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Skipjack Sightings- Matt Wertz

Posted on Aug/29/2012


Matt Wertz writes the kind of music you can play on a road trip with any combination of friends in the car…music for the mix-tape of your life…feel-good rock and roll that lifts your spirits and occasionally makes you bawl your eyes out. His latest record is called Weights & Wings, which features the instantly sing-a-long-able track, “Nobody’s You.”

Southern Tide caught up with Matt recently, as he was packing for a trip to Australia where he will be opening for Hanson.

1. How old were you when you wrote your first song? Can you remember what it was called? The lyrics?

I wrote my first song when I was 18. The girl I was in love with all throughout high school had made out with a good friend of mine and like any burgeoning songwriter, I wrote a song about it. I think it was called ‘A Kiss’ or something like that! Super deep stuff.

2. Which comes first for you…music or lyrics?

It really is the music most of the time. Although I am taking lyrical notes along the path of life- something that might work as a song title, or maybe a thought that hit me as significant. Usually it all starts with me sitting down with my guitar, stumbling on a melody and digging through my heart to see what needs to be said.

3. When you listen to songs you wrote ten, fifteen years ago…are you proud of Young Matt? Embarrassed? In-between? What advice would Now Matt like to give Young Matt?

Wow, that’s a great question. I don’t know that I’m proud of the quality of the earliest songs, but I AM proud of the courage I had to write them.  I think I would have more to LEARN from Young Matt than anything. The lesson he would teach me is ‘BE FREE!’ Don’t worry about what people are going to think! When I first started writing songs there was no thought that people would ever hear them. They were all just for me.  It’s a real temptation now to start editing a lyric before I’ve even finished a rough draft.

4. You started as an independent, built a following, and signed on to a major label. Now you’re happily back to being an independent. Are the days of major label artists over?

I don’t think the days of the major label artist is over, but I do think the playing field has been leveled considerably.  The great thing about this is that great music can be heard and spread just as easily as what is put out on a major label.  The crummy thing is that there’s SO MUCH music now that it’s hard to sift through it sometimes. 

5. You do a lot of touring and performing. Do you ever get homesick? How do you keep the road from becoming a grind?

I do get homesick. I think I always have, but when I was younger, there were more new experiences to keep me distracted and caught up in the adventure of it all. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to pay more attention to how being gone for any length of time (over a week) starts to drain me.  I’m trying a new schedule out this fall where I tour every other weekend for two months- this will allow me to be home for 10 day chunks, and then out for 4 or 5 days. I just want to feel like I’m home more than I’m away!

6. You’ve opened for several very successful artists. Who, specifically, has been the greatest influence on you?

OOOH, another great one. You know, I think honestly my friends who I’ve toured with have been the biggest influence on me. Guys like Dave Barnes, Ben Rector, and Gabe Dixon. All of those guys silently push me to write better songs.  I also remember watching Needtobreathe play a show on The Rock Boat a couple years back. I was blown away by how great their show was.  I left thinking to myself ‘What am I doing? I’ve got to step up my live show!” They were so electric and engaging, and it really made me want to put more thought into how I could be better!

7. We think Matt Wertz merch is the best in the biz. Who’s your designer, and how involved are you in the selection process?

WOW! Thanks! It’s something I take a lot of pride in, because I’m a closet fashion nerd.  I don’t want to sell anything with my name on it that I wouldn’t wear or buy for someone I cared about! For the majority of my career I have worked with my friend Matt Lehman (mattlehmanstudio.com)- we have come up with some great shirts together. More recently I worked with a guy named Jeremy Beasley who not only designed the shirts, but dyed, and printed each shirt by hand. It really took the whole ‘band t-shirt’ thing to another level!

8. You moved from Missouri down south to Tennessee. What is it like being a transplant? How did that influence your style?

I was a little insecure of being a transplant at first- thinking I wasn’t a ‘real southerner’ or whatever. It didn’t take me long to realize that Nashville is a mixing pot, and that hardly anyone who lives in Nashville is actually FROM Nashville! It’s especially hard to find folks in the music business from here, and so that has allowed me to really find my own place here. I found life-long friends in Nashville and I think that has a lot to do with the fact that most of the people who live here have chosen to be here for some reason- it makes it a very vibrant and energetic town. I think style-wise, being in the south has just taken me further down the road of traditional menswear, but with my own little twist. I love mixing the refined with the rough- so if I’m wearing a pair of nicer chinos, I’ll throw on a vintage t-shirt or beat up oxford. Or vice versa- old worn-in jeans paired with a clean polo or sport shirt. Keeps things interesting. 

9. Rock-n-Roll and fashion have been inseparable since the Beatles invaded America. What do you wear on stage, and why?

Well, my first concern is ‘what can I wear that doesn’t show off how much I’m sweating?’ Through much trial and error I’ve discovered grey t shirts and blue oxfords are off limits for me on stage!  I’m still looking for a line that does breathable, wicking shirts that don’t look athletic (hint hint). Besides that, I honestly just try to wear what I wear off stage when I’m trying to look cool. Does that make sense? It’s typically grounded in classic American style. Jeans, t-shirt, collard shirt, you know the drill…

10. Midnight at Waffle House. What’s your order?

Waffle with 2 eggs. BAM.

BONUS! The Fighting Illini are facing a real struggle in the Leaders Division of the BIG 10 this year, with a new coach and a totally new offensive scheme. Think you could write them an inspiring new fight song?

You know, it would be a first, but anything to help out my alma mater! 

Make sure to check out Matt's music on iTunes!  And we would like to thank the incredible photographer that sent us these photos. Eric Staples, we love the shots! Check out his website here.

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