Today’s Feature – October 2-3: Matt Nathanson

October 6, 2008 at 12:01 am (Today's Feature)

It was just earlier this summer that the boys of PEV found themselves taking the short trip down into Washington, DC for a night at the 9:30 Club with mega act, Lifehouse. As excited as we were to sit down with the California-based rockers, we couldn’t help but notice our luck when we realized who the opening act would be: Current “VH1 You Oughta Know Artist on the Rise, ” Mr. Matt Nathanson.

Of course we sat in on his performance, muttering to each other how we had to feature the musician, when we weren’t listening… or cracking up. Nathanson is hilarious – a genuinely talented, funny and good guy – an artist who you can’t help but support after seeing him live. He was on stage professing his man love for Hulk Hogan for God’s sake! Clearly the definition of the independent artist today, Matt did give the major label angle a look once. After headlining shows and opening for the likes of Tori Amos, John Mayer, Pink, Guster and OAR, he released “Beneath These Fireworks,” a collection that ended up being a real eye opener for the usually self-financed artist. It was then that he decided it was best to return to one of his true strengths, the live show, producing the solo acoustic live album, “At the Point.”

Nathanson has kept this focus, and today, fans everywhere can’t stop talking about the latest record, “Some Mad Hope.” You’ve heard the songs; tunes such as “Car Crash” and “Come On Get Higher.” With some of his best songwriting and attention to detail yet, Nathanson spent two and half years perfecting this collection. I would go into my analysis of the music, but boy, do I like how Matt puts it: “In some ways, I think this is a really mature record, but I don’t think it’s necessarily one that says ‘okay, I’m an adult now… I don’t think you need to stay stuck in perpetual adolescence, but you do need to keep part of you frozen — so you don’t lose touch with the wonderment of seeing the world the way you did at 17.” An excellent point. He’ll be on tour through out the Fall supporting the album, so by all means catch a show! I know that’s what we here at PEV plan on doing. Get into the XXQ’s for a whole lot more.

XXQs: Matt Nathanson

PensEyeView.com (Richie): Hey Matt, how are you? Thanks for taking time with me today.

Matt Nathanson (MN): I’m doing good man. Thanks for doing this.

Richie: Where did I catch you right now?

MN: I’m home – for a week – and then heading out on tour on Saturday.

Richie: Where’s home for you now?

MN: San Francisco.

Richie: You left Boston for San Francisco in the 90s right?

MN: Yeah, I went to college in Southern California and then moved out there afterwards.

Richie: I know it sounds cheesy to say “east coast – west coast” but what is the main difference you’ve found in the scenes on each?

MN: There is less of a difference now. When I moved out here I did a lot of touring in the Northeast – there was a huge support for the singer/songwriter scene. It wasn’t necessarily happening here. Especially in San Francisco, it was like dark really kind of cool singer songwriters, and in LA there was this really like cool vibe. In the Northeast there was Dave Matthews, and guys like that… More of like what I was doing. I wasn’t into the dark sunglasses thing. These days everyone everywhere likes everything, so it’s good.

Richie: What’s it like when you get to go back home and play?

MN: Boston is always the shit actually. Boston is like embedded in my DNA or something. Even when I’m there and I turn the radio on, the music is better. I am never at a loss there. Boston feels very much like walking back into who I am.

Richie: Growing up, what kind of music were you into?

MN: Hair metal mainly. Poison, Def Leopard, Bon Jovi… Led Zeppelin was like my bridge into music where guys who don’t stuff their pants with cucumbers (laughs). U2 was kind of my bridge too. REM, Sinead O’Connor, Indigo Girls, all those kinds of things started popping open. Then I went to college and got into Bob Dylan. Growing up, I was very one-dimensional.

Richie: What was it like the first time you stepped on stage to play by yourself?

MN: That was actually in New Hampshire.  I played a three hour gig at a restaurant. It was fun. I always had bands, like in 6th and 7th grade, like in talent shows. But playing solo was more my thing. The songs just stripped down when they are just vocals and a guitar, is just so real.

Richie: I saw you play live a couple of months back in DC with Lifehouse and you were fantastic. Especially when morphing of a song into “Jesse’s Girl” – which was pretty funny. So, what can fans expect from a live Matt Nathanson show?

MN: I feel like I am always putting on a party and I feel like I’m the host. I try to break down the wall between the band and the audience. I am very much on stage like who I am at all times. When the fans are better the band plays better. It’s about trying foster the feeling of ‘yeah these songs are very emotional’ but  in between it’s like, ‘Hey, how you guys doing?… Anyone watch Gossip Girl?’

I will mix in “Jesse’s Girl” or “Take On Me” and like do “Thunder Road”. Always have a good time. It’s not just you watching a band.

Richie: My favorite part was when you dedicated a song to your romance with Hulk Hogan (laughs).

MN: I loooooove Hulk Hogan!

Richie: Has there been any crazy live stories?

MN: Yeah, there’s always wild shit. My brain is not where it should be so I can’t remember everything… but like my pants ripped open one time on stage. There’s always fun stuff. Touring is just hilarious – like a clown car in a circus, we all just pile in. Tours are an unreal situation. Not wild in the 80s where like a limo pulls up with 20 naked people but still wild, you know.

Richie: So, what’s life on the road like for you now?

MN: Well, this tour we will be in a bus, which is a lot better than driving around in some abandoned trailer. But life on tour is pretty much like… I’ll bring my bike and drive around for a while, see what’s going on. Because a lot of times touring is like “get there-sound check-play-back on the road-sleep-wake up”… But this time I’m actually going to be able to do stuff, I’m psyched about it.

Richie: What can fans expect from your hit album “Some Mad Hope”?

MN: I think it’s a pretty great record. Not great like “Let It Be” (nothing is) but I feel like every song matters. I mean, of course it matters to me – it’s my fuckin’ record (Richie laughs) but sometime you’ll go back and be like “ooh –ahh – jeez!” With this album I feel like every song has this purpose to me. I’m pretty proud of this. Before someone would ask, ‘Well, what’s your music like?’ and I’d say, ‘You gotta come see it live! You gotta come see it live!’ But here I feel really confident when I hand a record over. It’s good to have a record that represents how I think music should be.

Richie: I love the album and it’s great to see songs like “Car Crash”, “Come On Get Higher”, “All We Are” and others get radio play. What’s it like to hear your song on the radio for the first time?

MN: It’s pretty wild. Sometimes it can be mad though. It depends what kind of mood you’re in. You’ll hear it and be like ‘ughh’ or whatever. But then sometimes you’ll be like, ‘My fucking song is on the radio!’ Even like when it’s so far away from where it was made. It’s great to hear it on a TV show or a late night show – like Conan O’Brien and stuff. That shit never gets unfun man. It’s funny, I’ve been playing music for so long, that I’ve given up the idea that I’m going to be hugely successful. When you’re a kid you’re like, I’m going to be the next Pearl Jam or I’m going to be the next Radio Head. I’ve given up on that idea and it’s allowed me to let go. I think the music has become better because of it.

Richie: Do you have to be in a certain zone when write you music?

MN: No, songs have been coming at different times and places now. It’s back to that “letting go” part – once they come, you have to just step aside and let it happen. I mean, I’ll be on tour, like taking a shit or whatever… Or you’ll be at home and pick up a guitar when I wake up.  It just happens and lately I’ve just been getting out of its way and allowing it.

Richie: Is there someone out today that you would like to collaborate with?

MN: Oh man, there are a million people… I’m surrounded by so many people nowadays. Like my friend Ingrid Michelson, she and I have been writing songs together. There are always people I’d like to collaborate with. Again, that’s stuff like… there are tons of those people… I don’t know how to answer that though. It’s just like timing and connecting with people around you. It’s kind of like sex! You are like, ‘I’d love to f—kin have sex with that person!’ (laughs) You know, it’s like I’d love to write with THAT person. It just happens when it happens. It’s having that chemistry at that moment – ‘Let’s write a song – let’s f—k!’ (Matt laughs – Richie is cracking up).

Richie: I ask that because we did a feature on OAR and Marc Roberge was telling me how you write with him.

MN: Yeah man, I mean Marc and I are best friends. He’s great to write with. It is usually around the time of an OAR record. He and I and friend Mark Weinberg, co-wrote three songs for the OAR record. Being with Marc it is always fun. He’s my boy, so it’s easy to say ‘this sucks or this is good’.

Richie: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about you?

MN: Oh my God… Something surprising about me… F—k! Well, I’m terrified of dancing.

Richie: Like, any kind of dancing?

MN: Yeah. I was in the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art – in New York) and there was this video projection on the wall of this woman doing interpretive dance and I got so unbelievably uncomfortable watching this woman dance. I felt like if I was with my friends I’d be like ‘How f—kin’ stupid is this?’ I was watching this woman dance and was thinking ‘I really have to explore this part of myself because it is so unnerving to watch this woman dance’. And the way they did it, it was an art piece, so it was real over the top. And to be a musician and like rhythm so much, I was just f—kin’ not into that. If I was ever a star enough to be on “Dancing With The Stars” I’d be like f—king punching people! (Both laugh).

Richie: So what’s next for you?

MN: Well, it’s strange because this record is just now starting to take off – a year after it’s been out. So I’m afraid that there will be more promoting and more stuff for this record. But I want to make another record, you know. The tour is going to be fun. It’s going to keep moving – it’s a constant evolving process, which the best part about it. The next record will be even more different and evolved from this. For me, it’s just like ever sort of a rolling picture. I used to think ‘Ok, I’ll sell a million records’ but it’s not about that anymore. It’s about ‘How can I evolve?’ You know, how am I going to write the next “Boys of Summer” or “Burning Down the House”? I am always like kind of right there but music always blows my mind that it’s like ‘How do I get closer to writing a record like that?’

Richie: Well Matt, thanks for the taking the time. We are all big fans and really pulling for you.

MN: You’re the man, thanks a lot Richie. I’ll see you soon.

For more information on Matt Nathanson, check out: www.MattNathanson.com

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