The Smart, Talented (and Adorable) Matt Powers Gets Personal With The Sovereign Sound
2008 was the year that the fabulous Matt Powers exploded onto the music scene, gracing college airwaves with his crafty indie rock debut album Never Ending Aftermath. Now, after playing and working with some of the biggest names in rock, Powers is poised and ready to take over the wrold with his endearing and addicting form of indie pop rock. Sovereign Sound was lucky enough to stalk the Los Angeles-based musician down and bombard him with questions. Check out how he graciously responded.
Sovereign Sound (SS): In your opinion, what makes an epic album?
Matt Powers (MP): An epic album has to have consistency. I think albums like Led Zeppelin I or Sgt. Pepper’s can be seen as cohesive yet fragmented enough so the songs aren’t all the same (like every Weezer album after Pinkerton). I think it’s like coining a phrase or stumbling upon a new idea. An epic album has a societal effect or in a vacuum of attention a subcultural effect.
SS: Give us some insight into your songwriting process.
MP: I generally take writing music much the same as I write prose. It is a craft and I don’t believe that immaculate conception to be the norm. I also think that people who write a “perfect” song with little or no effort set themselves up for great disappointments later in life. It makes them inflexible. In the studio, the song comes first. I try to remain unmarried to everything I work on. The song is paramount. I don’t even think often on my brand or my “sound”. I worry more about each individual song and its quality, message, clarity, fidelity, and musicality. I rewrite my songs constantly. I tend to sing my songs different live. After I record them on an album I tend to continue to work on rewriting the songs. I usually start with a chord progression and/or a melody and build from there. Very rarely do I have time to draft lyrics first. Lyrics come easily to me. I was an English major at NYU. I’m a soon-to-be English teacher currently. I used to improvise most of my lyrics live back in NYC when I was performing in my early 20’s.
SS: What’s the strangest thing to inspire a song?
MP: My favorite inspiration and perhaps the strangest is walking in New York City (preferably the Village, LES, or Chinatown). The energy of the people and the connections therein transcend the glances and shuffle of feet. The press of humanity feels like brushing closer to the zeitgeist.
SS: What’s one thing you can’t do without on the road?
MP: I cannot do without Guayaki Yerba Mate. I’m lucky to be sponsored by them!! They are an Organic Free-Trade Herbal Tea company that works with Argentine farmers to reforest and protect the rainforest. It gives me the good energy I need to keep trucking!
SS: If your music was the soundtrack to a movie, which one would it be?
MP: I think if my music was a soundtrack it would be most likely a drama… but I don’t even watch movies that often, haha. I guess my music is serious so that would lend itself to that.
SS: What venue is at the top of your list of places to play?
MP: I want to play Madison Square Garden before I expire. I know it is ridiculous to dream of that, but I love big stages!! I’ve played some big stages at festivals, and I was hooked from the outset.
SS: What vocalists have inspired you the most?
MP: I’vebeen heavily influenced vocally by Peter Gabriel, Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury, Caleb Followill, Karen O, Kurt Cobain, and Jeff Buckley. I also have to say that Roger Love (the vocal coach) is really hugely responsible for my voice the past two years. My new album will sound different from the first vocally in large part due to Roger Love’s Daily Male Vocal Warm Up.
SS: If you could grace the cover of any magazine, which one would you chose and what would the headline be?
MP: I would love to be on the cover of the Rolling Stone magazine with the headline: Powers to the People, but that’s probably not positive to dwell on, haha. That’s not a great motivator, in my humble opinion. I don’t like most magazines. They are just rags of paper selling advertisement slots. I find most popular magazines to be filled with unimportant dross.
SS: If there was one person in the world that you would want to totally love your music, who would it be?
MP: I would really be honored if John Lennon was alive and loved my music. He was such a harsh critique of others and himself. I would be honored by his approval.