Matthew Sturm
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Matthew Sturm

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


"Tune Up"

With his shaggy haircut and week's growth of beard, Matt Sturm looks every bit the rock and roll star. Bent over a grilled cheese sandwich at a local coffee shop, the 23-year-old singer/songwriter adjusts his black T-shirt (extra points for the ironic saying - "Future Millionaire" - emblazoned across the front of it) and, like an old pro, prepares to be interviewed.

"Remember," he tells me. "There are no stupid questions. Just stupid answers. I'll provide those."

See? Rock star. I tell him so and he cringes. Turns out, Sturm is not so cool. Hever has been - at least according to him.

"Just the opposite," he says, reminding me about his love of Spider-Man comic books. "I think the nerds would even think I'm a nerd."

See him on stage and you'll wonder what he's talking about. Sturm, a guitar-strumming fixture at local coffee shops and bars since he was a student at Heritage High School, has the onstage presence and unspoiled songwriting ability it takes most musicians sever years, a few failed marriages and half a dozen trips to rehab to capture. Of course, tell him this and he'll shrug it off.

"There's no real mystery to it," he says. "My writing is probably best described as free-association. I begin playing - figuring out a chord structure, thinking about a melody - and then I just start singing out loud. Of course, my moods - the things I'm going through at the time - all affect the music."

It's these lyrics - paired with Sturm's emotive singing style - that strike the listeners first. Deeply personal, his songs ive he impression of reading excerpts from a private journal, one picked up on a whim, but filled with the kind of longing and truth that lingers long after the journal has been buried back under the piles of paper on a desk.

Currently, Sturm is working on his first full-length album of original music, "Unspoken Conversations", a 14-song opus (three years in the making) filled with the indie pop-rock, alt-country infused sound fans have come to expect from the songwriter. The album is avaliable at all Wooden Nickel locations, Sam Goody and B-Sharp Guitars, the shop on Getz Road where Sturm does his 9-to-5 gig. Sturm's future performances can be found on his Web site, www.matthewsturm.com

"It's taken years to get it right," he says. "There were plenty of false starts with this album - finding the right musicians, the right producer. Finally, we all sat down and wrote down exactly what we wanted the album to sound like - a combination of funk, rock, folk, alt-country. Something for everyone."

Sturm stops talking and finishes his grilled cheese sandwich.

"Ok," he says. "Can we talk about comic books now?" - Fort Wayne Magazine


"Sturm Band Going down Rosy Road"

Some call it the graffiti dungeon, this place where the bands that perform at Columbia Street West wait to go on.

It is not an actual dungeon, of course - it lacks manacles. But that is about the only discernible difference.

On this particular Thursday night, it is emitting a funk so palpable that someone from management comes down the stairs and lights a stick of incense.

The incense comes up short, but so would a stick of dynamite.

Thom Grant, one fourth of the evening's entertainment, thinks the stench is apropos.

"Isn't that all rock 'n' roll?" Grant says. "Stinky, disgusting and not enough light?"

One doesn't often use the word supergroup to describe any formation of Fort Wayne musicians, but the band that took the stage later that evening certainly wasn't lacking in proven talent.

It's such a strange configuration of players, it shouldn't work at all.

The Matthew Sturm Band is three former members of infamous area rockabilly acts (guitarist Grant of the Red Ball Jets, drummer Jaime Simon and bassist Jerry Sparkman of the Blue Moon Boys) and one former (or dormant) mellow folkie.

Sturm was working the coffeehouse circuit, singing "laid back, melancholy" songs, when he andSimon had an impromptu bull session one night at the now defunct blues club The Hot Spot.

Sturm had a stash of "heavy aggressive" compositions he'd stockpiled for an ensemble setting.

Once Simon was on board, the ensemble coalesced quickly.

But the songs didn't stay aggressive.

"We fixed them," Sparkman says.

The Matthew Sturm Band is generally funky and bluesy, with periodic forays into alt country and power pop.

It is still feeling its way, but the band's nimbleness, dexterity, versatility and chemistry are investments that promise vast returns.

Great things should be expected. As a songwriter, Sturm is not in the least bit afraid of the word catchy.

A CD is in the works that should debut in the fall.

The members of the Matthew Sturm Band agree that the Fort Wayne rock scene has fallen on hard times recently.

"The mentality right now is to go out and dance to the hot mix," Sturm says. "It's so sad to come down here on a Tuesday and see how empty it is and then see how packed karaoke night at (O'Sullivans) is."

Sturm wants to build a band that is so strong, it not only leads the horses to water, it makes them drink. So to speak.

"When I first started to play out, Tuesday and Thursday nights at Columbia Street were packed," Sturm says. "Now, it's hard to draw a crowd. I did a lot of promotion for this night. I want to see this place packed again.

"We'd love to get in here on a Friday night. They want to see us draw a crowd. I'm confident about it."

Seeking to buoy his confidence with intimidation, Sturm turns to his band mates and says: "Unless one of you guys screws it up."

"I will let you down several times tonight," Simon says.

"What it all boils down to," Sturm says, "is we want to make good music and we want to make make people happy."

"I'm with you!" Sparkman says.

Adds Simon: "I'm near you!"

Steve Penhollow
- The Journal Gazette


"Matthew Sturm || Unspoken Conversations (LP) Review"

Matthew Sturm has been kicking around the Fort Wayne music scene for the past few years, polishing his stage presence to a razor sharp edge. When he decided to move from the coffee houses to the clubs he wisely surrounded himself with musicians even more talented than his formidable self. It just happened that Jamie Simon and Jerry Sparkman (bass and drums) of The Blue Moon Boys had their schedules free, as did guitarist Thom Grant of the amazing Red Ball Jets. Starting your band with an established rhythm section is like learning to drive in a Mercedes, but Sturm has never been one to do things on the cheap.

For instance when the Matthew Sturm Band went to record their first album, they went to the most prestigious studio in town, Sweetwater Studios. Producer George Conner found their first takes too polished and decided to record the band live, allowing them to give vent to their natural raw edge that often only finds expression through a live performance.

And just like their live shows, the 14 tracks on Unspoken Conversations span a variety of styles while maintaining a warm, fun and friendly feel. The album roars to life with “So Tired,” although the roughed up modern guitars and energetic pace are anything but lethargic. “Runnin,” and “Placid” have appealing hints of Matchbox 20 that effortlessly bring a smile to your face. “Atlantic” surprises us, with Sturm showcasing his admirable skill on the piano as he passionately sings this sad ballad. The Dave Matthew band gets the nod in “Stories,” a quiet song that builds to an incendiary guitar solo. Speaking of solos, “Girl Crazy” takes a bluesy riff, pumps in a bit of 70s R&B for a solid groove and then lets everyone take a solo. “Ahhh” starts off with piano, sounding a bit like a Ben Folds Five song, but quickly takes off in its own direction, compliments of the very inventive bass line. The Barenaked Ladies get their day with the breezy rockabilly of “The Previously Unsung Story of Joey Licciano,” which has the great line of “I’ll tell you the story of a guy that you once knew / Though you never, ever wanted to.” Although many artists have been mentioned, Sturm doesn’t resort to ripping off any particular sound. His skill at songwriting is so well developed that he’s able to effortlessly incorporate these myriad influences into a new and very enjoyable creation.

Unspoken Conversations will give even dedicated homebodies a chance to hear why this band was awarded the “Best New Band of 2003” Whammy, in addition to being selected for two Essentials CDs (both songs from these collections are included as unlisted bonus tracks). It’s mature rock with instant appeal backed by solid musicianship.
- Whatzup Magazine


Discography

Outside Dreams (EP) - 1999
x102.3fm Essentials vol. 5 - 2001
x102.3fm Essentials vol. 6 - 2002
x102.3fm Essentials vol. 8 - 2004
Unspoken Conversations (LP) - 2004

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Born in the small town of Monroeville, IN, Matthew Sturm first picked up the guitar at age 16. A gift from his mother, she told him he didn't have to pay her back if he learned how to play. Three months later, the self-taught singer/songwriter was expeditiously performing and securing repeat bookings at coffee houses throughout Fort Wayne and the surrounding area. In just over a year, he began expanding to larger venues, audiences and cities, playing the bar circuit solo well before his 21st birthday.

In early 1997, Matthew launched his website, www.matthewsturm.com , with the help of Capitol Records webmaster, Chad Paulson. Matthew was surprised by the substantial traffic on the site and found that his fan base was growing faster than he had imagined. A buzz had been generated about Matthew Sturm.
That buzz led to Matthew being voted Best New Solo Artist by the readers of Whatzup, Fort Wayne's Weekly Entertainment Magazine in 1998. Although new to the club demographic, the magazine acknowledged that Matthew had precedently established himself as an artist: "Can you fairly be called a Best New Artist when you’ve been plying your trade in area coffeehouses for nearly three years? Perhaps the answer hardly matters when you’re as dedicated to your craft as is Matthew Sturm."
In 1999, Matthew released his first EP, Outside Dreams. The limited run of the self- funded project sold out completely, promoted solely by word-of-mouth advertising. Not surprising, considering reviewers, words, or loss of, echoed praises such as, "From song one, Matthew gives an unbelievable performance that literally cannot be described in words. His vocal styling and unique chord progressions truly speak for themselves, as they are true forces to be reckoned with in the Indie Rock world."

Matthew was featured on WXTW 102.3's annual Essentials compilation CD two
years in a row with the tracks "Rusted Road" and "Breathe". Both of the songs received regular airplay on the Modern Rock station. WXTW Music Director, Matt Jericho commented additionally, "Matthew Sturm provides one of the most dynamic and refreshing live shows I have ever seen. He is certainly a must see act!"
Matthew has performed sold out shows with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic at two of the city's largest venues, The Performing Arts Center and the Embassy Theater. He has also opened for national acts such as Sarah Harmer, and OK Go.

In December of 2002 Matthew teamed up with three of Fort Wayne's most seasoned musicians, Thom Grant (guitar), Jamie Simon (drums), and Jerry Sparkman (upright bass), to form the Matthew Sturm Band. No strangers to the road, Thom has traveled the U.S. and Europe in his former band, The Red Ball Jets; while Jamie and Jerry have traveled the country and abroad in the Rockabilly quartet, The Blue Moon Boys. The band and their Alt/Country, Funk, Indie Rock influenced sound, has been met with steady bookings and rave reviews, by fans and professionals alike, from the onset. Founder of fortwaynemusic.com, Chris Wallace, anticipates success: "Matthew Sturm is a name you'll be hearing more of in the near future. He is one of the most electrifying performers I've seen in a long time."

They are currently putting the finishing touches on Matthew's first full-length album, Unspoken Conversations, due out in January. Funded by an investor this time around and recorded at Sweetwater Studios, the album moves away from the melancholy ballads of Outside Dreams, embracing the kinetic karma of the young singer/songwriter's ascend.