Matt Quarterman

Matt Quarterman

BandRockAmericana

Smart, challenging rock with shades of alt-country, blues and a European influence; T.S. Eliot meets Suzanne Vega at Ryan Adams' house.

Biography

Matt Quarterman was born to missionary parents in Portugal. When he was 13 his family moved to Odessa, Ukraine, where with several friends he founded Nonchalance, the only English-speaking rock band for 1000 kilometers. After graduating he moved to Mississippi to earn a degree in English, and unexpectedly found a bride along the way. He and his wife Erin moved to Boston, Massachusetts where Matt is finishing his Songwriting degree at Berklee College of Music.

Given his frenetic upbringing, you would rightly expect the music Matt makes to be somewhat eclectic and left of center. He's been a singer/songwriter since he was 13 and plays guitar, harmonica, Dobro, mandolin and banjo. He's written hundreds of songs, combining elements of country, rockabilly, old-time folk music, the Russian bard tradition, blues, classical and pop/rock.

“It's definitely a weird mix,” he laughs. “But I guess most of my musical heroes played music that was a bizarre mish-mash. Guys like Johnny Cash or Viktor Tsoi combined genres in ways they hadn't been mixed before. You forget because it was done so well they made it sound natural.” His debut EP Misplaced Americans showcases that kind of organic, juxtaposed approach to music. There's Russian-tinged folk (Pushkin Street), electronica (Radiohead Fan), barn-burning country (Closed Down) and epic rock (White Morning).

“I want the listener to really feel like they've traveled somewhere,” Matt explains. “There are a lot of different genres and emotions just in these eight songs, and that was done with a purpose. I want someone to sit down and listen to it start to finish, and at the end feel like they've arrived someplace different from where they began. Maybe it's because I traveled around so much growing up, but I get restless easily. I don't like staying in one place too long or just harping on one emotion or vibe too much.

Matt's won several awards for his poetry and when asked if he has a different lyrical viewpoint because of his background in literature, he answers, “Maybe so. I feel like there's so much that hasn't been said in popular music, so many subjects and approaches that have been addressed in books or art or film. That's one of the things that's always excited me about being a songwriter: extending my reach, finding the ways to express these ineffable things in words and music. I hope these songs reach people who want to go on that kind of journey.”

Is that idea of a journey reflected in the title? “Oh, yeah. It's kind of a provocative title, isn't it? Down with the imperialist pigs: reclaim the land for the working masses! No, actually it's more of a personal thing. For years I questioned whether or not I was American, trying to find some kind of identity. And I think that in studying literature and listening to a lot of music both Russian and American, and especially in writing a lot of these songs I've settled that for myself. I'm sort of a wandering American, never quite at home anywhere. There's a beauty in that to me.

“And a lot of these songs deal with those ideas of place and time. Whether the past is lot to us, where home is, the nostalgia and emotions from a specific period. You know, all those trivial questions in life. I may have also answered whether the fridge light stays on after you close the door. That's on the bonus track. But this is sort of the soundtrack to my journey, and my hope for the music is that it can become a part of that trip for somebody else. I'd love to see these songs reach out to you and be absorbed as part of your own pilgrimage.”

How does he expect that to happen? “Well, I have a lot of long conversations with my friends late at night about the music that's been important to us. So often it's tied to your own circumstances, the whens and wheres. I want to make music that speaks to that, to be a part of that conversation for someone.

“All this to say,” he concludes, “BUY MY ALBUM! It's new and you'll love it and won't ever regret it! Please, I'm starving and I need the cash.” He laughs. “But I'm alright with that. Nothing that's worth doing is ever easy.”

Lyrics

White Morning

Written By: Matt Quarterman

Happy New Year’s, baby, Christmas too.
Count down the seconds, there’s nothing left to do.
Have a drink, have a smoke, have one last Old Year’s kiss.
I expected some changes, but not this.

Chorus:
We’ll meet old friends on new streets
Under this fire-filled sky so sweet.
They’re wearing the clothes they had on when we first met.
But memory and infinity aren’t reconciled yet.

I light a long blue candle in the room.
We all tell our secrets of what and of whom.
Our rock ‘n’ roll New Year carols play again
As we whisper of where and of when.

Bridge:
Oh, and this long dark night leads to white morning.
And these slowly, slowly ticking hands keep the calendar turning.
And here is the heart, and here is the hope that will help us all to reveal
Who we were to what we are in this white morning.

So until next year, darling
Keep safe, keep warm, keep me wondering.
We’ll talk again of these things, dearest
Before the sun rises and after it sets.

Pushkin Street

Written By: Matt Quarterman

At the corner of Pushkin’s Street
He clasps his hands politely for the women he will meet
The leaves crack in November and the sidewalk rustles at his feet
Until he returns he’ll begin to sleep

At the corner of Pushkin’s Street
Down near the harbor by the shipping fleet
Tourists crowd around him and huddle in the sleet
Until he returns they will ceaselessly speak.

Bridge:
Snow brushes cobblestones
Imported by the sea over the years
The side-burned man in top hat waits alone
For some sonnet-speaking mistress to appear.

At the corner of Pushkin’s Street
The ravens will return with the springtime heat
But for now the spindling trees will be nobody’s seat
And Alex waits with Milton, Lord Byron and Keats.

At the corner of Pushkin Street
I hunch in my wool cap and wait for the gang I’ll see
In another country my sweetheart is waiting for me.
But until I return, I’m in love with this street.

Vienna

Written By: Matt Quarterman

On the roller coasters nobody screams
We’re all too busy speaking in dreams to see that
This city is driving on our bad fumes
It’s got the peripatetic zombie blues.

The bumper cars are downed tonight and there’s no-one to drive me to my room
I feel like the last of the misplaced American Daisy Miller school.
And I’ve got the lost from Lisbon feel from walks on cobblestone streets.
Each new city feels like retreat.

Chorus:
Somewhere Mozart drinks and hiccups, while Freud dreams of
Mom in lingerie
Salieri stews convoluted plots that’ll one day be the basis for an
award-winning play
And the world spins on and I want to be gone, but where I’m going
makes me want to stay.

And the Ferris wheel’s bright but tonight it’s quiet all for me
Can you call it sleeping when the city’s only tossing restlessly?
Phantoms of the opera and ghosts of the ballet court in the subway.
At the turnstiles all the tourists pay.

Discography

2005 - DEMOcracy (Self-Released EP)
2006 - Misplaced Americans (Republic Music)

Set List

The typical set runs anywhere from forty-five minutes to two hours, with about equal parts originals and new arrangements of covers. Original songs include "White Morning" (anthemic rock), "Radiohead Fan" (electronic rock), "Closed Down" (alt-country), "Pushkin Street" (folk), "Fierce" (pop/rock). Typical covers range might include Jeff Buckley, Bob Dylan, Buddy Holly, My Chemical Romance, U2, Johnny Cash and Gillian Welch.