Announced by Rolling Stone as one of the top ten artists to watch for in 2006, Matt has been at it since the age of three when his parents enrolled him in the Manhattan School of Music where he started playing the piano. There he went from classical performance, musical theory and jazz improvisation to arrangement and composition. It was at the young age of eleven that Matt won a Metropolitan Opera competition, for an opera he penned. In college, at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, he taught himself how to play the guitar out of necessity – a piano doesn’t fit so well in a dorm room! His self taught style of playing is sans pick with many intricate fillers.
With big plans to sell out Madison Square Garden, and take his street team on a Caribbean cruise when he makes his first million dollars, Matt is hard not to love. He sounds like a kid in a candy store when he talks about touring with Sheryl Crow, John Mayer and most recently Lisa Marie Presley, saying he needs to pinch himself daily to make sure he’s not dreaming. Having already had songs featured in the movies “Little Manhattan” and “She’s the Man”, Matt is in his element and loving every minute of the ride to stardom as he performs his “stories” about love and loss.
Matt White’s forthcoming album, Do You Believe, hits radio in January and officially drops on February 27th, but if you can’t wait until then to get in on the White Magic – check out his EP, Bleeker Street Stories and watch for his new tour schedule coming in the next two weeks.
Interviewed by: Stacie Caddick-Dowty | November 2006
Your music has been described as pop, bright, catchy, breezy… how would YOU describe it?
I would describe it as that. I don’t want it too deep. I would describe it definitely as pop and themes that people can relate to. I’ve lead a fairly normal life in that sense. I’ve loved and lost and things like that and relationships. It’s definitely breezy in a sense that its light, it’s not too deep; I haven’t been alienated.
You play the guitar sans pick, was this a style of playing you enjoyed listening to before learning it or did it just happen to be the way you taught yourself from the beginning?
It was really that way I taught myself. Because with a pick even though you get that brighter sound, when you strum strait chords you can’t really do intricate things within the chords, plucking and broken chords and things like that. So that is how I learned, I learned without the pick. Even when I’m forced to play with a pick its difficult for me to do it just because it’s hard to keep myself contained. My hands go a little crazy and sometimes my hand gets bloodied. I get so into it, it’s like running on a broken ankle, you forget your ankle is broken, and you just keep on going.
The singing aspect – You started playing piano at the age of 3 at the Manhattan School of Music. When did the singing start and did you take voice lessons as a child too?
My whole family is very musical, so I don’t know, I think the singing sort of started at 18 or 19, but it took me a long time to really find my voice. At first you’re just trying to imitate people that you look up to and then gradually you find your own voice. So that took me a couple years. I was always singing…
…and how did you discover that falsetto?
I don’t know, I just did it. I didn’t realize I did it and people always made comments on that. I don’t know how I did it. It just happened.
When can we expect your full length album and what will it entail?
February 27th, 2007! We go to radio in January. We’ve had a whole year to sort of set it up. It’s really rare on a major label to be able to do that but the label is just so great with me, and really saw things with me. They saw me as a career artist and not just a one album or one song kind of thing. So they allow me to discover and take time, and do whatever I needed to do which is really cool. No pressure, No rush to get everything out.
Whom did you work with while making this album and what was that like for you?
Jack Joseph Puig who did a bunch of Sheryl Crow and John Mayer’s records. Ron Fair, who is chairman of the company and worked with Black Eyed Peas. He is probably the best most respected producer around today. He can do anything from Heavy Metal to Rap to just everything. The other person I worked with is Thom Panunzio who is the producer who did a lot of Springsteen stuff and Bob Dylan. I got to work with everyone who I ever dreamt of working with so it was great.
I’ve also heard your doing some writing and working with other artists. Can you elaborate on that?
I’m starting to. I submitted a couple of songs to Jewel. Let’s see, Enrique Iglesias I submitted some stuff to. It’s tricky logistically, especially if they are a big artist, to get them in a room to sit for a couple hours to write a song. Sometimes it’ll happen, sometimes it won’t. It takes time, and luck! A lot of luck!
Well, you’ve had pretty good luck so far!
I have had pretty good luck so far, yes! I’ve been choosing my moves very carefully which I think is what it takes. I love being on the road. I guess my favorite thing it just being on the road and touring.
Being able to play the music!
Yeah, playing the music, seeing new places, meeting new places, finding new places to eat. That’s what I like.
People have certainly taken notice to you. Rolling Stone’s top 10 artists to watch for 2006 is quite an honor.
A huge honor!
Your album isn’t out yet, yet you are touring with the likes of Sheryl Crow, John Mayer. What was that like?
It’s surreal! It doesn’t feel real. It feels amazing. I have to wake up every day and pinch myself.
What did you learn on those tours and did they have any good advice for you regarding your music or career? What it looks like from where they are from this point in their careers.
I truly learned more going out with them, then I did with anything else. Just from watching them and seeing things they did. How to sing when your voice is really struggling and just watching Sheryl and how she interacts with the audience. I think just from doing that tour I’ve become three times better than I ever was. I’m much more comfortable on stage. Just from being in those five places.
I have it on good faith that you’ve been compared to the King himself, Mr. Elvis Presley. Someone even did a side by side photo comparison. What are your thoughts on that?
I’m a huge Elvis fan; we just opened up for Lisa Marie Presley! She is actually one of the coolest people I’ve met in this industry. She would come take us out, and bring us food. She was just so unbelievably nice that I didn’t even know how to thank her. No one could be cooler. So, I’m a huge Lisa Marie Presley fan now. It was weird to talk to her cause she looks *so* much like her dad, and she really is so so so so so sweet. You can’t meet a nicer person.
John Mayer did an interview recently with Rolling Stone stating his sleeps with, on average, 3 women a week. So my question for you is, how crazy does it really get out there? Do women throw themselves at you?
No. My experience and the experiences that I’ve seen? By the time you get off stage you are so tired. I never understood how bands that I looked up to like Zeppelin and bands like that could do drugs and drink. I have one beer and I’m ready to go to sleep. The girls? I haven’t really seen it to be totally honest with you. I mean they are definitely more aggressive, but I think that when you are performing every night you are in the mode of work. I mean, I haven’t seen it I was backstage the entire night for the John Mayer tour and the only thing I saw John doing was work related. As was Sheryl! I don’t know, maybe when he first started out. When your soundchecking, performing for an hour, coming down, doing three interviews that day. You’re tired!
Any crazy fan girl experiences?
Not really. One time we had a group of girls follow our bus. We go to get something to eat, no one told them where. So they pretended to accidentally meet us there. It kind of freaked the guys out a bit. It was not a funny… it was in Memphis.
You have the PAX benefit concert coming up in November. Can you tell us what that is all about?
PAX is anti gun foundation that was started because a guy was shot in the Empire state Building by a guy who had obtained an illegal gun, the cause is about representing gun control and people being responsible; doing it in a way so people don’t get killed. I mean look at the Amish school shootings. Ya know?
Ok, a little fun stuff, word association. Tell me the first word that pops in your head:
TMNT – Michelangelo
Cappuccino – sugar
Stadium – Rolling Stones
Picasso – um, money?
Guitar – Dylan!
Baseball – Babe Ruth
Constantine Maroulis –American Idol
Snails – snails? French!
Where do you see yourself going, what lies in the future for Matt White?
Just a lot more touring. We’re doing the video in about a month. The album comes out the second month of next year. Just working really hard core all of next year.
Message to your fans….
I love them so much. I adore them and I think they know that. I would literally do anything for them. They make what I do worth it. Genuinely!
I’m looking forward to my Caribbean cruise when you make your first million…
I’m going to! I’m taking the first 1000 street teamers. I’m dead serious about it! …and I’m putting the first 1000 street teamers in the booklet of the cd. So it’ll be cool to go out and get your CD and say “Hey look! There’s my name!” I’ve always thought why an artist never did that. I brought it up to my marketing person at Geffen and he was very into the idea.
Matt’s Official Website – Matt White Music