Michael Juan Nunez knows a thing or two about the blues.
The lead guitarist and singer, who was born in Lafayette and now calls Erath home, will perform at 4:30 p.m. Sunday on the Front Porch stage at the Baton Rouge Blues Festival.
This week, Nunez released his fourth album, “Rise.” It’s his first album since 2012’s “My Little Train Wreck.”
“We hadn’t even got (‘My Little Train Wreck’) in, and I started recording the follow-up immediately,” Nunez said. “There was close to 40 songs, if not more, I had written for (‘Rise’).”
He wasn’t too happy with the way “My Little Train Wreck” turned out, either. This time around, he had to do things his way.
“I go back to ‘My Little Train Wreck,’ and I think that it was an album made for a certain crowd, and we were trying to do too much,” he said. “At my age, I’m not so concerned with what people think. I’m confident in my abilities. I’m doing this for me and for the people who love my music.”
In three years’ time, Nunez admits there were personal ups and downs.
“The past three years have not been the best of my life,” he said. “Making this record was my salvation. There were times when I would fall apart and retreat to the studio. Then, I would get my peace of mind back and handle my business.”
All the 46-year-old needed was his guitar, his band and his producer, A.J. Dauphin.
“(Dauphin) has known me my entire life,” Nunez said. “He is like a father figure to me, and he has exquisite taste in music. When I was younger, he turned me on to Stevie Ray Vaughan and all those Austin cats. He would take me out to shows.”
“Rise” is the fourth collaboration between Dauphin and Nunez. Between each release, Nunez will record a demo then send it to Dauphin.
“(Dauphin) can tell me exactly what he feels,” Nunez said. “He’s not going to pull any punches. He’s my voice of reason.”
The 10 songs were a result of what the two felt were the best. On “Rise,” you’ll hear callbacks to Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” on the song “Come Into the Light.” Nunez and the band also rerecorded their song “Lemonade,” making it funkier after being inspired by R&B singer D’Angelo’s latest release, “Black Messiah.”
The album also features that deep, bluesy fuzz tone on songs like “Betta.” It’s as if Nunez’s guitar is roaring, as if he’s performing with a thunderbolt and trying to catch all its energy. Nunez credits that sound to an old Fender Tremolux amp he has used since he was a teen.
“When I started playing electric guitar, that was my first amp,” he said. “Through the years, I’ve maybe been through 20 amps. Everyone of them, I’d sell them, trade them and go back to that amp.”
That sound is what Nunez grew up hearing. When he was younger, he would listen to his sister’s collection of the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin albums. At the same time, his parents were jamming everything from Hank Williams to Slim Harpo.
“I remember distinctly one night, my friend and I were listening to Led Zeppelin, and ‘I Can’t Quit You’ came on,” Nunez said. “For some reason, earlier that day, I had heard Muddy Waters’ version. It dawned on me what these cats like the Stones and Zeppelin were doing. I started looking at the liner notes, researching all of that. I got stuck in this wormhole.”
That wormhole is a place he can’t escape. Throughout the past three years, he and his bandmates have grown together. All the while, he said, he has a radio playing melodies and blues sounds in his head. Music is not only his outlet, it’s his way of persevering.
“I’m not a person who talks about my business,” he said. “Being able to write and get it out through song helps deal with all that stuff.”
And you can bet he’s already got songs written for the next album.
“Oh Jesus Christ, yes,” he said, laughing after being asked if he’s recorded any new material. “I already have an acoustic record in the can for when the time comes.”
Follow Matthew Sigur on Twitter, @MatthewSigur.