A little over a year and a half ago Gann Matthews, one of Denver’s shining musical artists, left the Midwest for the coast, the east coast that is. New York to be specific. As with most life changes, there have been ups and downs, adjusting to the cost of rent in Denver versus Manhattan (a low indeed), quickly getting regular gigs and even snagging an opening slot for Susanne Vega.
He’s back visiting Denver for a bit, and will be playing with old friends at our beloved Hi-Dive tonight, so we wanted to check in and see how things have been going for Gann in the Big Apple.
Kaffeine Buzz: So what have you been up to since you left Denver?
Gann Matthews: When I first got to New York I sublet a tiny bedroom in the East Village where I was buried by all my possessions and had to keep my guitars and keyboards under the bed in order to have enough space to enter and exit the room. On my third day in the city I went to an open mic at a place called the Sidewalk Café and was offered my first gig. I continued to play at Sidewalk and opened for Susanne Vega there during the New York Antifolk Festival later that summer. I shortly moved out to Brooklyn to get some extra space and spent a year out in the warehouse-roof-party land of Bushwick. I just relocated to Williamsburg where I’ve signed my first official lease in one and a half years of living in New York. I’ve played several shows with full-band line-ups in New York, though I continue to search for players that are available full-time. Everyone is so busy and involved in projects.
KB: Any new releases since then or coming up?
GM: I am finishing my next full-length album this week with Ian Hlatky (producer of my Silent Sound EP as well as other Denver bands Born in the Flood, Joshua Novak, Hello Kavita…) here in Denver. It’s the full-length companion to the “Silent Sound” EP that I released before I moved to New York. If you could imagine my usual acoustic guitar and voice thing dressed up in an early 70’s band with lots of vocal harmonies, vintage keyboards, brass sections and strings you’d have a pretty good idea of the sound.
Where have you been playing in New York and how do they compare to the community here in Denver?
In New York I have been playing in mostly smaller singer-songwriter oriented venues, of which there are many. There is a very strong scene of acoustic based songwriters that tend to write a mix of rock, folk, pop and whatever else style happens to come out.
Really, “singer-songwriter” is the most ridiculous genre…what does it even mean? I sing, I write…yeah, but what style???
The biggest difference I’ve seen so far between Denver and New York is that the songwriter scene and the rock scene have much less crossover than in Denver. That’s probably because there is much more of a songwriter scene in New York that allows you to stay completely in that world if you choose. In Denver, the pure songwriter scene didn’t have enough edge or rock to it for me, so I found myself drawn to the indie-rock scene where I felt more at home. I miss that influence in New York. I’ve been trying to get out to the indie-rock clubs more.
KB: Has your move affected your songwriting, and if so, how?
GM: I moved to New York partially to get out of a safety zone that I found myself in living in Denver. I’ve had some really hard times, both financially and emotionally, and my songwriting can’t help but reflect those changes in my life. I’m writing more personal songs, perhaps a bit darker, but with a sense of optimism that shines through. I’m less kind to myself in song now, often exploring my own responsibility in my life. The new songs are also much shorter, perhaps because of the pace of life in New York, maybe because I’ve become a more concise writer. Half of the set at the Hi-Dive on Thursday will be new songs.
KB: What brings you back to Denver?
GM: I came back to finish my new album. Ian and I are finishing the tracking this week and then I’ll be seeking some label support for distribution and promotion. Secondly (but not in order of importance) I am playing a show at Hi-Dive on Thursday August 23rd with The Beebs and Joshua Novak (10pm, $6). Both of my parents’ birthdays are also this week, they’ll be at the show so wish them happiness and health.