Very pleased to say that my new record NEW RIVER is OUT NOW on the great Don Giovanni Records November 11 (order digital or vinyl).

The album was recorded in spring 2021 at Atomic Garden in Oakland with drummer Ara Babajian (the Slackers) and bassist Frank Piegaro (Worriers); with generous help from friends including Jeff Rosenstock and Mike Huguenor (Death Rosenstock), Deanna Belos (Sincere Engineer), Lauren Denitzio (Worriers), Peter Hess (Philip Glass Ensemble), Steve Selvidge (The Hold Steady), and Todd Beene (Lucero, Chuck Ragan).

The album artwork was by David Espinoza Alvarez, and the video for “New River” was directed by Diana Morales, both of Mexico.

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 named it one of their “Best Music Books of 2021,” saying “Finally, the great indie-rock novel…like Dostoyevsky in a DIY punk space.”

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.” Author Jeff Jackson called it “an exceptional rock novel.”

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


Delighted to hear that Someone Should Pay For Your Pain is on the syllabus for what looks like a great class called “Rock Is Lit,” on rock novels, at East Tennesse State University.

I did score and sound design for this new short film from choreographer Alison Chase and director Derek Dudek.


Every year I like to compile an Audio Yearbook of music that, for whatever reason, stuck in my ear. They’re getting bigger as music gets easier to check out, for good or ill; and I get that it’s a bit anachronistic to share a zip file of mp3s, but of course not everything is on streaming. (Here is a Spotify playlist, missing that handful of tracks.) Best on shuffle!

I did a long interview with the Keyboard Chronicles podcast; so cool to have one for/about keyboard players. 


I played a bunch of accordion on Jeff Rosenstock’s score for the “Craig of the Creek” movie Craig Before The Creek, which is out today on streaming services!

I realized I haven’t properly mentioned a couple other excellent records I played on which came out this year: Worriers Trust Your Gut, Sincere Engineer Cheap Grills, and Billy Liar Crisis Actor—check ’em out.



Very excited to be back in the UK in March, with special guest the legendary Aaron Cometbus. Aaron is one of the most quietly influential writers of his generation, and doesn’t often do this sort of thing, so I think these shows will be really unique and memorable.

March 13 @ Cobblestones, Bridgewater

March 14 @ The Cavern, Exeter

March 15 @ The Pump, Trowbridge

March 16 @ Redrum, Stafford

March 17 @ Bar 4, Bolton

March 18 @ Mono, Glasgow (w/ Aaron Cometbus)

March 19 @ Rad Apples, Dundee (w/ Aaron Cometbus)

March 20 @ Little Buildings, Newcastle (w/ Aaron Cometbus)

March 21 @ Adelphi, Hull (w/ Aaron Cometbus)

March 22 @ The Tin Music & Arts, Coventry (w/ Aaron Cometbus)

March 23 @ Le Pub, Newport (w/ Aaron Cometbus)

March 24 @ Future Doughnuts, Bristol (w/ Aaron Cometbus)

March 25 @ Signature Brew E8, London (w/ Aaron Cometbus)


The ninth Hold Steady album, The Price of Progress, will be out March 31, as part of our 20th anniversary year. You can pre-order and listen to the first two singles here.


Every year I like to compile an Audio Yearbook of music that, for whatever reason, stuck in my ear. It feels anachronistic to share a folder of mp3s in 2022, but, after all, neither all the people nor all these songs are on streaming. This fifteenth edition is the biggest one yet—in no particular order, best on shuffle…

My new album New River is out in the world, and I’ve done some press. I spoke to Twangville and Northern Transmissions, and the podcasts Left Of The Dial (thanks Andrea for including it on her faves of the year) and In Defense Of Ska. Shows upcoming in Catskill, Philly, Boston, and Manchester.

Maria and I will be doing some events sponsored by the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities in Tulsa Jan. 18-22, including “Music From Free Ukraine: A Musical Salon” on Jan. 20, moderated by the acclaimed poet and translator Boris Dralyuk.


I contributed to the anthology Punks Listen—now available for pre-order—in which musicians write about a record that was significant to them. It was organized by the Dublin-based Hope Collective as a Ukraine benefit, and includes writing by Henry Rollins, Nels Cline, Dick Lucas, Amanda Palmer, and many many others. If I recall correctly I wrote a piece of short fiction “about” Thelonius Monk.

The World/Inferno legacy project and Jack Terricloth Foundation is putting on a whole weekend of Hallowmas activities; one of them is a Mischief Night Sinfonietta concert of chamber orchestra arrangements of World/Inferno music at the Society for Ethical Culture in Manhattan on Sunday, October 30—I’ve written a couple of the arrangements.


Very pleased to say I’ll be performing as vocalist for Rzewski’s “Coming Together” and “Attica” with the Talujon percussion ensemble Sept. 30 at the DiMenna Center’s Cary Hall; along with a new setting of Ilya Kaminsky’s “We Lived Happily During The War” and other works.


In the summer of 2020, I played keyboards and harmonica on the “exquisite corpse”-style recording project—spearheaded by Milemarker’s Dave Laney and including Peter Hess, Rachel Hirsh (I Was Totally Destroying It), H.C. McEntire (Mount Moriah), and John Crouch (Auxes)—now out on File 13 Records as the Crushed Ice album Nights & Weekends.


On Saturday, April 16, Maria Sonevytsky and I will be participating in New York Theatre Artists For Ukraine, a 12-hour online marathon of performance, readings, and conversations with 24 New York arts institutions, including PEN America, HERE Arts Center, BAM, St. Ann’s, The Public Theatre, La Mama, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and more; with appearances by Robert Wilson, Tony Kushner, Bill T. Jones, and many others. The National Public Broadcasting Station of Ukraine will live-streaming the event in Ukraine.​ Maria & I will be performing as part of the PS21 cohort between noon and 12:30 EST.


Band Together is a new benefit comp for the charity Razom for Ukraine, featuring new Ted Leo, great Ukrainian bands, and a previously-unreleased World/Inferno recording from 2005—live in the Fearless Music studios at the peak of our powers.


I wrote about the Ukrainian music scene in wartime for SPIN.

The American Musicological Society’s Musicology Now blog is publishing a rolling “Collaborative Portrait Gallery” of music from Ukraine, and I contributed an entry.

I had a fun talk with musicologist Lily Hirsch about her book “Weird Al, Seriously” for New Books Network (wherever you get podcasts).


Here’s the fourteenth edition of my Audio Yearbook, a running collection I keep of music—new, new-to-me, or rediscovered—that stuck in my ear this year. This is the biggest one I’ve ever done! What can I say, I listened to a lot of music this year. It felt really good. In no particular order, best on shuffle.


I wrote about Jack for the new Threepenny Review.

My conversation with novelist Adam Wilson is online here.


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.