After recording home demos in 2004 and 2005 under the project name “National Steel,” Michael Hattem put together a live version of the band that played shows in NY/NJ throughout 2005. Anhedonia was the first album proper by National Steel and was self-released in the Spring of 2006. Hattem spent a year recording and then mixing the record. The record mixed his Americana songwriting with instrumentation and arrangements derived from his love for mid-60s pop and indie rock. The result was simple, rootsy, acoustic-based songs with a literary lyrical sense dressed up with B3 organs, Mellotrons, horns, strings, synthesizers, and other electronic instruments. With mixing and mastering finished in early 2006, Anhedonia includes Rich Stillwell playing bass on all tracks and Ryan Townsend playing lead guitar on two tracks, both members of the original live act.
Hattem immediately began work on the follow-up to Anhedonia in the summer of 2006. The record—eventually titled Anomie—featured ten songs without much of the electronics and studio effects that marked the production of Anhedonia.
Hattem began a third National Steel record in late 2007 but, after the birth of a second son and a return to college, the project was shelved. What remained in the vault were 18 tracks which were almost fully tracked except for lead vocals, with, as per usual, all of the lyrics remaining to be written at the end.
Upon graduating from the City College of New York in 2011, Hattem went on to complete a PhD in History at Yale University. In the spring of 2018, the original tracks for the third record were recovered from old project files through a laborious and tedious process and Hattem set about finishing the record that had been shelved for near ten years. After more than six months’ work that involved finishing tracking, writing all the lyrics, doing final vocal takes, writing and recording two new songs, mixing, and mastering, the record, entitled Threnody, was released in the fall of 2018. It was quickly followed by National Steel’s fourth record, Hiraeth, which, released in the spring of 2019, contained a combination of new and older songs all recorded during the winter of 2018-19. In August 2020, he released the fifth National Steel record, a quarantine-and-protest-themed EP entitled Anemoia.