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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Chicago musician Matthew Morgan releases new album, will perform Sept. 26 show


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

On his latest album, "Empathy for Inanimate Objects," Chicago musician Matthew Morgan proves that you don't have be loud to gain attention.

The EP's hushed, intimate sound goes far in grabbing the listener's ear. To mark the release of the EP, Matthew Morgan & The Family Band will perform Sept. 26 at the SubT Lounge, 2011 W. North Ave., Chicago.

Sarah Eide & The Borderland Band also is on the bill. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $8, available at www.ticketfly.com.

I had the chance to talk to Morgan about the new album. 

Q - Great talking to you again. The last time we spoke, The Lost Brigade was releasing a new album, "Found." You parted ways with the band two years ago. Was it just time for you to go in a new musical direction?

Hi Eric - It's great to talk to you again. Yes, Matthew Morgan and the Lost Brigade was a great band and a great group of people, but ultimately I felt myself moving in a different direction as a songwriter.

MMLB had three different song writers with three very distinct styles of writing that you can hear on the album we released, which was a really great record that we're all proud of. Ultimately, I just felt my musical message was heading in a very different direction than the rest of the band.

Q - In sitting down to make "Empathy for Inanimate Objects," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? Is there a meaning behind the EP's name?

I wanted the album to sound intimate. I'm a huge fan of outsider singer songwriters like Elliott Smith and Nick Drake and in that vein I wanted to make an album that had more of a boutique aesthetic.

I feel like I express myself best with that kind of music, or it comes more naturally to me. But, I still want to work on getting better at writing bigger sounding arrangements too.

I'm really happy with the way this album sounds and I think working with Nate Lockwood was a great experience. He really captured not only what I was going for with this record, but molded it into something that sounds unique and timeless.

The title was just something I found interesting and it didn't really evolve until I found this old tin dollhouse of my mom's that ended up being the image for the album cover. There's both a sadness and a strength to objects from the past and that has always held an appeal for me.

If I wasn't a songwriter I would probably run an antique/vintage toy/clothing shop.

Q - How did you go about choosing the musicians on the EP? What did Nate Lockwood bring to the table?

Most of the musicians that I brought in were friends of mine from Chicago. Liz Chidester has this fabulous sounding voice that sort of lies somewhere between jazz and folk and she has the rare ability to move effortlessly between sounding pure and bird-like and versus husky and sensuous.

Sarah Blick is a local violinist who's in pretty high demand because of her mad skills, but I'm lucky enough to be her friend and so I was able to get her involved. Her violin on "Lost At Sea" has been a huge talking point since the record came out because it sounds amazing!

The only other Chicago-based musician is my good friend, Dave Szpunar, who plays about a dozen different instruments and has been playing in bands with me since 2008. On this record, he plays banjo, accordion, and mandolin.

Chris Bosca is a multi-instrumentalist from Columbus, Ohio, who was brought in by Nate. Chris has this incredible studio with  an arsenal of vintage guitars that were featured on the record.

The lead guitar on "Hold On I'm Comin" is a 1936 National steel resonator that sounds hauntingly beautiful. I'm really excited to have become acquainted with Chris and we will be playing a show with his band in Ohio on Nov. 14.

Lastly, in addition to engineering/producing the EP Nate played bass and percussion...I did all the keys myself.

Nate really blew me away with his professionalism and his knowledge of sound for someone so young. We recorded this EP in numerous places to get the right overall sound.

In fact, all of my guitar parts were recorded in the sanctuary of my parents' church. We are both from the same home town and my mom was one of Nate's music teachers in high school.

He also studied music technology and production at the same music school where I majored in vocal performance (albeit a lot earlier). Nate is truly an artist with arranging and capturing sound to create an atmosphere.

I think he's going to go really far and I hope some people will listen to the EP and want to work with him, I know I would.

Q - You cover the Sam & Dave song "Hold On, I'm Comin' " on the CD. How did you try to put your stamp on the song?

It was pretty random, actually. I was messing around in this type of A tuning that Nick Drake used on several of his songs and simultaneously listening to Sam & Dave's greatest hits.

It just kind of came together spontaneously and I ran with it. I'd love to say that I was purposely being clever, but I'm a firm believer that the best songs are kind of a gift in that they tend to write themselves.

Q - Are there any songs off the new EP that you are really interested in playing live?

I'm really excited to share the live versions of all of the songs at the EP Release, which is coming up on Sept. 26 at SubT Lounge. I think (I'm hoping) people will be surprised at how some of the songs change and evolve with the live band arrangements.

There's one song in particular, "SticksNStones" that has a completely alternate version that we play live that sounds more sultry and "Beatles-ish".

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think you fit into it?

I love how close knit and supportive the scene is here and I've met some of my best friends. There is so much talent here.

I wish that there were more industry people looking at Chicago, but it has and continues to be a very insular place in the musical landscape. That said, everything is D.I.Y. now, so I really think it's one of the best places to live if you want to create your own music.