I had already been looping Matt Nathanson’s break out album “Some Mad Hope” for months before I found myself taking the trip into downtown Washington, DC to interview one of today’s top bands, Lifehouse at the famed 9:30 Club. Upon arriving and learning that Nathanson would be playing the part of opening act, my PEV brothers and I broke out into an intense high five fest, ecstatic that the Boston native who took over the San Francisco singer/songwriter scene would be supplying his unique style combination of folk, rock and pop for our eardrums.
I’d been hooked for some time, and having never seen Matt perform live, had no idea he would be capable of stealing the show – but that’s exactly what he did. The strength of his live show is his ability to relate; he says “I am very much on stage like who I am at all times.” If that’s the case, than Matt Nathanson is one guy I want to be on a tour bus with. The guy is hilarious. Before his song “Car Crash,” Nathanson spoke with the crowd, “This song is about a love affair I once had…” the females in the crowd providing an “awwww” and a sigh just waiting to hear about some former girlfriend of his. However, Nathanson then finished his tale, “… my romance, with Hulk Hogan.” Everyone lost it. Nathanson adds, “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.” And being a good host, he made everyone feel at home. And the crowd returned the favor by singing back his hit songs like “All We Are” and one of iTunes most popular downloads, “Come On Get Higher,” all pieces from “Some Mad Hope.”
Talking about his breakthrough record, Nathanson says, “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?’” The drive and motivation to constantly evolve has been his best ally and at times, his worst enemy. Therefore, it helps that Nathanson takes a very humble view of his career, saying, “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.”
True, Nathanson does not get mobbed when he walks down the street or at a Starbucks (which will most likely be playing one of his songs) but that does not mean Matt Nathanson is not one of the premier musicians out today. Just log onto VH1.com, where currently he is one of the “VH1 You Oughta Know Artist on the Rise” – a distinguished honor only bestowed on a few very select artists. And along with Lifehouse, Nathanson has been headlining shows and opening for the likes of Tori Amos, John Mayer, Pink, Guster and one of Maryland’s mega bands, O.A.R. (whom Nathanson collaborates with on a regular basis).
Nathanson is an example of the quality music selling itself, rather than some entertainer pushing a “product” to make a couple of bucks. “Some Mad Hope” has been out for a year and has undergone a sort of underground Renaissance, re-igniting partly because Nathanson has made become so accessible by utilizing his web sources such as Facebook, MySpace and of course his live shows. Nathanson explains the record best – “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.” Truer words may have never been spoken. Check out “Some Mad Hope,” in stores and online now. For more information on Matt Nathanson, check out: http://www.MattNathanson.com