Credit: James Morano

Michael Desmond, aka synth-pop artist Local Nomad, moved to Charleston six months ago from New York City, having made his way through the pandemic with a self-titled EP reminiscent of indie elaborations from Group Love or Young the Giant.

This year he’s had a steady stream of singles, including his most recent collaboration, “Lonely,” with pop trio The Shadowboxers. 

Desmond was at it with music before taking on the moniker Local Nomad two years ago, gaining experience as guitarist/vocalist in rock group Gabriel the Marine that opened for acts like Taking Back Sunday and Jack’s Mannequin in the early 2010s. 

“I used to write songs based purely on, ‘Oh man, I have an inspiration,’ and go with it and get super emo,” Desmond said. “But now I write from a place where I think a lot more about the lyrics and take the time to develop things. The most fun but annoying part of the songwriting is really dialing in the lyrics and making it clear what you’re saying. There’s this guy Ross Golan and on his podcast ‘And The Writer Is’ he says, ‘I don’t like writing songs I like having written songs.'”

His songwriting begins with an acoustic, bare bones focus that he builds out gradually, often with satirical narratives, yet he remains decidedly in the realm of indie pop. His cheerful compositions are often tethered to sad lyrics that deal with gritty realities, like “Snakechild,” which addresses drug abuse. 

“A big part of getting traction with your music is deciding where you want it to sit,” Desmond said. “You could write a song and put it into any genre — there’s a lot of open space. I made the conscious decision: I want my songs to go in this direction, to be mindfully produced in a certain way.” 

Although some of his favorite bands end up doing whatever the hell they want, like Beck or Tears For Fears or Foster the People. 

“I’m getting older so what I write about is different. If I’m not having fun, then what am I doing? I feel like we forget to have fun. I have a sense of humor and I like to use that now in songwriting more than ever. I am figuring out that balance and diving deeper.”