[images via google]
S: Can you tell me a little bit about how you started playing music?
MW: Well, I started playing music when I was 15 and grew up in a house where my mom would sing all the time and my family [sisters] thought it was cute for all of us to sing together. So we did that, and then when I was 15 I got a guitar and started playing along. I kind of taught myself how to play guitar, and then when I got to college I started writing songs and I kind of started singing again... I stopped singing when I was 12 or 13, took a few years off of singing. When I got to college I tried that again, and found my voice again. So yeah, that was it, and I got encouraged that people liked listening to my songs, and I just kept doing it, and here we are.
S: My friends want to know about your relationship with Dave Barnes... you guys are still friends?
MW: Yeah, so what happened was I had moved to Nashville, and when I was in college still, I stumbled on his website. He was still in college... actually, he was a year out of college, kind of working some odd jobs in Nashville and writing songs. He hadn't recorded anything yet officially, he had a couple of demos and I liked the way they sounded, I thought he wrote good songs and I liked his voice. So when I got to town I reached out to him and we got some tacos and started hanging out, and basically, I was like, "Hey man, I've been traveling around and playing a lot by myself, and it's not that fun... what if we did this together? What if we join up and I open for you, where you've got a fan base?" So we did that, and then that kind of initiated a friendship, even from us playing out... we would hang out, and I think we both kind of found somebody who was in a similar place in each other's careers, just starting out.
S: You guys do really well together musically!
MW: Yeah, there's a degree of mutual respect that is really fun and we are both fans of what each other does. That has been, especially early on, huge. I think that helped both of us because it told a better story than each one of us on our own. And it got to the point where we needed to separate from touring together because it was becoming a packaged deal, and it was like, Matt and Dave, Dave and Matt... so we had to kind of say, "No, we are separate artists." So we took a necessary break and then we did an official tour in 2007, where we shared a band and we switched off playing songs. It was so fun... it was a very unique thing. That was the Two Birds, One Stone tour. The Gabe Dixon band opened... it was just so sweet.
S: So I write, and I'm always interested in how the writing process works for other people... your latest album, Heatwave, has kind of an 80's vibe... did you aim for that?
MW: So you picked up on that totally unsolicited? That wasn't from any kind of press?
S: Oh no, I started listening to it, and by the first two songs... the second song on the album reminds me so much of Michael Jackson, Black or White.
MW: Yeah, the riff is so reminiscent of Black or White. I love 80's pop music, the singer-songwriters from that era... Kenny Loggins and Bryan Adams, and Richard Marx and Lionel Richie. I love the way that his record sounded, and the music that's really interesting to me now are all people who are incorporating 80's pop music into their modern thing. There are a bunch of people doing that, so it's fun.
S: Do you have any favorite songs off the album?
MW: Yes, I do... I love "Get To You", I love "Whenever You Love Somebody", I love "What I Know Right Now", and "Thing About Freedom". I mean, if I were to pick songs that would go on the Greatest Hits record, I feel like... "Get To You", "Whenever You Love Somebody", and maybe "What I Know Right Now".
S: Those would be my three, honestly. Those are the three I was hoping you would say because I love "Get To You", and the other ones, I really like how you wrote them, the lyrics of them specifically. Those would be my picks, to be honest. So overall, you've written a lot, you've done a lot, you've put a lot of things out there... do you have any overall favorite songs you've done, or albums?
MW: Yeah, you know, I think the record that I feel like has been the one that is impossible to recreate, there was was so much that lined up... is 23 Places. That record happened in a time where I had just moved to Nashville, it was actually probably nine months into me moving to Nashville. Dave and I were hanging out all the time, and Ed Cash, that was who produced it, it was the first record he and I had done together, and I was like, I'm a huge fan of him and so stoked to be working with him. And Dave would just hang around and throw his two cents in.
S: That's probably good, having his two cents!
MW: It was great, he has excellent instincts. So that record, by the time we had gone to record [it], there were a lot of songs that had just been stockpiling, me writing and playing. So there were several songs like "Counting to 100" and "Red Meets Blue"... those two for sure were already anticipated songs. I had been playing them and I knew, "Okay, if nothing else, people are going to buy this record because those two songs are on there." And then, I have to give it to Ed and Dave, they just have an ear for songs and were able to hear them in raw form and bring them to life. "Wesley Why" is on that record, and Ed heard what that song could be. It was just a really unique time and I feel like at that point I didn't have much of an audience, so there wasn't really pressure, and I wasn't thinking about who was listening to it. After that record, I felt like... Everything In Between, there was a lot more pressure to make that one, because I knew people were waiting for it. And I really hadn't been writing much, I had been touring constantly for 23 Places, so I decided to make that record not because I had all these extra songs to record... it was because it was just time. It had been a year and a half and I knew that by the time the record was done it was going to be two and a half years or whatever, and it ended up being longer. But that record turned out awesome too. I think the While We're Becoming EP is something I'm really proud of. If I'm putting the two things up that I'm most proud of, it would be 23 Places and my Christmas album.
S: Really? So funny... Christmas albums are something I feel like people kind of just throw in there, but your album turned out really good.
MW: I didn't want to half-ass it, I feel like a lot of people do that. I don't want to put anything out there that hasn't been thoroughly considered and thought out, so we did due diligence on that record, and I love it.
S: What have you been listening to? I know you said a lot of 80's...
MW: Yep... the most recent: St. Lucia, I like HAIM, I like Tegan and Sara...
S: Oh, they're so good!
MW: Are you a Tegan and Sara fan? Do you like the new record? Were you a fan of them before?
MW: So you were okay with the transition?
S: Yeah, I was okay with it. And I thought I wouldn't be, honestly, because I'm picky. I like their old sound, you know, it's so original. When they came out with the new stuff, I was very skeptical but I do like it. It's really great.
MW: Yeah, it's really good! I like a couple of Sky Ferreira songs, the record isn't really my thing but there's a song called "I Blame Myself" on there, it's amazing. There's this producer Dev Hynes, and his project's called Blood Orange, and I like the stuff that he's doing... and he produced Solange Knowles' stuff, and I like that. I basically like anything that's got a really great pop melody that has some tinges of 80's stuff to it. That's what I'm currently geeking out about.
S: Yeah! I like that I know half of the people you said, that's good stuff.
MW: Churches... do you know Churches?
S: I've heard a little bit! Not extensively.
MW: It's mostly women right now... the St. Lucia thing... I love that M83 record too, that thing is still awesome. And I love Bon Iver, those two records were incredible. I love the arrangements. I love music.
S: I love who you're touring with, by the way! [Elenowen] They're really good. You and Dave both pick really good openers... the kind where you go to the show and even if you don't know who the opener is, you know it's going to be your style, so you're going to love it no matter what.
MW: Yeah! You just want to turn people on to good music. And it reflects well on us too, that we have talented people. And I'd rather those people be people that I'm a fan of, and people don't know about than ones that people know about now.
S: Can I ask how you know them, or met them?
MW: We've known each other for a while, we went on a trip with World Vision to the Domincan Republic, and we got to spend that time together.
S: Great! I really appreciate you meeting with me.
MW: Of course! Thanks for being here.
Thanks for sticking around through that whole thing (if you did)... I just loved his insight. It was so wonderful to pick his brain, and of course the show was amazing. Please, please listen to his latest album, Heatwave, and his others (the older stuff is so good... 23 Places like he mentioned!).