{Behind The Music} Bruce Matthews on Can’t Be About Me

{Behind The Music} Bruce Matthews on Can’t Be About Me

Bruce Matthews“I think music has to transcend the artist or it eventually loses its truth. Music is a gift; and if you play music as a gift it can become truth to touch whoever is really listening.” – @NCTAbuckstop

November 12 1:20 pm eastern time
Episode #274 : A.V.A Live Radio Behind The Music with Jacqueline Jax

by Jacqueline Jax host of A.V.A Live Radio
Like a lot of kids growing up in the 60’s…
my heroes were the bands and musicians making the music we loved to hear and then tried to play—Stones, Beatles, Doors, Rascals…then I got blown away by the emerging country rock scene—Springfield, Poco, Eagles, Burrito Bros, Byrds, CSNY, etc.. Being in a band was cool; getting to play music—especially original music–was a great way to deal with the stuff you deal with growing up. But the trap is when you start to believe your own hype, and you don’t have the maturity to separate the B.S. from the truth. And so, it gets to be all about you. Which in its truest form, it can’t be.

I think music has to transcend the artist or it eventually loses its truth. Music is a gift; and if you play music as a gift it can become truth to touch whoever is really listening.

All of which is to say I pretty much quit playing music in my early 20’s, and only started playing again in the last few years, mainly because the music I was hearing in the church I was attending spoke truth to me. I dusted off my guitar, auditioned for the worship team, and have been a regular ever since. Part of what’s been happening is that original music has been flowing again—only now I’m a little smarter about where the truth lies. At least I hope so.

Can’t Be About Me…
The song is about putting yourself in the places that speak to you. We spend so much time experiencing “life” through a screen—cell phone, I-pad, computer, TV, car, windows…we’re so insulated and isolated from the real world. And we feel the emptiness, and sometimes the brokenness, but unless we put ourselves in real places and touch real elemental things unencumbered by glass, we aren’t living life. We aren’t experiencing but a fraction of what life could be. We’re missing it. So…. you head up north and hike your heart out and listen to what’s speaking to you in the wind.

I wrote it after returning from a hiking trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, on the North Country National Scenic Trail. Pretty much just came to me as I played out the chord patterns. During the recording we had a lot of fun working out the “soul chorus” vocal parts; we also had overlays for a bunch of additional acoustic instruments, but it seemed the more of that we put in, the more it got in the way of the simplicity of the message.
Did anything sad or funny happen during the process.

During the music video we were going to shoot it outdoors (doh!) but it started to rain. With each take I got wetter, which of course screwed up any possibility of edits and splices. At one point I was walking toward the camera, which was mounted on a set of rails and being pulled backwards by the cameraman, who forgot about the end of rails. I’m walking toward the camera as he falls off the rail, with the camera toppling on him as I dissolve into fits of laughter. Never made it into the video. Wound up doing it all in a barn, which was cold (watch the breath steam!) and what felt like 40,000 takes with the leaves coming down (and getting gathered back up again for the next take). http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JEM1S88/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_45oqwb1SX5QM2

What’s great and special about it my music is…
“So Far” is a collection of 15 original songs, ranging from the goofy (Double Dookie Dude—written for my grandson being potty-trained) to the deeply spiritual (Orphaned by Circumstance). Most of my songs are about being outside, dealing with brokenness or fear, redemption and relationships with God. I hope people are touched, maybe inspired by it. I hope Dookie and Mayo Blues make them laugh. I hope Foxey Brown tells a great story. I hope it makes you think about the outdoors, the natural world, and maybe take a little better care of it. I hope it speaks to guys especially with songs like Band of Brothers and Lift My Hands to Fight, because guys have a tough row to hoe in this broken world. I hope it makes you feel loved, redeemed and not afraid.

As my first CD, I guess maybe I was trying out a number of different hats, seeing what felt the best, where I wanted the music to take me, and me to take the music. I think its doing that. I think I have some choices to make.

Lowell, Michigan…
just outside of Grand Rapids, otherwise known as Beer City USA, where there is a church on every corner. Seriously. It’s a pretty cool music and arts scene, particularly for a potentially uptight Yankee city. Lots of festivals to play, summer concerts, and venues from coffee houses to block parties to blues clubs to concert stages. And lots of churches doing music from traditional to contemporary with live bands playing.

Founders Brewery has a great club atmosphere and Tuesday night open mic that’s lots of fun. Don’t miss Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts, first weekend in June. The entire downtown filled with music, typically 5-6 venues at all times.
Tell me about one fun thing you like to do that can be music or non-music related. I’m a gardener. Remember Guy Clark’s Home-Grown Tomatoes? That’s me. Just finished canning 16 pints of green tomato relish—can’t stand to see them wasted!

Music business…
is pretty scary. It feels like a crap shoot. Tough to get heard and cut through the clutter. You need to be pretty centered. So easy to get seduced.

Pros and cons I have experienced…
As a young man playing clubs I never much cared for getting evaluated by the amount of alcohol being sold. I didn’t much care for the seamyness of the scene when (this is a true story) we’d get gigs because a promoter promised a club owner he’d get a blow job from our female singer. Got pretty tired of that.

I can get plenty of gigs if I play for beer; but I know that even though exposure’s good, undercutting my fellow musicians isn’t. Given I’m not a party band, don’t do a lot of covers and what I do is because we like to play them, not because they’re party songs, paying gigs aren’t easy to find.

I have overcome the hurdles and pitfalls… I have a day job.

Social media…
Immediacy of response. What don’t I like—its way too fleeting.

Singles vs an album…
It seems to be the direction now—albums don’t seem to generate as much interest as the immediacy of a single. I haven’t had much time to develop a marketing strategy other than hyping the CD when I play.

I would love to have 5 minutes alone with…
Richie Furay. Because he had it all (70’s) and then realized he had nothing at all, and had the courage to make the change. I strive to be that person.

Music trends…
Well its pretty clear I’m not real current and trendy. I just hope being real and honest and speaking the truth is enough to cut through the fickle clouds of trendiness.  I have to trust that somebody who needs to hear it will listen.

I am most afraid of… Being unworthy. Not being honest.

My personal definition of success is..
Occasionally guys will come up to me and they have that look that says, yeah, you nailed it for me. Which, for guys, isn’t ever an easy thing, so when they tell you your music spoke truth to them, it means a lot. So really that’s success to me. Knowing what I’m doing is worth it for at least somebody.

To clarify, I’m not talking entertaining here. Sure, I hope people enjoy it when I play. But have I reached somebody? When I do, that’s success.

My over all goal for my life & career is…
Speak the truth and make an honest effort. Be the man I was made to be. Make a difference in the lives of the people I touch. Live faithfully.

3 Ways that I challenge myself and how each one moves me forward towards my goal.
1) Keep trying, keep pushing even when the music doesn’t come. Or, when it comes it sucks.
2) Speak truth gently.
3) Be in that place where I know that if it pleases God its all that matters.

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