Let’s face it, often times humility has been known to be lost on those in the entertainment industry. I have met and interviewed my fair share to make this sweeping comment! So it is refreshing when you come across those who not only have true talent but a sense of self, a “groundedness,” that makes them seem otherworldly by celebrity standards. So is true for songster and rising star, Matt Alber.
The subject of one of my most popular pages to date, I knew I had to get my hands on him for you guys! Well, not literally, I wish, but I did interview him! Even with a rabid group of fans surfacing and a much warranted amount of attention coming his way, Matt is as humble and down-to-earth as they get… and he can sing too!
Marked with compelling lyrics and what I can easily describe as some of the most effortless and infectious vocals I have heard in a while, his debut solo album “Hide Nothing” is like a breath of fresh air. No, like literally! Even Matt’s take is that he wants his album to be like a journey through nature! This journey? Well, it’s well worth the trip!
In talking to Matt, what I got was an artist whose love for music is very palpable and truly is his driving force. This Kansas boy whose musical roots can be found in his many experiences with choirs can now be found on the fast paced West Coast but no need to worry; he isn’t jaded and by my estimation won’t ever be!
So question is: can this hot, talented, broodingly handsome, blue-eyed man get any sweeter? Yeah, actually he could! For instance, let’s say a really silly site owner (let’s call said owner “me”, “myself”, “I” because… well, that would be the case) conducts a rather candid and amazing interview with Matt. Then post interview, what if said “silly” realizes his recorder malfunctioned and didn’t record a thing! So how many people would then followup with re-answering many of the questions via email? I doubt there would be many… but Matt sure did.
The advent of a channel like Logo has really changed the face of television. Like many others I am sure, it provided my entree into Matt’s music. I was curious what was his take on the channel’s significance to the gay community and, moreover, to a gay music artist like himself.
Matt: When I was growing up I was surrounded by all things hetero. Every advertisement, every commercial, and every song that hit the top 40 was 99% hetero-centric. It made me feel like I had this thing that no one else had, and that I should keep it a secret. No one should have to grow up like that. So until that happens, I think it’s great we have a channel that presents all sorts of GLBT people.
I have to say though that the way we advertise to ourselves as a community is distressing to me. Our magazines, our news sites, our entertainment channels (including Logo) herald youth and muscles (and bigger penises) beyond mere admiration. I’m not against sex. I just wish I could pick up a gay magazine or watch a gay program without the shirtless beauties on every other page. I mean, we’re all going to be old and wrinkly someday, and what’s wrong with that?
Often times artists want you to take what you will from their work, leave it open for your interpretation. But what happens when you have a pushy interviewer wanting an answer anyway?
Matt: I think that’s a personal thing. Hopefully folks come up with their own thoughts about the songs. But if I had to wish for some things my songs would conjure up, it’d be something like “I wanna get outside and feel the air,” “I wanna close my eyes and fly” or “I wanna make out with you.”
The “End of the World” video could easily be described as a cinematic experience, from the choice of era to the lighting to the outfits. And there is the matter of two hot leading men kissing! Here’s Matt take on getting it made, the video’s concept and the song’s inspiration.
Matt: My dear dear friend Robin Scovill wrote and directed this video for me as a huge labor of love. (He actually went $800 in the hole on this project and paid for it out of his own pocket.) He listened to the song nonstop for several days, soaking in even things I hadn’t noticed in the song. We went through many ideas, and he dreamed up some amazing ones that we didn’t end up choosing. But we settled on wanting to tell a story that revived the hope of love.
We decided setting the piece in 1960 would amplify this idea by choosing an iconically masculine backdrop – a barbershop. I just happened to know about one. We shot it at my local barbershop with my actual barber, Jerry Cottone, who’s been cutting hair there for over 50 years. Robin and I hired (and begged) all of our best professional friends in the business including Rob Lawe who edited the video and underwrote the shoot, Tom Spence to design the production elements (including every single prop and photo seen in the video), Mateo Londano (DP) and Michael Cioffoletti (Stylist). My dad and brother even worked tirelessly on the shoot. Getting dipped and kissed in the most romantic way in front of my family was quite an experience.
Who worked with Matt on the album?
Matt: I made the record side by side with Jeff Crerie at Utmosis in San Francisco (utmosis.net). I first started working Jeff as a web-designer, not as a musician. But through those meetings it became clear that we had much more than websites to make together. We wrote 2 of the songs together (“Nonchalant” and “Beotia”) and co-produced/mixed nearly every note of the album together into the wee hours of the morning most nights (scarfing late night pancakes and getting silly with his kitties). Jeff is a true artist in every sense of the word. He holds you up to standards even higher than you imagine you’d attain and the result is the utmost you could muster.
Check out his recent EP on iTunes entitled “YARN” by “Ness Ness.”
I have described “Hide Nothing” as “an unabashed look at love and all of its inherent complexities.” But, truly, the album makes love seem less complex and definitely attainable. So you know I had to ask Matt the obvious questions about having found love… or it finding him!
Matt: I have been lucky to have found love a couple of times. I know I will find it again someday with a man. But I’m learning that the love between friends is something that can last even longer, so I’m lucky to have so many who love me back.
Yes, I admitted to Matt that the song “Nonchalant” made me tear up. Interestingly enough he said it happens to be one of his favorite songs on the album… Obviously, it’s mine too! (By the way, don’t harp on the tearing up thing; I am Cancerian and can get emotional at times!)
Matt: “Nonchalant” was the first song Jeff Crerie and I tried to write together. He suggested a very unorthodox approach to writing lyrics and it completely blew me away. We recorded just the instrumental parts to where we liked them, outlining almost the entire song. Then I would go back and sit with the music and search for a melody by singing sort of nonsense syllables and pieces of words. Jeff would then replay the parts that worked the best and attempt to decipher my sounds into words. He’d say something like, “It sounds like you’re saying the words “brush of a hand.” And I would look at him with this blank stare thinking how the hell did you hear that? I was just mumbling.
He found enough words that they suggested a story about two people who lived in the same apartment building who saw each other quite often but who had very little reason to speak to each other. They could never get beyond “I think I got a letter of yours by mistake,” or “sure is wet out, huh?” Whenever they would meet, sparks would fly but neither would acknowledge them, carrying on with a nonchalant way about it all. That is, until the thoughts of a kiss were to strong to keep down.
The almost heartbreaking irony is that that exact story came true in my life shortly after writing that song. I fell in love with my longtime roommate, Joe and we decided to marry and move to Los Angeles. He’s since moved back to San Francisco and we’ve parted ways, but the idea that a song can take shape in your life quite a powerful idea. I’m so glad it did.
So I recommended Kings of Leon’s new album “Only By the Night” to Matt and he promised to check it out! He also mentioned that the first CD he purchased was one by Elton John and told the funny story how he got it from one of those CD membership clubs back in the day. Was it Columbia House, Matt? I joined one of those things back in the day too! 10 CDs for 99 cents? Can’t beat it! Who are his musical influences/loves?
Matt: Imogen Heap, Musiq Soulchild, Rufus Wainwright, Elton John, Death Cab, Copeland, Location Location.
I admitted to Matt that his music is reminiscent of Rufus Wainwright, especially in his frankness and musical storytelling. Though comparisons can be like kryptonite to some musicians, Matt has nothing but love for Rufus!
Matt: I’ve been a huge fan of his for some time now. I think he’s the best art/pop song composer around. And the guy can rock some fish-nets, too.
No, one Alber who sings isn’t enough! Matt actually has a brother in the business too and describes his music as a mixture of Jeff Buckley and Coldplay. Now, now, I have to tell you that I am in love love love with the the late and great Jeff Buckley. I must admit I went as far as telling Matt that I wanted to bring Jeff back from the dead, make him gay, and then marry him. Nope, he wasn’t freaked out! Needless to write, I definitely have to check out Matt’s bro’s music. You should too!
Matt: My brother’s band, Wreck & Slender, are recording their album these days. They are amazing. Check them out on myspace. We’re hoping to tour together.
I must admit I have never been one for country music and I told Matt that much when we went into his love for country line dancing. While he waxed poetic of its virtues, I think he started convincing me. Hmmmm… Now all I need is my 50 gallon hat (I got a big brain!) and another open invitation from him to tear up the dance floor (Matt, does the offer still stand?!?!)
Matt: I’ve been known to be seen at Oil Can Harry’s with my boots on, spinning around with the cowboys. I can’t seem to get on a treadmill, but love to dance.