Infectious Magazine’s Sami Marshall chatted with singer/songwriter Matt Wertz during his short break from his current nationwide Gun Shy Tour. The two talked about connecting to fans through social media, the fast-paced LA music scene, and the subjects he’s curious about. You can check out the full exclusive interview after the jump!
Matt is getting ready to finish up the back end of his Gun Shy Tour. You can check out remaining tour dates and buy concert tickets here.
To hear more from Matt, you can purchase Gun Shy or any previous releases here.
Infectious Magazine: You’ve been on the road for about a month now promoting Gun Shy. How are you doing and how has the tour been?
Matt Wertz: Thanks for asking! I’m actually doing really well. We have a really loving band and crew out on the road with us. The opening acts are really great! And we’re all traveling together so we’re having fun. It seems to work. I am grateful to have had the last week at home, in Nashville. It’s been a really nice break. Getting to sleep in my own bed and seeing my girlfriend. Just doing normal person things for a few days. The tour’s been going great. We started out with a bunch of trailer flat tires and that was a bummer because it felt like any day we had off I was dealing with flat trailer tires. No breaks at all. Thankfully, in the last week and a half, we’ve been free of any flats.
IM: The production for the show was a lot bigger than what you expected, right?
MW: Yes. This is the first time I have ever brought lights on the road. And so, I’m kind of a newbie when it comes to all this stuff. So I had no idea how much space that would take up and how much weight that would mean. It’s just been a learning experience. All the set up and tear down time each night. I think we finally got it and it really adds a lot to the show though to have consistent lights every night. I wanted to make sure that the show was the same caliber as the music is and that we’re putting the same amount of quality and thought into the show as we are the recordings.
IM: Gun Shy came out in May, and what I immediately noticed was how different it sounded, especially compared to Heatwave. Your albums have always tended to vary, but this one had more of a soul and R&B vibe to it. So what are some of the factors and influences that you draw from when you go to create a new album?
MW: I have the luxury of being independent, so that means I get to make whatever music I want to make. I’m not having any outside influence from like a business standpoint. Because of that, I really get to follow my muse and my whims. Heatwave took on more of a 80’s singer/songwriter record, like a Bryan Adams or like Kenny Loggins. And with this record, I really wanted to make an indie pop/R&B record. It was a by-product of the music I’d really been listening to and enjoying over the last couple of years. Each record is different. Sometimes it’s a very clear direction that guides me in songwriting and production. Sometimes it’s not. And this record was written in LA and the way they write in LA sometimes is you’re recording as you’re writing. And most of it is done on the computer. It’s this really cool thing where you’re writing lyrics and melodies to a song that’s developing right before your ears. That can really change what you would do melodically and even lyrically. If I’m sitting down with my acoustic guitar, in order for me to channel like Michael Jackson or Great Good Fine Ok, that’s going to be a lot harder to imagine because it doesn’t sound anything like that. But as we’re writing, and it’s sounding like that from the beginning, it just opens up all these new possibilities.
IM: One of my favorite things that you did with Gun Shy prior to its release was you seemed to have a lot of fun with the merch that you used to promote it. Is there any just off the wall, crazy piece of merch that you want to someday create?
MW: I have all these great ideas… Well I think they’re great, I don’t know if anyone else does. Every year, I do this thing called the Snow Globe Shop. So the Snow Globe Shop is a way for me to partner with people who make cool things and make something together that, otherwise, neither of us would have made. And also offer fans of me different gift ideas that are more than just a t-shirt with Matt’s name on it. That ends up being a place where I get to explore that. This year we’ve got some pretty cool stuff going on. I’ve always wanted to make a jigsaw puzzle. I want to make a jigsaw puzzle for Christmas and feature one of my friend’s photographs, or something like that. I really pride myself on taking some chances with merch.
IM: To also promote the album, you really started to implement and use the new Facebook Live feature. How has that particular feature helped you in connecting with your fans? And do have plans for some live streams soon or in the near future?
MW: The way it’s been so positive is that Facebook, because they’re trying to get people to use that feature, they have really promoted that. They’ve made it so when I go live, everybody who follows me sees it and gets a notification. Whereas with other things, they might not necessarily, depending on how recently they’ve been engaged with my site. Facebook has some kind of algorithm to throttle your posts. The reason that’s been so good for us is because it just reaches more people. That’s been fun. Sometimes it’s tough to speak into thin air, you kind of feel like you’re talking to nobody. I think the platform is really cool because it’s very easy for folks to engage with it. And if they miss it, they can always get on Facebook and watch the video later. As far as future live streams, there’s nothing planned, but sometimes that stuff happens so last minute anyway. We will probably do one again before the tour’s out.
IM: I do enjoy seeing them and your fans are very engaging during the sessions. The comments are always just rushing in.
MW: I know! It’s fun! In my position, you feel like you’re having to ask things of people quite a bit, so it’s nice to be able to do things that are like, “Hey, we don’t need y’all to do anything! Just come hang out and hopefully this is fun.”
IM: So that last time you were in Florida, it was for the To Write Love On Her Arms 10th Anniversary Show. How did you get involved with the organization?
MW: I was definitely aware of To Write Love On Her Arms before I met Jamie [Tworkowski]. We met through some mutual friends and just became friends. He’d come to Nashville and stay at my house. I’d come through Florida and he’d come to a show. And because we’re both travelling all the time, it would just happen that we’d both be in Denver and we’d hang out. He’s just really good about keeping in touch. So really, that was it. We found that we really connected on a lot of similar things and care about the same things and have had similar struggles. We just connected on a personal level. Then he asked me to join in on doing things with To Write Love.
IM: Why do you feel it’s important for the music industry and musicians to have such a strong involvement with organizations such as TWLOHA?
MW: I won’t speak for everyone. It’s been good for me to be forced to think about something outside of myself. Just to be reminded that the world is bigger than my immediate circle and my problems. And you can do that through any number of organizations. I’ve actually done a lot of work with this group called The Mocha Club. It encourages people to give the equivalent of a few mochas a month to some really great work that we’re doing in Africa. That’s been one of those things that has opened up a world to me that I never knew existed. And I think that’s what it’s all about – getting outside of yourself. I’ve always hoped that my music connected offered hope to people and let them know they’re not alone, so this is just another way to do that.
IM: This summer, you started your podcast. For those who aren’t aware of it, can you explain what it’s all about?
MW: So I started a podcast, it’s called The Curiosity Habit. It’s basically just a little avenue for me to explore people, places, things and ideas that I’m curious about. Just sit down with folks and try to dig in to see what makes them tick and what they care about and currently what’s important to them. And that can be anything from talking about coffee and opening up this world that a lot of people didn’t even know existed and how nerdy you can get about coffee. And talking to my friend Thad about songwriting. It kind of runs the gambit. I like that the name allows it to be a wide variety of things.
IM: And what I like about it is, normally when you see a musician start a podcast it’s definitely going to be about music, but yours isn’t. You have a very broad spectrum of topics that you cover, which is nice coming from a musician.
MW: I’m glad that you think so. It’s very easy to talk about music, so I have to make sure I’m not getting stuck in that rut. I know that that would be interesting to people, too, but I want to talk to people that I’m going to be engaged and interested in. I know too much about music to still be like (sarcastically), “Oh my gosh!”
IM: Why was this summer the perfect time for you to take on doing a podcast?
MW: We’d been talking about it for a while and all the pieces just fell into place. And the great thing too was we had a bunch of episodes that had been recorded and it just required me to record a few more, but because the album came out in May and we weren’t going to be touring until the fall, we needed to keep talking. And again, it was one of those things where we weren’t asking you to buy anything. It seems like anymore, to stay on people’s brains, you have to keep releasing things. It makes me exhausted, but I’m trying to do that as much as I can.
IM: What do you hope to bring to season 2, and do you have any idea when you may be doing that?
MW: You know what? I don’t. I’ve been marinating on some ideas and who I can talk to. I thought I was going to be able to take season 2 on the road and record while I’m travelling, but it’s been so tough to have any spare time. Chances are I’ll have more time to do that and approach it this spring. And who knows? I don’t know if it’ll just be a summer thing. Maybe every summer I’ll just do that. But I know some things I want to improve on this time. I want to make sure my recording quality is better and maybe even keep it to a certain length so it’s easier to listen to. Some of them got a little long.
IM: You have had a pretty extensive career in this industry and it spans about 15 years. You’ve seen a lot of changes, I’m sure, in the industry, but if you could change one thing about it, what would it be and why?
MW: I think the thing that I’ve been seeing lately is that it’s not enough to just release good music anymore. I used to really believe that good songs and good music will just find a way – that it’ll break through. And I guess the argument can be made that that still happens and that your music just isn’t connecting with enough people. But I guess that I’ve just gotten enough positive feedback that makes me think that this record is really good and it’s still not enough to really breakout and get heard by a lot of people. The only real reason I want that to happen is so that I can continue to have a career. I don’t need to be popular, but I’d like to be able to do this again. To a degree, I wish it wasn’t so hard to get heard, which is coming from someone who even has a career. I’m very grateful for that. It’s definitely become harder and harder since I’ve started. There’s so many people who are releasing music. We’re just really distracted as a culture and there’s a lot out there. We get bored easily.
IM: Even though 2016 is almost over, which is crazy to be saying, what does the rest of this year, and maybe even into 2017, hold for you?
MW: We’re going to be finishing out the back half of the Gun Shy Tour. I am currently working on the Snow Globe Shop, that we’ll launch mid-November. There will be a Christmas show in Nashville, on December 9th, that is totally road trip worthy. I don’t really know what 2017 is gonna look like yet. So that’s probably a conversation we need to start having because it’s going to be here before we know it. I would like to continue to tour this record. I know that we will have hit all the major markets on this tour and we’d have to come back and maybe do a co-headliner or go out and support acts.
IM: Is there any final comments or anything you’d like your fans and our readers to know?
MW: I’m just really grateful that folks continue to show up and give me a shot. If you haven’t checked out Gun Shy yet, you might be in for a surprise and hopefully it’s a pleasant one.