I once told a colleague I found interviewing the ‘usual suspects’ disappointing. Once you get over the thrill of ‘I get to talk to X musician/band today, and they are really famous, therefore I’m cool’, reality sets in.
There’s cynicism on their part at times – and the fact you are their 14th interview of the day in a carefully orchestrated slot by an agent does not add to the romance.
Often, they just want to get it over with.
That’s not to say all artists who have made it big are like this – Yo-Yo Ma is gracious and still in love with music, for example.
But the best conversations about music – and life – I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of happen with people like Matt Shulman.
I decided I had to interview Matt after I saw him in New York at Small’s (a way overlooked Jazz club, btw. Check it out when you are in the Big Apple). I saw this trumpet player with an effects box get up on the stage – and I thought to myself: “This will be interesting.”
It was beyond interesting. Think Chet Baker and Harry Connick Junior with some Peter Gabriel and Radiohead thrown in, and you begin to get what Matt Shulman is about. He used the effects box to create a series of ethereal, shimmering, sometimes spooky loops. His trumpet mused above, sometimes in harmony with the loop, sometimes forging ahead into dissonance. His trumpet sound is also one of the best pure sounds I’ve heard from the instrument – warm, conversational, and inviting, even in the upper register.
Then the multiphonics started. Whoa.
Anyone who has studied a brass instrument seriously knows how friggin’ hard it is do this. Basically, you ‘sing’ and play your instrument at the same time. It’s a difficult technique few ever master. Shulman nails it. And, to add insult to injury, he’s got a pretty nice voice (Harry Connick smooth).
It turned into one of those luscious music experiences, made so because it was such a surprise. I wanted to interview this guy – just to talk with him and find out what he was thinking about as a person and musician.
Check out this video for ‘So it Goes’.
When Matt and I talked a few years ago, he told me this song and much of his debut record were a reflection and response to his divorce. We talked about how music helps us work stuff out. All musicians, regardless of their level of accomplishment, find help in playing and writing music. It focuses your mind on the moment as you process the day, the year, your life.
Sometimes, you are fortunate to talk with people about the power of that experience. So, thanks Matt for giving me one of those times.
BTW – Looks like Matt may have a new record coming out in the fall. I’ll be listening for it…eagerly.