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Way Beyond His Wildest Expectations

By Collin Quick
December 16, 2002

Itís an hour and a half after Matt Nathansonís final show of his fall tour and he has just sat down with me after ordering dinner. The past two nights, Nathanson and fellow friend/cellist Matt Fish played to two sold out crowds at Chicagoís Schubas Tavern. Over those two evenings, Matt played a variety of songs from his four CDís and his new EP, When Everything Meant Everything, and even some sing-a-longs from the Ď80Ďs. I was able to sit down and talk to Matt about the tour, his music, his view of life in general and how his year went.

Me: Iím going to steal something from Rolling Stone Magazine...they had their people of the year sum up their year in 5 words...Matt, sum up your year in 5 words.

Matt: Um, oh boy. (Counting on his fingers) Way beyond my wildest expectations.

Me: Why is that?

Matt: I think because everything just kept getting better, you know? More people kept coming, more records, people kept buying records, more positive shit. More people, like I was just able to do it, it became a lot easier to do it, it was a lot less banging your head against the wall.

Me: How did the fall tour go?

Matt: The fall tour was great. Mason Jennings and I did some co-headlining stuff and then I did some headlining stuff, and then opened for O.A.R. They are the best human beings. I really locked into touring with O.A.R. and Howie (Day) and just these really good people and stuff and its fun.

Me: I heard that you and O.A.R. did some U2 songs as well.

Matt: Oh yeah my favorite band of all time. It was a blast. I get to sing with the band, I feel like I have a band.

Me: Congrats on signing with Universal Records.

Matt: Thanks.

Me: Are you going to miss running everything yourself?

Matt: You know, I think thereís, I donít know if Iíll miss, Itís gonna be, Iím excited to delegate work. I think I might miss it if things getting annoying, you know what I mean, if it become all fighting and all battles. But I think things are good, I have faith in the label, to some extent, that things will go well. They are really nice and their intentions are good, so we will see.

Me: Hypothetical Question. If Universal asked you to pick any one of your songs for radio play, which one would it be?

Matt: Iíd say ďAnswering MachineĒ because everyone seems to react to that, so thatís why Iíd pick it.

Me: Have you ever had just a really, really bad show?

Matt: Oh my God, I have them weekly (laughs). I played Summerfest in Milwaukee, and its just certain times where it sucks awfully.

Me: Yeah, what happened at Summerfest?

Matt: I just shouldnít have been there. They didnít want me, I shouldnít have been there and I didnít want to be there, so I have bad shows for sure.

Me: Does the audience make or break the show all the time? Or can you have those nights where you just get up there, give it your all and even though the crowd didnít get into it, you know you did a damn good show?

Matt: They kinda do. Itís like, cause if Iím putting it all out, I can still get off and go ďWell, I did my best but I wasnít good enoughĒ My thing is so much based on getting them excited. Thereís so much more fun when thereís energy. So, sometimes the crowd can be kinda like sedated, and I wonít take it personally, but most of the time I do take it personally (laughs).

Me: Are the reps the best thing that can happen to an up and coming artist?

Matt: Oh my god, for sure. For fucking sure, yeah. They are the shit. And its funny, some of them donít do anything and its a bummer but the oneís that are fucking really good make up for everybody. They rule.

Me: What are you listening to right now? Whatís in your CD player?

Matt: Faith Hillís new record cause I really like that Angie Aparo song. I went out and I went crazy at Tower Records. I bought Highway to Hell by AC/DC and Iím listening to the new Tori Amos. So those 3 things were in the car today.

Me: Iím gonna give you a line from Almost Famous.

Matt: Great movie. I love that movie.

Me: Do you have to be depressed to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song? Is a song better if it really happened to you?

Matt: I do. For me, very much. Iím not a very good liar, at all. I donít lie at all. I really need to feel it and itís almost a disservice, but I would say yes that I would have to experienced it to know it, for sure.

Me: If you could have written any song ever, what would it be?

Matt: Oh my god. With or Without You. If I could have been a part of that song. I think the production of that song, the lyrics, the writing, the band, the vibe, the fucking magic that song is perfect.

Me: Congrats on the new EP.

Matt: Oh cool thanks.

Me: Are you ready to back into studio again?

Matt: Oh yeah! I psyched.

Me: Is it going to be full band?

Matt: Itís going to be some acoustic stuff and some full band stuff and I'm psyched cause I have six songs that didnít make it on the EP that were going to be on the record. You know, ďCurve of the EarthĒ, ďBareĒ, ďI SawĒ, ďSing Me SweetĒ, ďProve to MeĒ, and its gonna be fun to do those songs up again and then itíll be fun to write some new stuff. Iím psyched.

Me: Would you like to go out full band?

Matt: Yes, yes. I would love it. I just gotta make sure that its cost effective and it would be now, but I just really want to make it super and do it right.

Me: Thereís a line in ďPretty the WorldĒ of the new EP that goes....

       I never thought that I could be who I am
       I never thought that I could see where I was
       I always thought that all this was just wasn't me
       I always thought that all this was could never be

Are you writing this now and looking back at where you came from and the fame and fans that you have now?

Matt: No itís funny. I would say those moments of clarity, like this lyric shows, are intermitted in my everyday life. Thereís moments when I donít feel that way and there are moments when I feel like ďOh my god, I finally got it.Ē Iím pretty late in the blooming process and so I think this is a realization of like ďOh my god, I finally think I've got a little bit of a handle on it, on me.Ē You know what I mean? Itís pretty new, unfortunately, for me (laughs).

Me: What exactly is a Little Victory?

Matt: Oh my god. Its funny itís like, In the world, I just realized that there are no triumphs, no humongous triumphs. When I can sell out 2 nights at Schubas, or sell out one night at Schubas, or when I can get anyone to come to my show in Chicago, or when I can get a record deal, then Iíll be happy, then Iíll be smiling, then Iíll be psyched. And thereís just these little victories along the way of this long, long walk, you know what I mean? Sometimes its uphill, sometimes itís downhill, but itís always just a constant walk. And so thatís it.

Me: So for every high point, theyíre 10 low points?

Matt: Sure. And you just have to dig the high points and when the low points come, donít be surprised.

Me: Going back to selling out Schubas. I donít know if you knew this or not, but Dave Matthews Band was in town last night and there were definitely more people here tonight then there were last night. Do think it amazing that you sold out both nights, especially last night, when you have DMB halfway across town?

Matt: I think its pretty fun, its pretty kick-ass. But DMB sold out so quick too. But it was neat, I was glad, I was worried, but Iím glad that people came. I donít know why (I was worried), but Iím glad they did, for sure.

Me: What up and coming artists have you shared the stage with that you think will make it big?

Matt: Oh I donít know, Iím terrible at that kinda thing. But there are people that I dig. I love O.A.R, Howie, Jump Little Children, Blu Sanders who opened for me last night. And I love Andrew Kerr and Stephen Kellogg, and thereís these great human beings making music and Iíve been lucky enough to play with them. Mason Jennings is the shit. That kid is the best. So those people are just great human beings and their fun and I hope they get what they want.

Me: What would you say to someone who wants to be an artist themselves?

Matt: Itís all about being to stupid to stop. Donít listen to anybody, you donít look around you, you just put your head down and go. And thatís it. Thereís no magic potion or secret recipe. Itís just, fucking, being persistent and too stupid to listen to anybody else.

Me: Thank you very much Matt.

Matt: Yeah, you bet, your welcome.

Spotlight Show Banter

Download: Gospel Song

This banter is known as the "Gospel Song Improv" which was performed at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northhamtop, MA on 2004-02-08. The song is started with Matt fooling around with biblical line references and evenutally turns into a full improv song.