[INTERVIEW] Singer/Songwriter Matt Hires
It was a brisk, October night in Chicago as I walked into Schubas Tavern on the corner of Belmont and Southport to see Tampa based singer/songwriter Matt Hires. Cold and sipping on a beer at the bar was my condition as Matt walked up to me and introduced himself. Laid back, down to earth, and passionate are all good traits to describe Matt and his new Live Sessions EP; which he is on tour promoting with help from his sensationally poppy opening act, Rachel Platten. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to duck into the green room with Matt and Rachel before their show to chat about life on the road, cabinet making, and spirit animals. Check out the interview below!
The Sights and Sounds: Hey guys, we’re live at Schubas with Matt Hires. How are you doing Matt?
Matt Hires: I’m doing good.
The Sights and Sounds: You want to introduce yourself for the audience?
Matt Hires: Yeah, I’m Matt Hires. I’m from Tampa, Florida and I write songs and play shows.
The Sights and Sounds: You just started your acoustic tour last night. How was your opening show?
Matt Hires: It was a lot of fun. We played over in Minneapolis. It’s always a fun city.
The Sights and Sounds: You’re going to be on the road for the next couple of weeks. What are you expecting?
Matt Hires: I’m expecting to put on some awesome shows, do what I love to do every night, listen to CJ (Matt’s guitar player) slay it on guitar, and just have a good time.
The Sights and Sounds: You told me that you guys are traveling around in a van for the tour. What are you doing to keep busy on the road?
Matt Hires: For the first leg of this tour the drives are pretty long, so we just like to get up fairly early and drive all day. But I think we’ll have some down time later on in the tour to do some fun stuff. There’s something that we’re talking about doing in Atlanta called WhirleyBall. It’s this thing where you drive around in bumper cars. It’s kind of like basketball too, where you have this small backboard and you have to swing a ball at it. It should be fun.
The Sights and Sounds: Are you actually doing any of the driving yourself?
Matt Hires: Yeah, we all take a turn.
[Rachel Platten , Matt’s bubbly and very talented opening act, walks in the room and introduces herself. We chat for a minute before returning to the interview.]
The Sights and Sounds: Where do you prefer playing more? Do you prefer the studio or live shows?
Matt Hires: I don’t know, they’re two different things. I like getting into the studio and really thinking about the songs and figuring out how it’s supposed to sound and all that. But then there’s nothing like a good live show either. Just playing in front of fans and just doing what I love to do every night.
The Sights and Sounds: Matt, you began your career as a cabinet maker, correct?
Matt Hires: Well, I didn’t actually build the cabinets. I was more of like the sanding, staining, finishing kind of guy. But I worked in the cabinet shop for eight years.
The Sights and Sounds: Cool. Following in Jesus’ steps. So now you’re a musician, obviously, and you’ve opened for bands such as Dave Matthews, Marc Broussard, and O.A.R. How has this transition been from working with cabinets to working with superstars?
Matt Hires: It’s been awesome. I love just being able to play music for a living. Not that I disliked working at the cabinet shop, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So it was a beautiful day when I was able to stop that and do music full time. It was glorious.
The Sights and Sounds: You’ve been compared to the likes of Jack Johnson, John Mayer, and Bright Eyes. Where do you draw the inspiration from for your particular sound?
Matt Hires: I like to think I draw a little bit from all the stuff I listen to. But some of my main influences would be Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Ryan Adams I like a lot, and Chicago’s Wilco. They’re one of my favorites. (Matt has a short review on their new album on his blog.)
The Sights and Sounds: Where do you like to write your songs? Any particular time of day?
Matt Hires: Usually just sitting on my couch in my living room at 3 in the morning.
The Sights and Sounds: Off your first album you had “Out of the Dark,” “Turn the Page,” and “Perfect Day,” all of which appeared TV shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Cougar Town, and Private Practice. Have you ever sat down and watched any of those episodes?
Matt Hires: I’m pretty sure I’ve watched every one. The only episodes of Cougar Town, Private Practice, and Grey’s Anatomy I’ve ever seen have been those episodes. But it’s pretty cool. I always enjoy doing that, you know?
The Sights and Sounds: Were you by yourself watching it or were you with a big group?
Matt Hires: Once I was at my parents house because they wanted me to come over and watch it with them. And once I was on tour and it was just my tour manager and I sitting in a hotel room in Dallas, Texas. That was the best one I had. It was the Grey’s Anatomy episode and they played almost the whole song at the climax of the episode. So it was really cool.
The Sights and Sounds: After your tour finishes up in mid-November you’re headed back to the studio for your sophomore album. What can we expect to hear?
Matt Hires: I’m trying to just take what I started with my first record and expand that a little more into stuff I’ve been listening to a lot lately, like Tome Petty and things like that. There are some new songs I have going on there that I’ll probably play a tonight.
The Sights and Sounds: If you could collaborate with any artist, time not being a factor, who would you want on this album with you?
Matt Hires: Aww, man. Bob Dylan, I think. Maybe a little Beethoven playing piano, if time is not a factor. We could have some Gregorian chants.
The Sights and Sounds: Now do you want six year old prodigy Beethoven or old, grown up Beethoven?
Matt Hires: I don’t know, man. Let’s go with the six year old. [He laughs] That’s a good question, I’ve never been asked that before.
The Sights and Sounds: Glad I could catch you a little off guard. If I stole your iPod, which I wouldn’t do, (Matt chimes in that Rachel probably would though and Rachel jokingly claims to steal things) what kind of music would I find you listening to?
Matt Hires: I’ve been listening to this band called the Bell Brigade a lot lately. And The National. Those are two bands I’ve been listening to a lot lately. One of my favorite records of the past three or four months has been the Brandon Flowers record that came out last year. His solo record was really, really good and I liked it a lot.
The Sights and Sounds: Now a fun question for you. If you could be any spirit animal, what would you be?
Matt Hires: [Without hesitation] A platypus.
The Sights and Sounds: Why a platypus?
Matt Hires: Because it used to be my favorite animal as a kid! [Laughing]
[Rachel is in the room and I ask her the same question.]
Rachel Platten: I think an elephant. I’m obsessed with elephants and it’s my logo, first of all. And I do a lot of yoga and the god, Ganesh, who has an elephant head and a human body, is the god of art and music and controlling her basic instincts.
The Sights and Sounds: Cool, guys. That basically wraps it up. Any shout outs you want to give?
Matt Hires: To all my homies back in Tampa. I want to give a shout out to them.
Rachel Platten: I’m gonna give a shout out to all of Matt’s homies back in Tampa as well. And I’d like to give a shout out to my husband!
The Sights and Sounds: Thank you both very much for your time. I appreciate it and have a great show tonight!
Matt Hires Tour Schedule:
OCTOBER 25 Minneapolis, MN – Bunkers
OCTOBER 26 Chicago, IL – Schubas Tavern
OCTOBER 27 Arkon, OH – Musica
OCTOBER 28 Buffalo, NY – Town Ballroom *
OCTOBER 29 Cambridge, MA – Middle East Upstairs
OCTOBER 31 New York, NY – Joe’s Pub
NOVEMBER 1 Philadelphia, PA – World Café Live
NOVEMBER 2 Vienna, VA – Jammin’ Java
NOVEMBER 4 Chapel Hill, NC – Casbah
NOVEMBER 5 Atlanta, GA – Smith’s Olde Bar – Atlanta Room
NOVEMBER 8 Orlando, FL – The Plaza Live Theatre
NOVEMBER 9 Tampa, FL – The Orpheum