Matt Wertz spent a little time with us before opening for O.A.R. in Knoxville. It’s an understatement to say he has a lot going on right now. Just the day before, his new CD “Under Summer Sun” was released by Universal Republic Records. “Under Summer Sun” is comprised of eight remixed songs from his previous albums and four new songs added to the mix. He is also wrapping up a tour with O.A.R before beginning another round of headlining dates and he just bought a house.
In addition to Matt being a very talented singer/songwriter, he is also one of the most likeable and down to earth artist we’ve had the pleasure to meet. Hope you enjoy his music and getting to know him as much as we did!
! What are some of your passions other than your music? Obviously music must be number one but I know that you’ve got some other things that are important to you.
Matt: Oh yeah, I mean I wouldn’t even say that music is number one. I love music but it’s kind of one of the things in my life. It happens to be what I’m able to make a living at right now. I love playing music but you have to keep everything in perspective and in the right order. I love my friends a lot more than I love music. I love going snowboarding probably equally as much as I love playing music. And playing ultimate Frisbee and sitting in my coffee shop in Nashville. There’s just so much to like.
Music has really opened up other doors, but that’s what it is. It’s been an avenue to dive into relationships with the guys in the band and also people you meet along the way. I’ve been able to see a lot of cool places and do a lot of awesome things because of music. People are really attracted to music and it opens tons of doors.
! Did you ever think when you were growing up that you would have people lined up wanting to interview you?
Matt: No, not at all. There were moments that I probably dreamed of being on stage or being a performer but that was before I was old enough to know better. So you know those kinds of things got shelved in middle school because you start trying to figure out what a responsible person does. I’m a big visual artist too so I spent a lot of time creating art while growing up. I was trying to figure out how to do art and it be monetized. In college, I studied Industrial Design and Product Design. I like gadgets and somebody’s got to figure out what they look like, how they work and how the user interacts. So I decided that’s what I wanted to do. But when I was in college I ended up playing in a band and started to write some songs and that’s just kind of gained momentum and built some steam and I have not stopped doing that.
! We’re glad you haven’t stopped! You still seem so down to earth, how do you stay grounded?
Matt: Well, I’ve got great parents and a great family and I know my value is not wrapped up in what I do. And I have a lot of people around me that remind me of who I am. And so I don’t really think about all that other stuff much because it’s so temporal. I know there’s no guarantee. I’m just trying to not get caught up in it. It’s hard enough for me to just figure out what my next song is going to be about.
! We read that you started out in the Christian music industry.
Matt: Well, I wouldn’t go that far. I never really was in the Christian music industry. I was involved with Young Life which is a non-denominational Christian outreach program. So I would play at their camps. But before I wrote music, I knew I didn’t want to be in the Christian music industry. It just pigeon holes you. It wasn’t anything that I got excited about.
What I got excited about was Christians playing music with everyone else. Like Bono playing on top of the world in front of 60,000 people. That’s what I would rather do. Or even like a David Wilcox or Pierce Pettis who plays for a few hundred people but they just doesn’t have the moniker attached to it. It just a very limiting thing and very divisive and it rules people out before they’ve even heard what you have to say.
! Does working in this business pull you away from your values?
Matt: It has the potential to. If you’re not grounded then you’re done for. Every force is pulling you away so it’s crucial that I stay connected with people who love me, that there’s a open, honest vulnerability with the guys we’re traveling with, and it’s crucial that I get time by myself on the road to read and pray and refocus. It’s like you’re swimming upstream and if you’re not fighting, you’re going to get swept away with the current. It’s not an easy deal. When I go back to Nashville I exhale.
! You just had your CD come out yesterday, how’s that going?
Matt: It’s going great. I think I’m just thankful to not be anticipating that anymore. There’s been seven or eight months of build up and for it to be out now it’s like good and you can go on to the next thing. So I’m thankful for that. I don’t know what the numbers are– I honestly try to stay away from it.
! On our way over here today, we heard “5:19″ on one of Knoxville’s local radio stations, WFIV 105.3.
Matt: Oh great, cool! That’s great to hear that it’s happening. I heard my song on the radio one time and it was “Carolina” probably a year ago in Nashville. I happen to have some friends visiting me from Ecuador and I was showing them around Nashville. It happened to come on the radio while they were in the car with me and it was really cool. My friends are with me and my song comes on the radio and it was really cool.
! I saw you have the Mocha Club link on your website, can you tell us about that?
Matt: That came out of friendship. A few years ago, Dave Barnes and I went to Africa with some other friends. One of them was Barrett Ward and he works for African leadership. They want to help train African people to lead so that they can make a living and support their families. So, we went to go see what they were doing. There were a lot of things we came away with. One of which was that we’ve got more to learn from them than they do from us. The problems they’re facing are so big we asked ourselves, what are we suppose to do about them. It was conflicting. Barrett came up with the idea about the Mocha Club where you ask people to give up the equivalent of drinking two mochas a month which is $7 and you get three friends to join a team with you. So you’re sending $28 to Africa. I ask Barrett what if I took this on the road and we gave people a free CD if they sign up. And being in Nashville, our network is all musicians and through those musicians you’re reaching a lot of people. It’s been cool to see it grow and other bands that have gotten on board with it. Bands that have much further reaching spans than me which is awesome. Lady Antebellum, a country band, is now supporting the Mocha Club. There are a couple of Christian bands that are massive. One band signed up 200 people in one night. It’s been really cool thing to see and be part of.
! Whose music gets you excited now?
Matt: Man there’s a band called Chromeo. It’s awesome. They do really fun, danceable music. A lot of synch. Kind of throw backie. I can’t help but move. I love to dance. I don’t know if I’m any good but I love to dance.
! What’s next for you in life?
Matt: Well, I bought a house on Monday so I’m trying to pick paint colors for the inside. I’m moving in next Monday so honestly that’s all I’m thinking about right now. So, new album, played at the Ryman the other night, and a new house. So when it rains it pours.
! Thanks for taking some time to talk to us today. Good luck with the new CD, “Under Summer Sun” and the tour. And congratulations on all levels!
Matt: Thank you so much!