Exciting news, guys; Matt Hires just dropped his sophomore record This World Won’t Last Forever, But Tonight We Can Pretend and he’ll be at Sixth & I in DC this week! I had a little phone catchup with Matt a few weeks ago to talk about the album, about the challenges of writing and performing super personal songs, and about how he maintains his sanity when he’s on the road for such long periods of time. Read up on all that below, grab tickets to the show, and be sure to snag a copy of the record for your very own. Here we go:
Where are you right now? In Florida or on the road?
No, I’m at home in Florida.
Okay cool, and you’ll start this tour August 13th in New York, right?
Yeah, well I’m actually leaving a week from today to drive from Tampa to Denver to rehearse with my band and pick them up. Then we’re driving to New York.
Wow, lots of driving ahead!
Yeah, two more weeks at home, then a lot of driving, and then the tour starts and there’s a lot more driving! [Laughs]
Well that’s all very exciting! And congratulations on the new record, which will also be out the 13th, right?
Yes, I’m pumped for that.
Well a sophomore effort can be a daunting task; did you get any of that apprehension at all, or was it fairly smooth sailing?
No, I definitely got some of that feeling in writing the songs for it especially; I kept saying, “Are these going to be as good as my first record? I don’t want to hit a sophomore slump or anything.” This is especially because I released my first album in 2009, and we’re now into 2013; not only is it a sophomore record, but there’s four years of time in between to build up the pressure. BUT, I think the new record is awesome, so I’m not worried about it.
That’s great! When you started writing it, did you have a clear vision in mind of a certain theme or mission statement that you wanted to accomplish, and did you end up at a different Point B for the end result than you maybe expected to at the outset?
Sort of; I didn’t necessarily have a theme that I wanted to stick to when I was writing the songs. Over a year to a year and a half I wrote a bunch of songs, and I ended up with thirty or so that we sifted through to decide what was going to make it on the record. But in the end, I think the songs that did make it on have repeating themes throughout, and I feel like they fit well together.
And was there anything in that writing or recording process that stood out to you as especially outside your comfort zone?
Well, we made the record in a lot less time than I made my first record; we spent probably three months on the first one, maybe even more, but with this one we had a lot less time to make it, maybe about a month. So it was scary wondering if I’d be able to get what I wanted out of this in a shorter amount of time, but I love how everything came together. I also worked with the same producer that I did on my first record, and we were very much on the same page and had a clear direction of where we were going, so the recording process went really smoothly, and it was a blast.
That’s great! And I’m sure it helps to work with someone who’s gained your trust over the years, too.
Yeah, because at that point we’d known each other for a couple of years and had become friends, so it just made the whole in-studio experience better, too.
Definitely. Now, are you anxious to hear the fan feedback, or is that something you pay very much attention to? I mean, I’m sure you ideally want people to like it, but do you try to tune that out to not let it get in your head?
I try not to let it get in my head, but every so often it does. Most of the time the feedback is good, though. I guess I’m not that worried about it.
Good. And when you perform these songs in a live setting, have you reached a point where you’re just so comfortable that it doesn’t make you nervous? Some of them seem pretty personal, which is why I ask.
It can be hard, and it can make you feel very vulnerable to sing about something so personal on stage. There’s one on the new record called “When I Was Young”, and it’s very autobiographical and honest; it’s difficult to sing it live, but I enjoy singing it live, because it’s one of my favorite songs that I’ve written. It also depends on the night; certain times are more difficult to sing than others.
Right. Now, sort of relating to that, is there any specific reason you didn’t decide to go with a moniker? I know some people choose them to kind of create a distance between the music and the personal aspects.
Yeah, I thought about that when I was first starting out for that reason, but I like my name and I figured, “What the heck, if I’m going to be writing honest songs and be a truthful songwriter, I should just use my name.”
That’s good! It does kind of hold you accountable. Plus your name has a nice ring to it and isn’t super clunky, so that’s fortunate! Now, with all of the traveling you do, especially with this upcoming August tour, how do you kind of maintain your sanity when you’re on the road for that long? Is there anything that has to happen for you to be able to get through it?
For the most part I feel like I maintain my sanity pretty well when I’m on the road, it’s just where you have those drives that require you to go twenty hours in two days or something; with those, you can kind of get a case of highway madness. But most of the time, me and my bandmates keep each other sane enough.
That’s good. Gotta have good company. Okay, now here’s a theoretical question: if you could sit down with anybody in the world and have them listen to your new record with you, who would it be?
I think it’d have to be Tom Petty. He’s one of my favorite songwriters and a fellow Floridian, and I think he’d get what I do pretty well.
Right. Well, this next one is in the same vein, so maybe it’ll be the same answer, BUT, if you could have anyone in the world cover one of your songs, who would it be, and which song would you like for them to cover?
Hmm…well, Tom Petty would be a good one, too, but Wilco is one of my favorite bands; I think they’re so creative, and they could probably do something pretty cool with some of my songs. So maybe Wilco covering “I Am Not Here”, which is a song on my new record.
Amazing. And what else have you got coming up in 2013? Touring until…it looks like September? And then what?
Yeah, the tour ends in Dallas on September 22nd I think, and then after that I’m not sure; I’ll probably do more touring in the fall, but we’ll see what happens.