Monday, October 10, 2011
Singer/Songwriter Jennifer Matthews brings 'Tales of a Salty Sweetheart' back to Somerville, Mass.
Interview with Doug Holder
Somerville musician Jennifer Matthews was in the words of Willie Nelson, 'on the road again' for the past several years, and she has brought home 'tales of a salty sweetheart.' The sweetheart is not exactly flesh and blood, but her new album to be released in the spring of 2012 based on her experiences across the country, and in Europe. I met Matthews a number of years ago, and I was impressed not only with her musical acumen, but her strengths as a wordsmith. Later the Ibbetson Street Press published a chapbook of her poetry "Fairytales and Misdemeanors" that is in the library collections of Harvard and Brown Universities, among others. Matthews agrees with me that Somerville is great burg to be an artist, and I have had the privilege to interview some fine musicians like Audrey Ryan, Kristen Ford, Allegra Martin, Yani Batteau, Lucy Holdstedt,(of the Women's Musician Network), and others. So it was good to have dinner with Matthews recently in Union Square and see what she has been up to.
Doug Holder: You have lived in Somerville on and off for years...and now after a 3 year stint touring Europe, living in Alaska, New Mexico and Austin, Texas you have come back to the Paris of New England --is it good to back home gain?
Jennifer Matthews: Yes, it is interesting to be back after traveling to and living in these other places. Somerville does have a great creative energy and definitely a very progressive flow, which I can appreciate more now having experienced so many other cultures and towns. One of the significant differences I see is in the world of poetry. Here in Somerville there is a lot to offer for writers on all levels.
DH: Can you tell us about the Female Revolution compilation you were involved for ACM artists? I hear a song of yours is included in a soundtrack for an independent film?
JM: ACM records is a label based out of NYC and they signed on my record 'The Wheel' soon after it was released in 2005. They are a record company that really focuses on placing music in movies, TV, etc... I fond out what they were doing with my songs off that record after the fact... so it is always news to me too. I also found out recently that they placed one of my songs in a movie as well, which also has not yet been released.
DH:Your songs are often nature-based--and you seem to be open to what non-human and even inanimate objects are telling us if we stop and listen. Did this take conscious practice or do you have a natural poetic sensibility?
JM:I am a very nature based person... so everything I do tends to flow in and out with the rhythms of life and nature and at times what is unseen but felt through the veil. I tend to naturally tune in to the natural world around me. This tends to reflect in my poetry and lyrics and something as simple as the markings on rocks, or water, sky, ocean, tree can spark a song and filter through the music.... for example in one of my songs 'a dream of you' the lyric is .... "and there was music of a carnival, and you were waltzing under a silky moon and when you spoke the sky would turn from twilight into a haze of water falling blue" ....I am very drawn to the big mountainous areas which has led me to live in such places as Colorado, Alaska, and New Mexico. I like to be deeply in nature as much as possible. It speaks to me on all levels and provides a freedom and space to create. I think that is where the rootsy style of my music comes from... it reflects strength and peace at the same time....just like a mountain.
DH:You lived in Austin, Texas for a while, which is known as a last bastion for the bohemian, the low rent artists, and the alternative music scene. Give me your impressions of the town?
JM:Yes, Austin is absolutely more affordable than most places I have been for artists!! Lower rents, lower food and gas prices... and audiences that LOVE original music. I had a great time and really enjoyed playing shows there. I found that the audiences truly appreciate the craft of singing and songwriting!! As for what is surrounding there is Barton Springs that runs through the town of Austin and the actual springs are heavenly... pure water that regenerates itself every day.... lots of cool turtles floating around as well... but that Texas sun does burn blazing and mighty hot for half the year.
DH: How have the thematics changed in your songwriting since you first hit the scene. Has wisdom tempered some of the fire or is it now more a powerful but controlled entity?
JM: Yes, still fire, but perhaps a quieter, more reflective one. I have been writing songs for what feels like all my life... so when I write now it feels like an old friend... even though each song is born new, there is a deeper sense of familiarity... and when a great one comes through, it resonates very loudly and deeply.....
DH: Can you tell us about your upcoming new CD coming out?
JM: This record is a special one for me as it was written over the last three years as I was living a very different life style, on and off the road...traveling extensively.... some days feeling richer and luckier than ever and some days not knowing where my next penny was coming from... missing the loved ones that I am close to here. Through that time I was living the dream in some respects. I was living off the grid on a New Mexico mountain in an artist hand built house made of mud and stucco....we had no running water, only an outhouse.... but was surrounded by gorgeous views, endless freedom, sounds of howling packs of coyotes at night and nature abounding... Other songs were written on the road while on tour playing shows in Alaska, also rural area of Florida, in Italy as well as other states in between that I spent some time in and played shows like Louisiana, Texas,and Arkansas.
This record, I am having a great time with... it is as if I am recording it on my own. I am engineering all of the basic tracks on my 8 Trk Tascam home studio. I have some great local musician friends of mine whom I have played with and recorded with in the past who are adding color to the tracks .... Russell Chudnofsky is laying down some guitar magic as well as Rohin Khemani on drums/percussion and Matt Glover on mandolin and an exotic Bulgarian instrument.
The beauty of this is that it allows me all the time I need to lay down each song in its own time and not have a clock ticking behind me.... and in turn it has a really sweet magic to it in vibe and sound.
I think this collection of songs is one of my best and I am very excited to have it released and share it with the world. Each song has a strength of its own, a strong message and hook ... it has me at my best I think as a singer/songwriter... it is clearly an acoustic, rootsy rock album... of course with a poetic sensibility.
It is entitled 'Tales of a Salty Sweetheart' ... and am working for an early 2012 winter or spring release.
For more information about Jennifer go to http://jennifermatthews.com