Interview by Meghan Killimade
It's a combination of things, as always. The Red Rose was a place in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. A coffee shop by day and a music venue by night, with a side room that housed an entire record shop. Because of my friends, the Can Kickers, I was able to experience it for two days while tagging along on their first American tour in 2002. It was a beautiful brick, art-deco kind of building, that was originally a creamery. A local favorite for the residents there. Anyway, after I had learned that it had been torn down, the song idea came from that, but I integrated memories of my old personal favorite coffee shop haunt, the Green Marble, which is also gone now. Quick shoutout, it's now the Lamplighter, owned and run by two of my best friends, James Maple and Nicole Anderson, located right next to Mystic Disc in Peacock Alley. Just dropping that in there, thank ya very much (said in an Elvis voice)!
In 2022, you released the single “Clear The Slate” – it has a definite 80’s vibe – I’m hearing some Cure and Depeche Mode influence. What’s the song about and what was the inspiration behind it?
Well, I like Depeche Mode and the Cure is one of my favorite bands. So no surprise there! I wear my influences on my sleeve. I was definitely going for that early-80s sound, LinnDrum and all. Lyrically, it's completely autobiographical. It's me admitting to my guilt for having been an arrogant, not-so-great person, but believing at the time that I was just "oh-so great". But I was a smarmy bastard, and I've been resentful of myself for years now. I guess that song was my way of helping to let go of that sort of self-hatred....admitting to my faults, apologizing for them, admitting that I'll always be a nutcase, but am always willing and wanting to start anew, as a person. And I have done that many times over and continue to do so. But the person I was back then is long gone now.
I'll just put it this way...it's a real pain in the keister. Once I form the arrangement in my head, and I begin recording, I record a scratch rhythm guitar to a click track. Then I use that to play the drums with. From there, I stack everything on....all of the guitars, bass, vocals, synths and such. It's both fun and a complete fiasco at the same time. I swear out loud to myself a lot. I mean a LOT. I demand perfection from myself, but always get to the point where "good enough" will have to do, and that I can't make it any better because I'm simply NOT perfect. I love imperfections in music anyway. Room sound, outside noises....I keep it all in the recordings when they are present. Happy accidents, they are called. Makes it more natural and human.
You have a number of music releases spanning over the last 20+ years – what release, (or song), best represents who you are as a songwriter or that you are proudest of?
I'm mostly only proud of what I have been doing from 2020, onward, or at least lyrically. Everything before was not really me. I was only throwing words together, and they were not always honest. I cringe whenever I go back to listen to them. Everything I write now is purely me venting, expressing emotion, sharing thoughts and memories, etc. I've taken the more honest and transparent approach to lyrics, as well as in my everyday life, for whatever it's worth. I don't consider myself a good lyricist anyway, and am not a great communicator in general. But I try, and have been trying harder lately. I'm gaining more confidence in myself, I suppose.
What are your top 5 favorite albums of all time?
You're killing me here. Okay, let's see....
That's way too difficult to answer, but those are the five that came to mind, just going through the mental Rolodex very quickly.
If you could bring back one local band that doesn’t exist anymore – who would it be and why?
I'll say Low Beam. I like CJ's songs a lot, and the band as a unit. It helps that they're all fun people and good friends. And "Tuffy Rhodes" is just a banger.
Any memorable local shows you've played or attended over the years?
I've been a very vocal fan of Karmella's Game, from Baltimore, since about 2004. So being asked to open for them at the Oasis in 2007 was a real honor for me.
What is one thing that not many people know about you?
I have a huge fear of swimming pool drains. No joke. Especially those square rusted grate ones from the '80s. *shiver* Just lurking down at the deep end, all ominous. Weird phobia. So don't invite me to your pool party!
Any favorite local haunts/venues/businesses you want to shout out?
I only hang out in two places anymore: my bedroom and the German Club. So I'll shout those out! But I'll give deserved props to the Lamplighter, Mystic Disc, Dutch Tavern and the Telegraph. I may not visit them often enough, but they are all great establishments.
Well, I recently finished an album that I started in 2010 - the last three songs are a part of it, "Great Divide", "Clear The Slate" and "Red Rose Waltz". I know, I work fast these days. Since about 2011, I've been wanting to create an album of songs about things that are very personal to me and everyone. Family, friends, love, loss, regrets, grief....personal stuff, ya know. I think it took a long time for me to kind of grow, absorb it all, hone my thoughts and feelings, and finally be able to put it all into words. To me, this is the start of my best music, and I'm very interested and excited to see how people will react and interpret it in their own individual ways.
So that all has to be mixed and mastered at some point. Jason Banta handles all of that for me, but he's a very busy person with a lot of projects, so it'll take some time. But in the end, I'll have a CD that I'm gonna push as far as I possibly can. I'm not good with that sort of thing, but at this point in my life, I'll do whatever it takes. Even if I have to do some live performances, which I really don't enjoy doing. I just don't think I'm a good performer and am definitely not a singer! But beyond that, who knows. Any further projects will be done with other people, that's for sure. Playing and recording it all myself is not as fun as it used to be. I'd also love to get back into writing more instrumentals and ambient tracks. No hassle of writing lyrics and having to try to sing them! Haha. I have a bunch I made in high school that I should go back to some time and re-work. I've always wanted to make an instrumental album. We shall see.
Anything else you want to include or wish we asked?
These days, I don't want to draw any attention to myself, so this is already embarrassing enough! But only in the sense of knowing that someone is gonna see this and say "WHO CARES". But I'm neurotic, so whatever. I guess I can add that I appreciate being asked to do this and also very much appreciate anyone who sees this and/or enjoys my songs or....um...."art". So thank you, kindly! Matty out.