THERE’S A LONG PAUSE AS NATHAN WILLETT CONSIDERS A QUESTION AND HOW HE WANTS TO ANSWER. IT’S A PATTERN THROUGHOUT THE INTERVIEW: QUESTION, LONG PAUSE, QUESTION, LONG PAUSE.
The hesitation is a remnant of a different, more furtive time—a time when he wasn’t sure what he could say and to whom. It’s a tough habit to shake, admits the Cold War Kids frontman, who apologizes from time to time for being vague with some of his answers. He knows he wants to say more than ever before— but he’s still not sure how much more.
The singer knows it could be a dangerous move—that putting himself out there and making it personal will open him up to criticism and leave him vulnerable. But, this time, he says, he’s ready. He’s ready to be honest about where he comes from, the challenges he’s faced along the way and the faith behind it all... because everything seems to matter more these days. It’s time to open up.
“That’s where I fell short on the second record,” he says of 2008’s Loyalty to Loyalty. “I didn’t really feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable with my bandmates even, and after we finished it I thought I sold us all short by not stepping out and saying something.”
What Willett is saying on the band’s third full-length album, Mine Is Yours, out Jan. 25 on Downtown/Mercury, comes from the pages of his own life. His new lyrics cover topics familiar to a counselor’s couch: Fractured relationships. Self-doubt. Broken homes.
Make no mistake, though—this album isn’t a downer. It’s about personal breakthroughs.
The band’s two previous albums, their acclaimed 2006 debut Robbers and Cowards and then Loyalty to Loyalty, used characters to tell stories of people in need of such a breakthrough. There’s the thief who steals from the church offering (“Passing the Hat”), the drunk who continuously disappoints his family (“We Used to Vacation”) and a woman looking for love in the wrong places (“Every Man I Fall For").
Willett’s previously admitted some of the characters were loosely based on people in his life, but that’s as personal as it got.
This time, though, Willett himself is the character whose story is in the songs.