the stars. It opens the door for further conversation and has become a really great experience writing and releasing in-lieu of the meaning of the song. I usually post about the new single and explain and integrate a reading on that month’s new moon, and adding my own two cents and fitting in how the new song fits in.
I really love that. Connecting meanings of what is happening in our universe to the meanings and messages in these new songs is something we can all appreciate right now. You recently started your Medicine Tribe Television and “Real Medicine” streams on Instagram for fans to engage with you amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us a little more on what these consist of and what kind of guests will be joining you?
Nahko: After Envision, we were out on the road for like 10 days then I came back home and started locking down with everything going on. The first thing I thought of was that I had to do a church session on Sundays with a live feed. It became an easy thing to do, providing people with some inspiration when everyone is at home. We’ve gotten a lot of collaboration requests to further help those privileged to be at home and those that are out helping to save lives. The power of music is healing, and I hope this does a lot of good for those who watch these. If you can stay consistent and offer something you love, the return is always tenfold and the goodness that it comes from it.
And then on Tuesdays and Thursdays I’ve started casually interviewing friends of mine on Instagram live for some raw styles of conversation and inspiration and wisdom. Earlier last week I had my astrologer friend Debra Silverman on, and she dropped a lot of inspiring knowledge on the stars and universe. I’ve had Aaron Rogers, Yoga Girl, Winona LaDuke, Shailene Woodley, Trevor Hall, Aubrey Marcus, Rachel Brathen—it’s been a great three weeks so far. It’s been top-notch having these folks on spreading their wisdom.
What else have you found yourself personally doing at home amid “self-quarantining”?
Nahko: I find myself being incredibly busy. I live on a small ranch, and there’s a lot of maintenance. I’m an old-school landscaper and farmer, I have a lot of different gardens and caretaking of this property takes a lot of time. It’s been beautiful out here in Oregon. I split my time pretty in a pretty manic way. I have a lot going on, but it’s good for me to get into a flow of going slow, taking my mornings as I desire, doing yoga, and going through my 21-day deep chopra meditation which has been challenging but rewarding.
I’ve really been making sure I’m eating healthy, and exercising like crazy. Trying to come out of this with quarantine-bod 2020, stuffing my face with salad [laughs]. My friend the other day made fried dandelion flowers and its incredibly good for you and delicious. A lot of self-care and working on the computer, I try to schedule my day so I greet the workload as if I’m at work and then make sure I get my work done outside. Trying to balance it all.
The new album touches a lot on heartbreak, acceptance and understanding. How can fans use that message right now as live music is currently on pause?
Nahko: It is a privilege to have the time to even consider going within right now. There’s a lot of people out there who aren’t able to take this time “on pause”, who are out sacrificing for us all at home. For those of us that have that privilege to take this “pause”, we should consider working on ourselves. I think there is a lot to reflect on. It’s hard work looking at yourself from multiple other lenses, but we have a responsibility to care for our whole being.
The reason why we don’t have the majority of like-minded consciousness across the globe is due to massive oppressive dominance and projection from the minute you’re born and throughout your life. It’s not in everyone’s first consideration to peel back the layers and look at the trauma and conditioning and discover where the addiction and habits and mental health issues are. If you do anything that is focused on your inner work, its gonna be challenging and confronting in a time that is already pushing those boundaries. But what’s it going to take? We weren’t paying attention when the fires and hurricanes were happening, we weren’t paying attention when the climate was screaming at us. If we don’t work on ourselves and find it within ourselves to say that enough is enough, we’re gonna continue on this destructive path.
You were also recently a part of Bernie Sanders’ virtual roundtable. Can you tell us more about that and why it’s important to you to be a musician speaking out in politics?
Nahko: It’s important because I’m a human being and I have basic human rights and they’ve been violated since the day I was born by a government who doesn’t take care of its citizens. I remember back when the Occupy Movement first happened, that was my first taste as a young person of revolution and people from all walks of life saying that enough is enough. It was such an inspiring time, but now things have changed. Life is just political. Music was fueled by politics and has always had a place in the voice of the people.
An artist’s job has always been to be the troubadour to speak for the voiceless, so having supported Bernie since his first campaign years back, I know that he’s been fighting for these ideas and policies consistently for so many years. A guy like that who is so inspiring with rational, basic ideas for protecting ordinary people, it saddens me that apparently the majority of Americans aren’t ready for that radical change because they are afraid of that unknown. It would change a lot of things for the betterment of a lot of people, but more people are more concerned with themselves. I believe the radicalness is what we need to have immediate change happen. You gotta keep fighting the fight and, hopefully in the coming years, the majority of us will be more prepared for it. Recognize that you’re part of the problem, and take responsibility to acknowledge the change for yourself and inspire those around you to envision a better world for our future.
Nahko And Medicine For The People’s forthcoming album, Take Your Power Back, will be available tomorrow, May 15th on all streaming platforms. For more information and to pre-order the album, head to their website.