Solo Songwriter

June 9, 2008

Matthew Alexander: A Musical Life in Five Chapters

Filed under: Acoustic Pop Interviews — julianwilson @ 5:13 am
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Written by Barry Andrews

Take away the sinful excesses, and rock & rollers often have a boring life, just long, boring days on the road, loading up on cheap junk food, and dealing with rude club owners and incompetent sound men. Acoustic pop artist Matthew Alexander, on the other hand, has truly lived an existence that is worth hearing and writing about. Having spent more than 30 years in the music industry, Alexander is just now creeping his way into the spotlight with Daredevil Angel, a deeply heartfelt and emotionally evocative record that suddenly appears after a two-decade void. Many artists rot with the passage of time; Alexander, on the other hand, has simply blossomed.

Barry Andrews: There is a streak of romantic melancholy in some of your tracks on Daredevil Angel. Is there an autobiographical depth to some of these lyrics?

Matthew Alexander: I definitely try to write from an autobiographical place. “New York City Backwoods” is a song directly linked to my brother’s suicide when I was 19-years-old and my attempts to cope with that event. “River City” speaks to my earlier-in-life ambivalence about committing to romantic relationships and
the pain that ambivalence caused me and the women involved with me. “Joanna” and “Nancy’s On My Mind” were written about specific relationships as well, although the names have been changed to protect the innocent! On the other hand, quite honestly, I have never been to Chattanooga, Tennessee (referring to “Chattanooga Boogie”) although I hear it’s a beautiful city.

As for the romantic melancholy, I plead guilty on both counts. I tend to feel things very deeply and am aware of the beautiful poignancy of life, a reality brought into sharp focus after both my parents passed away. As a
child, I grew up hearing my father (who was a concert pianist) play Chopin on a daily basis, perhaps the most romantic music imaginable, and have always been drawn to melody in music. I had a very close relationship with my mother, who herself was a very romantically inspired poet. Because of my close relationship with her, I have always idealized women and experience them both as a source of inspiration and vulnerability in my life. I now consider myself to be a “recovering romantic,” trying to reconcile my former juvenile fantasies about “perfect love” with the realities (and rewards) of married life.

Andrews: What was the inspiration behind “God Must Be Lonely”?

Alexander: “God Must Be Lonely” started as a title. It has always seemed strange to me that people anthropomorphize God as some sort of a micro-manager in Heaven, looking down on us and hearing some of our prayers but not others. It occurred to me that if this indeed were the case, God must be a very, very
lonely entity. I mean, who does God get to talk to? It also wouldn’t surprise me that a God such as this would at times get very discouraged about what he’s seeing (and what he put in motion) down here on Earth,
not unlike the rest of us who pick up the newspaper and bear daily witness to man’s unrelenting cruelty to man. The song also has personal resonance. At about the same time that I came up with the title, I had a bad (and rare) fight with my 9-year-old son. I am very close to my children and pride myself on maintaining a nurturing presence in their life so this fight was very upsetting to me, and I couldn’t get to sleep that night, all of which fed into the lyrics.

Finally, on a more general level, I have struggled with loneliness on and off throughout my life and this experience has made its way into many of my songs. My work as a therapist is paradoxically very lonely. I hear troubling stories from patients all day but don’t reveal much about myself in these sessions and am restricted from sharing what I hear with others.
Andrews: As a psychologist, do you feel that working within that profession has given you more material for your songwriting? Were any of your tunes influenced by a patient?

Alexander: Generally speaking, my songs come from a personal place and are not influenced directly by my work with patients. Having said this, the song “One Day” on Daredevil Angel came directly from a patient visit. I am on the faculty of a Department of Family Medicine and make rounds one morning a week with their inpatients. One of them was a woman from the Bronx, now living in North Carolina, who suffers from chronic pain. She stated very honestly and openly to me that she wanted me to ask the medical doctors to
just give her “one day, one day without any pain.” She wanted that day to include the ability to walk around the block under a blue sky and not experience any physical discomfort. I was extremely moved by her requests and immediately thought it would make a great song. I elaborated on her theme to include my own concerns about mortality and longings for a more simple life that I associate with my earlier years in California.
Andrews: Do you have any plans of reissuing your earlier records on CD?

Alexander: Yes, I am currently finishing a project in which all my earliest recordings which were on reel-to-reel tapes (and which have been diligently carted around the country with me in boxes for years) will be
re-released as a digitally-remastered 19-song CD compilation. Recordings on this disc include sessions for record companies (such as Musicor in NYC) as well as L.A. publishing house demos. The CD is entitled Matt
, Early Recordings, and will be available on CD Baby in July 2008.

I also have plans to reissue Wishing I Had Wings as a CD as it is currently only available on cassette and vinyl. For some reason, I disposed of many of the vinyl copies years ago before realizing that vinyl
would make a comeback. Fortunately, there are still about 200 “virgin” vinyl copies left. I guess I should have learned my lesson from my mother who, like all the other 50’s Moms, threw out out all my comics and
baseball cards when I was a kid!

End of Part 1 of 5

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