San Francisco-based rocker and radio sensation Matt Nathanson (“Come On Get Higher” and “Gold In The Summertime”) is one of those ever-clever, friendly fellows with the capability of busting out a good joke at any time.
He’s like your best buddy, your favorite partner in crime; and trailing behind his good name is an extensive discography and a unique reputation as a connoisseur of literature, poetry, and metal music— a fascinating mixture of influences!
The platinum-selling singer/songwriter and master of the 12-string guitar is currently on an acoustic tour in the recent wake of his 9th studio album Show Me Your Fangs. I stopped by his show at SPACE in Evanston, IL this past October 19th to check out the show.
The moment I walked through the tall wooden doors of the suburban venue, fans were enthusiastically glued to one another against the stage an hour before the curtains even opened for Nathanson. The warm sense of loyalty a rock artist like himself has earned throughout the years goes to show what his music means to so many, even in an acoustic setting. And he gives the love right back, with intimate stories in between songs that often take a comedic turn and have everyone spilling over with laughter and shouting for more.
Backstage after the show, in a spacious green room stocked well with old records and scattered with homemade gifts from his adoring fans, Nathanson and I chatted briefly about the beauty of simplicity and what exactly he has lined up for the rest of year.
Kate Catalina: Congratulations on the release of Show Me Your Fangs. You’re in the midst of an acoustic tour with longtime friend and bandmate Aaron Tap. What made you decide to embark on an acoustic run?
Matt Nathanson: The last few tours have been really fun, but they have been big summer things. Two summers ago, we did a co-headline with Gavin Degraw. We played places like the Greek in LA and Central Park. Then last summer, we toured with Train and The Fray and played big sheds.
I felt like I needed some balance from the “how’s everybody doing out there on the lawn?!!” shows, and I have 10 albums worth of songs that I didn’t get to play at shows like that. You kind of have to keep the pace and the rhythm up for places that large, so we decided to
do this cool, underplayed thing with just two acoustic guitars and a piano in these clubs like we used to do.
It has been pretty rewarding, playing stuff off the older records and getting to tell long rambling stories without fear of losing people to go get beer.
KC: It’s always exciting to hear the background stories regarding an artists’ songs, but which song on the new record do you hold dearest to your heart, and why?
MN: On this record, there are a bunch I am super proud of, which isn’t always the case, surprisingly. Ha! I guess the ones I am currently super psyched on are “Bill Murray” and “Giants.” They just feel like
they’ve always been here. They fit right in with the older songs, but they feel fresh, and I dig playing them every night.
“Giants” is an anthem and I’ve always wanted one of those. I feel like I’ve come close before, but “Giants” just DOES it for me. I wish I knew why. I’d write 100 more like it. Both “Bill Murray” and “Giants” are
songs I WANT to play for anyone who will listen, and that’s a super cool feeling. That’s kind of a rarity for me, to be that proud of something I’ve done.
KC: You’re quite the lyricist. When you go about the songwriting process, what do you find to be the most taxing bit on your poetic mind, separate from the melodies and chord progressions?
MN: Lyrics are the worst. And they are my favorite part of songs. I love when they work, but when they don’t work so often it’s maddening. So, writing the words really is the most painful part.
I am working on trying to not take them so seriously, but it’s hard. Lyrics give you the illusion that you can control the listener’s experience, so by trying to get them exactly the way you want, it gives you the illusion that you control how you are interpreted. I’m learning that that is just a huge myth and waste of time. Lyrics matter only in the context of the
song. And how they co-exist with melody and chords.
In the songs I LOVE, the lyrics assist. They don’t dominate.
I am trying to enjoy the process of writing lyrics. It is a constant learning curve, for sure.
KC: How will you finish the year as Matt Nathanson? At home with your family and friends, or rocking out on stage, ringing in the new year?
MN: This tour ends at Halloween. I made sure of that. I need to be home for my favorite day of the year!
Then I will be doing one-offs and radio shows until the end of the year. I make it a thing to NEVER play a show on New Years Eve. Way back when I did that, and I would much rather spend that time with my family, watching the ball drop from the comfort of my San Francisco living room.
KC: You’ve released 10 studio albums, 3 EPS, and 2 Live albums, the most recent being Matt Nathanson: Live at Google, which has been available on iTunes since 2011. Any plans on another live album?
MN: We’ve been recording every show of this fall tour with the plan of pulling together another live album at some point soon. Complete with the in-between-song stories, warts and all.
KC: What are your plans for 2016 as the busy, hard-working musician that you are?
MN: Next year we are heading to Europe and just pimping the shit out of Show Me Your Fangs. And writing. I’m always writing. Lyrics. Melodies. I try to make that a part of my everyday.
And just like that, Nathanson was up and off to the next city to melt the fanatic hearts of his next audience. A big thanks to the man himself for a candid insight into his career and totally rocking our world! Check out the title track to his new record Show Me Your Fangs via Matt Nathanson’s YouTube channel below here at Rock My World.
Story: Kate Catalina