My second book (and first novel) Someone Should Pay For Your Pain is OUT NOW on Gibson House Press.

You can buy a signed copy from me here.

Buzzfeed put it on a list of “great books to read this spring” and called it “a knockout fiction debut.” Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield tweeted, “Remember buying a novel at an actual bookstore & taking it home & starting it, then you can’t stop & you’re up till 3 a.m. plowing through it? Thanks to the great Franz Nicolay for writing That Novel. A punk rock tale like no other.” UPROXX’s Steven Hyden called it “an essential addition to the canon of literature about rock musicians…Laugh out loud funny and sneaky sad.” Razorcake said “Nicolay’s pitch-perfect observations make his story intriguing and all too true, zooming by like trees on the side of the highway.” Chronogram wrote that it was “punchy and wise…brutally funny and heartfelt.” Jewish Currents editor Nathan Goldman selected it for their Shabbat Reading List, saying it’s “simultaneously suffused with the glamour of music and attuned to the self-deception that glamour enables.”

Here is some other press. I also spoke to the Dying Scene, Punknews, Spectrum Culture, and New Books Network podcasts; as well as WGXC radio. I had a lively talk with Dan Ozzi on his REPLY ALT podcast, and he wrote: “The kindest praise I believe a writer can give another about their work is: I wish I’d written this. About 100 pages into Franz Nicolay’s debut novel, Someone Should Pay for Your Pain, that thought hit me like a baseball bat. God, even that title fills me with envy….bleak, beautiful, authentic, sweet, and sobering. I can’t recommend this book enough for Rockers Of a Certain Age.”


Here is what some other people I respect a lot had to say about it:

Wise, brutal and funny, Someone Should Pay for Your Pain is a bruising and beautiful glimpse of the endless tour of broken dreams some of us call life. But as Franz Nicolay shows in this stunning fiction debut, there is still hope. You just might have to fight yourself for it.” —Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask

“I love this for novel for its sensitivity to the tenderness and absurdity of human after human, city after city, year after year. “Someone Should Pay for Your Pain” is a marvel, and when I finished it, my first emotion was to return to the opening pages and read it all over again.” —Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances

If you’ve been waiting for the great rock and roll novel look no further. Franz Nicolay’s Someone Should Pay for Your Pain smashes Don Delillo’s Great Jones Street against a chaste Lolita. Nicolay’s book focuses on the illusion of stardom and the reality that most musicians play mainly in dingy clubs to sparse if passionate fans. Rudy, the book’s hero, lays down insights into art making as well as the wide variety of hangovers all the while moving fitfully toward a great dilation of care.” —Darcey Steinke, author of Suicide Blonde

Someone Should Pay For Your Pain is a poignant and powerfully honest meditation on aging, art-making, and failure. With a sharp ear and an unsparing eye, Franz Nicolay has reinvented the road novel, stripping it of wide-eyed, Kerouac-ian grandeur to expose the frozen landscapes—both external and internal—that are part and parcel of a rootless existence. It’s a book that will haunt me for a long time to come.” —Adam Wilson, author of Sensation Machines

“Nicolay’s ear goes beyond music. There is confidence and grace in these pages, characters that feel pulled from daily life, none of their rough edges sanded down. A debut novel not just for artists, but anyone who’s ever felt like they’ve grown up and distorted, uncomfortable moving through the world.” —Jean Kyoung Frazier, author of Pizza Girl

“The life of an artist is really about giving. That’s especially so for the musician. You give all of yourself to your art and it’s likely you won’t get much back in return. It’s a tough world, but few can write about it as beautifully as Franz Nicolay. With Someone Should Pay for Your Pain, Nicolay gives us the sort of fully-realized, there’s no going back kind of story that’s hauntingly reminiscent of something between Denis Johnson and Nick Hornby, but filtered through the lens of somebody who has actually gotten in the van.” —Jason Diamond, author of The Sprawl

“Rudy Pauver is a middle-aged musician with mid-level talent, still out there on the road, still grinding, still trying, but he’s not quite sure why. In this beautifully and brutally honest novel, Franz Nicolay challenges our romantic notions of freedom and the working artist’s life. He crafts a story that any reader, mired in the daily disappointments of what their life was supposed to have been, can embrace.” —Cari Luna, author of The Revolution of Every Day

“Franz Nicolay’s poetic takedown of a musician’s extended adolescence goes down smoother than a drink ticket beer. Read it before you get in the van.” —Chris L. Terry, author of Black Card


I wrote about Jack for the new Threepenny Review.


I spoke to The New Yorker’s Kelefa Sanneh about his new book Major Labels, for the New Books Network podcast.


Pitchfork has named The Hold Steady one of the “200 Most Important Artists” of their 25-year history.


The new Sincere Engineer record Bless My Psyche is out today. I got to play a lot of keys on this, which was a real highlight of the pandemic summer last year. Great songs. (Here is Deanna being nice back.)


I’m on the new episode of the Slate podcast Decoder Ring, talking to Willa Paskin about whatever happened to “selling out” (drawing on this article I wrote for them in 2017 about the development of the phrase in its pejorative sense in this country, and how it came to be applied to musicians).


I spoke to GQ about whether I think a reappraisal of Sublime is in order (spoiler: I do not).


Ray Padgett asked if I’d write a guest post about seeing Bob Dylan live for his newsletter.


Billboard decided that “Stuck Between Stations” had one of the best bridges of the 21st century (#27, to be exact).

I was part of a UCSB roundtable on “Sustaining Music and Musicians in the Age of Streaming” with Jean Cook, Eamon Fogarty, Regan Sommer McCoy, and Greg Saunier, archived here.


I’m in a new episode of the syndicated travel show Raw Travel; also featuring Anti-Flag and DakhaBrakha. Here’s the trailer; to see the full episode check your local listings.

Sincere Engineer’s new record Bless My Psyche will be out on Hopeless Records in September. I played a bunch of keyboards on it and they’ve released several songs already; check them out and pre-order here.

Jocelyn Mackenzie’s PUSH is out now on Righteous Babe; I wrote some string arrangements and sang on one tune.

I guested on Jeff Rosenstock’s surprise release SKA DREAM; got to share a track with the great Angelo Moore!


I had a great chat with Willy Vlautin for the launch of his new novel, The Night Always Comes, hosted by POWERHOUSE Arena.


The new Hold Steady record, Open Door Policy, is out now. It debuted at #6 on Billboard’s album charts (#2 rock record behind Foo Fighters), our first top ten. We played “Family Farm” on Late Night with Seth Meyers, and a short set on NPR Live.


I wrote about Alex Ross’s Wagnerism for Slate.


Good morning! My second book and first novel SOMEONE SHOULD PAY FOR YOUR PAIN is coming in spring 2021 on Gibson House Press. PRE-ORDERS HERE or wherever you buy your books.

It’ll be followed in 2022 by BAND PEOPLE, a non-fiction study of the working and creative lives of musicians, on the American Music series at University of Texas Press. More info soon…


I wrote about Randy Newman for Vol. 4 of Hyped On Melancholy (“smart words about sad songs”).


I wrote about Glenn Gould’s radio documentaries and the fantasy of solitude for Moistworks.