MICAH P. Hinson had been expecting to bring his Roman band with him to promote his new album Micah P Hinson Presents The Holy Strangers in York on Sunday and Leeds on Tuesday.

It hasn't quite worked our that way. "I did have a Roman band I'd been playing with for a while and they knew the tour was happening, but regretfully they pulled out a few weeks ago," says the Memphis singer-songwriter.

"Then I was going to have the viola and violin player from the band... but the violin player's father has died, so that won't happening either."

Micah will take it all in his stride at The Crescent Community Venue. "I'm a singer-songwriter, so I'm happy with playing alone," he says. "I love it more than anything; I can get close to the Great Eyeball in the Sky: that's another name for God. We have this beautiful relationship."

Playing solo gives Micah, 36, freedom "on a spiritual level". "The way I write my lyrics, the pronouns are very interchangeable, so I can change a song in that moment," he says. "I can change the momentum and meaning of a song and that really reflects life, where nothing is concrete."

Describing his new album as a modern folk opera, Hinson's latest songs tell the story of a wartime family, going from birth to love, to marriage and children, to war and betrayal, murder to suicide, spanning all of the strange and glorious places life can lead.

Two years in the making, Micah wrote and recorded The Holy Strangers in Denison, Texas, incorporating ancient reel to reels, analogue keyboards and old Tascam and Yamaha desks. The recording only entered the digital realm once pre-mastering took place.

York Press:

"We're living in times where our belief systems should not be so concrete," says Micah P Hinson

Micah was so prolific that he wrote not only enough songs to fill two albums – the second volume will be out in the New Year – but an accompanying book too. "There are two and a half hours' music in total," says Micah. No wonder he calls it a modern folk opera. "It's not just about war, it's about humanity and humanity is folk."

Recording The Holy Strangers, Micah worked with a smaller core of musicians than previously. "It was the smallest group I've played with on a record, five or six, whereas Micah P Hinson And The Gospel Of Progress in 2004 had 12," he recalls. ""For this one, the cello was added in London; the viola and violin in Rome."

Making The Holy Strangers felt "more like something that was put on me," says Micah. "I knew I had to write a record; I had these songs but then I thought, 'I need a story to build it around'."

He settled on his story addressing war, morality and betrayal. "A couple of times I got very depressed making this record," he reveals. "I felt like I was living with this family in the story, and I think we're living in times where our belief systems should not be so concrete.

"We should get together in our similarieties and talk about the things we don't agree on."

The creative process became all-consuming. "There were times when I had to step away from it and then go back to it, but those breaks didn't help my mental capacity because I kept thinking about the record," says Micah.

"I even had to tell my wife to hide as I didn't trust myself. I felt that I needed to tell the story; it had to be told and no matter what I went through, it would be told as a I felt a calling to make it.

York Press:

"It's not just about war, it's about humanity and humanity is folk," says Micah, discussing the new album he calls a "modern folk opera"

"It was very difficult but now I'm on the other side and the reviews have been great and it's good to be talking about the music."

Music that goes to the dark side. "I look at modern music, especially pop music, and I couldn't imagine writing a song about dancing or happiness," says Micah. "In fact I envy them when they sing 'I am a tiger', but I couldn't do that.

"On the one hand, songs about being happy are going to make more money because that's escapism, but [on the other], the artists who interest me are the ones who take on the responsibility of going into places that normal humanity doesn't go into, and that's what we learn from.

"It sucks to be a conduit, but the point for me is to create art, and whatever art is put on me, I have to create it."

Micah is keen to put one misconception to bed, however. "People presume that an artist who talks about pain must have a life full of pain, but I have two kinds of life," he says.

"I have a job making and playing music, but I'm not living a miserable life. People see me smiling and they think, 'Oh, he's smiling; I thought he was miserable', but of course I smile."

Please Please You presents Micah P Hinson, supported by L.A. Salami and Luke Saxton, The Crescent Community Venue, York, Sunday, 7.30pm Tickets: £15 from The Crescent, Jumbo Records in Leeds or at pleasepleaseyou.com. Hinson also plays Leeds Brudenell Social Club on Tuesday; seetickets.com