We couldn’t quite fit Steve Fowler’s whole chat with Matt Myers into yesterday’s post. Here’s a bit more from the Houndmouth frontman. Myers opens up about some of the quirky things that he loves and that inspire him: Blues guitarists, The Last Waltz, unusual tour requests, Ralph Macchio and more.
Steve Fowler: What do you think the role of technology and social media in music? Is it just distribution, is it hype or is it actually for conversations? What do you think its role should be?
Matt Myers: Well, I’ve always been a fan of a third party promoting the band. I was in other bands when I was younger, and I would never promote myself because I just didn’t want to play that game. But when we got in this band, our buddy Jason was sitting on a couch listening from day one and promoting what we were doing, and that made all the difference. Like on Twitter, I don’ t want to promote stuff, I just want to speak my mind, be goofy…I don’t take myself seriously, I guess that’s what I’m “promoting.” I don’t know, Twitter’s weird, man.
SF: Do you think there’s some kind of new platform that’s waiting to happen?
MM: I don’t know. I think I’d like it better if nothing existed, if it were more like the good old days. We’re kind of regressing. I feel like all the mystery is lost.
When I think of The Band, they were so epic and there was so much mystery behind them, even in The Last Waltz, everyone was patient and took their time, and they’d sit there and talk. Like Levon would light a match, and it’d just sit there and burn, and he’d light Robbie’s cigarette and they’d just sit there and talk, and it was so patient and good.
SF: Do you ever think people make judgments about who you are based on your lyrics?
MM: Sure, I know some have said “You all didn’t really live the lyrics of that song,” and it’s like, no man, we’re telling a story.
SF: Do you think authenticity is something you can hear in music, or can lyrics stand apart from their origins?
MM: Well the old blues guys, you could hear that’s what they were really going through. At the same time, in music the end product is art, and so how the artist got to the finished product isn’t the only thing that matters. I was talking to my friend Zach Hart about Roman Polanski movies the other night, and that’s a perfect example. I love Roman’s movies, but he’s, you know, a pretty terrible guy.
SF: What determined the way your singing voice would sound? Did it just happen organically or did you have an idea of what you wanted it to sound like?
MM: Well I don’t have a particularly strong voice. I have to rely on something other than the, you know, Michael Bolton crooning factor, so I focus mostly on tone and note selection. And I do prefer that style in singers though… people like Jeff Tweedy, who is unbelievable with every little crack and inflection in his voice. Dylan was the same way.
SF: Does a recent live singing performance stand out in your mind?
MM: Taylor Goldsmith from Dawes. He can sing, and he has great taste. Even when the music is loud and he sings soft it still comes through. We covered a Band song at Newport, “I Shall Be Released,” and he came out and sang with us, me and Zak singing falsetto, but he sang with his chest voice and just crushed it. The next night I tried to sing my verse like he did it and, just totally botched it.
SF: You’re lucky you have three bandmates that can not only sing, but also harmonize well. Did you decide from the beginning you would all sing?
MM: Yeah, I feel that we don’t use a lot of effects and stuff, and we can’t bring the music to another level without doing harmonies. When the voices come in, it’s like the third level. We never said “Alright, we’re all gonna sing lead in songs.” When I go to see bands live, usually there’s a downtime at some point in the set, and I like the fact that everyone singing can keep the energy up.
SF: Switching instruments must be fun for you. How did the band’s decision to do that evolve?
MM: We’d be practicing, and someone would take a break for whatever reason, so we would switch off instruments and keep rehearsing. We were on tour with Grace Potter in Baltimore and soundchecked with different instruments and our tour manager said “That sounded good,” so the first time I played drums live was at that show in front of 3,000 people.
SF: Was it obvious from the time you were little that you wanted to perform music?
MM: I’m not from a musical family, but as a kid I just knew I wanted to play a guitar.
SF: Outside of family and bandmates, who has motivated you the most to develop your abilities as a musician?
MM: There was a guy in high school, we’d be at a party or somewhere and if there was an electric guitar around, he’d pick it up and play these amazing things, and people would be amazed and all the girls would swoon. So I guess that was good for me because, it motivated me to put myself in a position to be okay with being put on-the-spot. Because if I’m not put on-the-spot, I’m not doing anything. I’m just sitting somewhere.
SF: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve been asked to do now that you’ve gotten so much buzz?
MM: I think, being asked to play weddings is weird.
SF: Really? People ask you to play weddings? I could see people in your hometown asking, but does this happen on the road?
MM: Yeah. And that’s not even the weirdest request on the road. I won’t go into it, but it may have included a lot of proposed threesomes. Never took them up on it though. Maybe I need to expand my horizons. I have no idea.
SF: Tell me an intense moment where you were doing something completely unrelated to music and went straight to your guitar and just said I have to write this?
MM: I was cutting the grass in Corydon, and I had the line “Oh my Palmyra” in my head and I just kinda came up with the song while I was tediously cuttin’ the grass. It’s great because you can kind of sing and no one can hear you but yourself.
I also watched Conan when he was out of work and he did those Jibber Jabber interviews, and he interviewed Jack White, and that was the most motivating thing. And they talked about Steve Martin’s autobiography, one of the few books I had read, and I was excited. It was really motivating, so I went out and wrote out a song. I went out and just wrote a novelty song for fun. Nothing will ever come out of that song, but I did it.
SF: What is the kind of legacy you want to leave as a musician?
MM: Regarding music, I’m very conscious about what I play. I don’t want to be the guy that takes a bunch of guitar solos. I don’t want to take an 8-minute solo, I just want it to be quick and tasteful. I guess I want to be known as more of a songwriter who plays tasteful guitar within songs. I don’t want to be like Clapton or Stevie Ray Vaughn, even though those are my heroes.
Who’s a musician right in particular you admire?
Blake Mills. Dawes is his backing band right now. They backed him at Newport. I didn’t know who he was, but heard his name and walked into rehearsal space with them. Blake was standing in front of Dawes playing his songs, and he is the best guitar player that I’ve ever seen. His style, it’s like he developed it out of nothing. He’s got me hooked, I’m on board.
Is there a movie score you’re really into?
Once Upon A Time in America, with De Niro. That makes me cry, it’s so good. As far as soundtracks go, like Tarantino, that guy is so good. The Deathproof soundtrack doesn’t leave my car.
What’s your favorite instance of a musician playing an instrument in a movie?
It would have to be Ralph Macchio in Crossroads. He actually learned the parts! That song he does at the end is epic. But of course, Joaquin Phoenix was great doing Cash in Walk the Line.