NLTS: Matthew, congratulations on the album. Are you happy with how it’s gone down?
M: Yeah, I am. The music industry, and what it is…I’m very pleased that I still have a fan base after over a decade, and that I can still do this. Not only that, but provide for my family, and still get to focus on the creativity over the commerce. Having them both work is pretty nice too, you know? I’m not headlining Glastonbury or anything like that, but I’m doing good.
NLTS: And it’s essentially two solo albums in two years now, right?
M: It’s actually four! If you count into ‘Into The Wide’ (Delta Spirit’s most recent album) and then ‘Austin’ (Vasquez’s solo debut EP). ‘Into The Wide’ was ’14, ‘Austin’ was ’15, Solicitor Returns ’16, and now this year.
NLTS: And was that deliberate, or did you plan to have a bigger break in between?
M: Well it would have to be, right? How long it takes to make a record and to finish it. I’d kind of worked out that something was going to happen this year whether it be my solo thing or Delta Spirit, and both creatively and financially that just seemed like the wrong move.
NLTS: Why was that?
MLV: I had a baby. I had a baby, and then I moved in with my Mom and her boyfriend for little over a year after ‘Into The Wide’ came out. Then, with ‘Solicitor Returns’, by the end of the record cycle I was able to afford a very tiny, modest home in a beautiful place outside of Austin.
Now it’s about just sort of building that emergency fund and being able to manage my life a little bit better. Doing the solo music is obviously a bit more financially beneficial for that kind of thing.
It’s not just all about money, so much as it is I have a lot of ideas and creative things I wanted to accomplish, and the ‘Solicitor Returns’ record I made is very much on that ‘Negative Creep, Neil Young, ‘Crazy Horse, Alice Cooper kind of rock stuff. It’s super mid 70’s sounding, and then this new record is still a little 70’s sounding, but it’s more on the Harry Nelson, Jeff Lynne side of things, and i kind of wanted to make a mishmash record of just good songs.
NLTS: And looking at ‘Does What He Wants’, it feels like that’s definitely got your most sophisticated writing you’ve done on, especially if you look at something like ‘Fatherhood’. Do you think that is the case? Do you think your songwriting has matured, or just what you’re writing about itself?
M: I think what’s helped the maturity of it is partially the family side of things and seeing the other end of, you know, the truth we grow up with and the viewpoints we have. They shift over time and with age, of course. Especially with big milestones like becoming a Dad and having the ’breadwinner’ weight on your shoulders a bit. Also having a relationship that’s monogamous and stretching into 6 years of marriage. Those are all things we start to go through in life, and I’m definitely paying attention, and trying to get the most out of it creatively as I can. Share those experiences, you know, and grow the audience I have already.
NLTS: : And you mentioned the sort of ‘burden’ and ‘weight’ on your shoulders you sometimes feel. Especially with ‘Solicitor Returns’ - and this one a little bit - there are sad parts to the record, but the message now feels more ’you’ve got to go through the bad times to celebrate the hope and happiness you get after it, right?
M: Yeah. It’s the same idea idea that blues is happy music. I think alternatively this is the happiest record I’ve made even though it’s got stories of crazy alcoholism and death. Two songs are about two dead people I know! But it’s also beautiful and it’s got a good sense of humour in certain ways. I like that, though. It’s like ‘BUCK UP!’ Let’s do it, you know?
That’s the thing. This experience…And as a kid I grew up in a kind of middle class family that ended up going through a pretty hairy bankruptcy, so I know what it’s like to lose everything. I’ve done it before with my parents going through bankruptcy - and living with my grandparents - and kind of having that taught me both sides of people, especially.
It taught me what people are like in times of stress, and taught me that not having a lot doesn’t mean shit to how happy you can be. Your happiness comes from something else, and if family stays strong you’re good, you know?
That’s the life lesson I’m taking early in my Fatherhood life and it’s been good, because we’re really close now to finally putting some money away after this record, and I’m finally able to take a breath and not tour so hard.
Last year I did a 150 days, which was pretty decent. I’ve done more…I’ve done 290 one year! I was in my 20s then though…I’m just trying to tour a little bit less…Do 3 weeks, then come home for a few weeks. I’ve been gone, then come back and toured through Austin a few times and it’s been good.
NLTS: So obviously you do try and tour less, but when you do tour, do you still enjoy it, or is it just something you feel you have to do?
M: I would do something else. This is the best thing I’m good at though, you know? But I do love it. I don’t just kind of like it.
At certain points you are a prisoner in your own vehicle though, and you’re just trapped in this van rolling down the highway until you get to the venue.
Sometimes all day you just sit in a van, in a chair. If you do that for too many weeks in a row you start to get pretty crazy. I try to go to National Parks as much as possible, but the routing that I booked this time was really insane. We do stop and see some nature when we can though, which definitely helps.
NLTS: And did you tour solo in Europe for Solicitor Returns?
M: Yeah. I actually went out with Nathaniel Rateliff, he’s a great friend. Nathaniel on his first year of tour opened for Delta Spirit which is pretty funny. That time, too…It was actually the time that my now wife appeared. That all happened at the same time. I love those guys a lot. I’m going to be opening for them in the Netherlands this trip.
I went out with them, and they would back me up. I played acoustic, and then I would do ‘Everything Is Out’ and a Delta Spirit song called ‘Idaho’. I would have a 7 piece band with horns section. It was pretty great! Then I took my second trio to Europe last September too and we drove around. We did the Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia, Spain, France, Canary Islands, so that was fun.
NLTS: Yeah, I know someone who just saw you. He went to your DC9 show in Washington…
M: Oh, fuck yeah!
NLTS: He was pretty blown away.
M: Yeah, we’ve added a few things since then. That was a fun show though.
NLTS: And I’m guessing you never really played these sort of venues with Delta Spirit..?
M: We played venues like this on the way up. I like them. I love the DC! It’s one of the best rock clubs in America. Even though it’s tiny, it’s still got a vibe. The people in DC are rad. DC has the Baltimore crowd, and then the Arlington, Virginia, some people drive from Richmond to see a show, so you have the mix of North and South, it’s cool.
NLTS: Do you prefer the smaller venues?
M: I don’t have a preference, I just prefer a good audience. What’s been fun about doing this, and then doing it again, is that a lot of people didn’t know what to expect, then they were like ‘Oh! This is what it is’ and now it’s become amore solidified vibe.
But, you go to a rock ’n’ roll show and you hear all sorts of different types of rock ’n’ roll, there’s no one shticky thing that sounds exactly the same. It’s not like ‘The Strokes’ where you hear all the Strokes songs - which are great songs - but they all just sound the same. This sort of goes into like…we play some Country Texas rock ’n’ roll, to have that kind of Rockabilly thing. We’ll also play some sludgy Motorhead mod-rock, and then we’ll playfolk music! It depends on the audience, you know?
If the audience is drunk and talkative we’ll turn it all the way up and play through it for an hour and fifteen and have a great night, but if the audience wants to listen I’ll take a big chunk of the set out and just play acoustic. We play it audibly every night, so all the musicians on stage don’t necessarily need a set, because I can just call audibles and they’re like ‘all right, cool!’. We have sections where it’s like ‘this is how we’ll open’ and then the middle part is six or seven ideas that totally change depending on the vibe of the band and the vibe in the room. It’s cool to be able to do that. You can’t really do that with a ton of production.
NLTS: Was that sort of freedom one of the main motivations to branch out in the end?
M: Yeah. The improvisational side of Delta Spirit wasn’t always tough, but things can get in a rut or in a groove and then you stop getting good at your instrument. I think ‘The Beatles’ said something about that. You just play a set and it’s not…the musicality part of the set is just muscle memory after a certain point, and it’s hard to have the band click or ride on the level where they always have to be paying attention and put the effort out. I will completely say…I think when Delta Spirit does show up, everybody’s in and it’s pretty unstoppable. I don’t make any bones about that. The history, and the friendship too. It still exists, and the band isn’t broken up, that’s the other thing. We’re on a long hiatus and I needed to get all this out. I have a little bit more that I’m probably going to get out, but I would like to see us come back when we don’t need the band, all of us, and we just want to do it, you know what i mean?
NLTS: And obviously you’ve had a relatively lengthy career, so perhaps not, but have you seen a different side to the industry since you went solo that’s surprised you?
M: Everything is trying to be monopolised. That’s really dangerous for creative music and musicians. Local promoters are the reason why music scenes grow, and how bands can get a booking agent and do all that stuff. I see LiveNation trying to buy out a lot of the smaller guys, and already have bought out some of the bigger smaller guys like C3 here in Texas and it’s not to say that…there are tons of great people that work at those companies, but what I think those companies do is fuck up the business because they’re trying to turn it into AT&T, or something, and that doesn’t work. The only way that benefits anything is for Universal music or…You know there are certain artists that get fast tracked without any type of credibility or anything like that so…Sometimes that’s warranted I think, you know? If people find somebody that’s just brilliant and they just want to get behind them, then by all means, but the manufactured crap that gets classed as rock ’n’ roll music I think is a fucking joke. I just want less boy bands in my genre.
NLTS: Yeah. Amen, brother...
M: Haha! But at this point I’m old and crotchety, and I’ve already had my ten years. That whole ‘young kid’ thing, and I don’t want to do it. I want to play some fucking real shit and be realness now. My 30 year old ass can play some kick ass rock ’n’ roll still.