Motivational Speakers
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Motivational Speakers

Band Rock Jazz


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"Motivational Speakers"

This high-energy blend of funk and jazz is well-served by heaping portions of blues, rock and jam music to create an exciting sound reminiscent of Medeski Martin & Wood and local jazz-fusion greats Schfvilkus. Motivational Speakers have just finished a standout EP, Just Add Water, which highlights the band's impressive musicianship and ability to integrate their powerful live energy into a recorded offering. They're best known for their live shows, though, and it's worth catching them to see how one quartet can make such a big, diverse sound. - 2004 Country Music Marathon & 1/2 Marathon Official Event Guide -- April 2004

""Just Add Water" Review"

Sugarbuzz Correspondent
Atlanta, GA

Several things could come to mind when the title "Just Add Water" hits the, hot chocolate, or pancakes, or, as is in my case 'cos of my lame sense of humour: it's a good thing they're not mogwai!

Seriously, though, the Motivational Speakers are yet another band from Nashville, TN, that I have the good fortune to review (Bombshell Crush, and The Pink Spiders-who just got signed, are the others so far). The members are Matt Taflan on Guitar and Vocals, Matt Andersen on Bass, Matt Jaggers on Guitar, Matt Engbring on Alto And Tenor Sax, and Byron Darnall on Drums and Backing Vocals. And, in case not completely obvious by this point, their EP, released on Whoulihan Records, is called "Just Add Water", and was engineered by George Tutko (John Mellencamp, Rod Stewart).

Every now and again, it's nice to get an ear full of something a bit (or in some cases, quite a bit) more relaxing to the soul. Motivational Speakers delivers this characteristic with outstanding quality.

The tumultuous day I've had was immediately put at ease from the minute the tunes started filling the room. These fellas triumphantly blend rock, acoustic, jazz, and a bit of funk to set a wonderfully chill atmosphere. If Edwin McCain and Soulive got together to do a project, it would resemble the Speakers. If anyone has any idea what I'm talking about, think back to the early 90's, when this amazing, before-their-time band White Trash existed for a regrettably short period of time. Now bring in a slightly more gruff, southern rock voice and subtract a bit of the pop, and you will have the Motivational Speakers.

The first track on the EP is called "Half a Mind", and it is getting an amazing amount of air play on around 242 radio stations across the US-including Hawaii, and into Canada. The remaining tracks are "Tall As Can Be", "Just Add Water", "A Little Perspective", and "Aida". My personal favourite is "Just Add Water".

On an interesting note, I find it strange that, even though I wouldn't call the hooks and riffs of these songs "catchy", there's an inexplicable desire to hear them again once the EP is over. I don't find myself trying to sing along, like to the repeated and captivating choruses of most of my other reviews, but I have enjoyed this release as a break from my anxiety. - SugarBuzz Magazine

""Just Add Water" Review"

"The Motivational Speakers debut Album, 'Just Add Water' isn't immediate by any stretch, it's a little sneaky. Its success lies in fun unformulated, arrangements that don't tire. I have it at the top of my pile"

Leslie Schumann
Static Magazine
- Static Magazine

"Motivational Speakers"

By Don Thomason

There must be a groove thing going on in Nashville, and it periodically percolates up to our area. The Loft started coming up to the Bowling Green area and making news awhile ago (the Amplifier featured those lads nearly two years ago this month). Now comes Motivational Speakers, a jazz-infused funk rock outfit from Music City that has been sharing their particular brew with Bowling Green quite a bit lately.

The quintet has a regional touring base in the south and hopscotches the border from Tennessee into Kentucky frequently. They have three Bowling Green appearances in a two month span, including two dates in July at Tidball’s (one of which is the Corvette City Music Festival on July 23). Their five-song CD Just Add Water is a force of funkified nature, both musically ambitious and accessible while getting feet to moving.

Bowling Green has occupied a place on Motivational Speakers’ itinerary since 2003, with Tidball’s being their usual stop. The band -- Matt Taflan (guitar, vocals), Matt Jaggers (guitar), Matt Engbring (alto and tenor sax), Matt Andersen (bass), and Kyle Burnham (drums) – comes at their music from sort of a jazz background fused with funk and rock, according to Taflan. “A lot of bands are bluesy,” said Taflan. “We try to get away from 12-bar patterns; we wanted something more passionate that will move people, keep it listenable, not try to get so complicated that you can’t listen to it.”

Along with the solid funk of rhythm section Andersen and Burnham and the well-versed vocabulary of energy from Taflan and Jaggers’ guitars, the presence of Engbring’s fluid sax makes for a uniqueness in Motivational Speakers’ sound. The interests of the members add to the quite specific direction of the band; Taflan said the guys listened to rock and to jazz such as Scofield, Coltraine, and Miles Davis to get ideas. “We want jazz ideas to creep in, like Steely Dan who put complicated chords into their popular music,” said Taflan. Passion is particularly stressed in what the band wants to do; Taflan talks a lot about moving people, praising the Loft and the Black Crowes for their passion.

The five song CD Just Add Water was released February 2004 and showcases Motivational Speakers’ jazz-infused funk rock which is imbued in passion. The opener “Half a Mind” grabs the listener from the get-go with a fabulous driving groove, warm colors of guitar and sax, and Taflan’s emotive vocal grittiness. “Tall As Can Be” keeps fannies gyrating with a complex and catchy sax riff and great dynamics to go with infectious rhythms. “A Little Perspective” is a rallying groove around Taflan’s attempt to remove scales from someone’s eyes (“It isn’t always about you/Pat yourself on the back and try to find a clue”). Throughout this release, there’s a sense of both warmth and excitement, and there is a high degree of musical quality and intricacy that is revealed with repeated listens yet still connects with the first listen. These qualities are deserving of the guest appearance by Reese Wynans on Hammond B-3 organ on this disc.

Such an ambitious mission is unusual for a band playing regionally. The sax chair has been hard to keep full time; Brian Yaspan did the sax on the CD before being replaced by Matt Engbring. Keeping a sax player for live dates proves difficult, which is one reason Matt Jaggers, who was not in the group when Just Add Water was recorded, was brought in – to help play sax parts at live performances.

Motivational Speakers perform frequently on both sides of the Kentucky-Tennessee border, playing in Bowling Green, Paducah and Louisville in the past month as well as Nashville, Murfreesboro, and Knoxville. Performing in town last month for the Concert in the Park series on June 15, they will play again twice in Bowling Green this month, at the Corvette City Music Festival on July 23 hosted by Tidball’s (along with Floord, the Loft, Soulside Out, and Redhouse) and again at Tidball’s on July 28. For information on CDs and shows, visit the band’s website at or their Sonicbids page

- The Amplifier -- July 2005

"Motivational Speakers Lend R&B Tinged Rock To Jam For Cans"

August 27, 2004
By Steve Wildsmith

If you're a drummer and your first name is Matt, stay away from Saturday's Jam for Cans concert in downtown Knoxville.

More specifically, avoid the 4:15 p.m. performance of Nashville-based rock/R&B/jam outfit Motivational Speakers. Because you might get recruited to perform, and if not, current M.S. drummer Byron Darnall may just pound you out of fear you're after his job.

After all, Motivational Speakers is already three-quarters made up of Matts. There's guitarist/vocalist Matt Taflan, bassist Matt Andersen and alto/tenor sax player Matt Engbring. Oh, and Darnall. In all seriousness, it's not a point of contention, but it is a source of constant joking, Andersen said recently.

``It was just blind luck that brought us all together, and it's pretty funny,'' he said, describing the band's formation through a series of ``musician wanted'' ads. ``Now, Byron will want to tell one of us something in the middle of a show, and he'll say, `Hey Matt,' and we'll all turn around.

``A couple of months ago, we saw an ad for a drummer named Matt who was seeking a band, and we sent it to Byron as a joke, telling him he was fired and that our vision was now complete.''

All kidding aside, Motivational Speakers are serious about their music. Andersen and Darnall had a band together for three years before moving to Nashville, and once they found Taflan and Engbring, they set out to develop an overall sound that went beyond the conventional two guitars, bass and drums formula.

``I think we all realized that at the beginning our whole intention was to come up with a sound that was completely different,'' he said. ``We didn't want to be one of those bands where you turn on radio and there's five bands that sound exactly alike. We wanted to have a thing where when someone heard us, it would be, `Oh, that's Motivational Speakers.' We were just trying to accomplish a sound that's all us but at same time being true to the stuff that's really influenced us.''

Those influences are incredibly varied, from rock to funk to R&B to jazz. Motivational Speakers excel at fusing those styles, similar to Knoxville's own Gran Torino or the N.C.-based band Hobex.

``I think we all have a really diverse background,'' Andersen said. ``Byron grew up as a big jazz guy doing freelance jazz work, and I grew up as a rock guy. Our guitarist is really into [Jimi] Hendrix and older R&B stuff like Sly and the Family Stone, and our sax player was also a big jazz guy.''

Like old friends, the members have developed their own language, communicated on stage through their instruments. The band's songwriting pattern is equal parts contribution from all four, with one member coming up with a riff or a lyric and the remaining members contributing their own ideas until the song evolves into its own entity. They pull from personal experiences and social and political issues for their lyrics, and the overall goal, Andersen said, is to present listeners with a refreshing mix of today's rock tempered with old-school influences.

Motivational Speakers have one EP under their belts, ``Just Add Water,'' which features Reese Wynans from Stevie Ray Vaughan's band Double Trouble on B3 Hammond organ. And despite the tough crowds in Nashville, Motivational Speakers have found success, especially among the college crowds, on the road.

``I think here in Nashville, our music is well received by people who are musicians, but Nashville in and of itself is a really weird town,'' Andersen said. ``I don't know any band from here that's drawing really well, and that's what keeps us going out on the road. I think, in a town like Nashville with so many good players, it's tougher to really stand out.

``Plus, not all of our stuff is exactly in the kind of rock vein that you hear on the radio right now. It's a little tougher doing what we're doing, because it's not modern rock and it's not hard rock. It's taken from all these different genres, and we do cover tunes, but we do older stuff like the Isley Brothers.

``We're coming at it from a totally different angle than a lot of bands,'' he added. ``It's just a matter of finding our fan base and the niche where we fit.'' - The Daily Times -- Maryville, TN

"Will Rock For Food -- Second Annual Jam For Cans Feeds Second Harvest"

August 26, 2004
By Paige M. Travis

Motivational Speakers, a Nashville band who recently suffered the theft of a truck full of equipment, counts Jam for Cans as its first charity event and its introductory gig in Knoxville.

“We think the Second Harvest Food Bank is a great organization and that this event was a worthy cause,” says the band’s bassist Matt Andersen, “therefore we had no second thoughts about donating our time. We may not be making much as musicians, but you always have to remember that there are those less fortunate than yourself, and this is a great way to give something back.”

Motivational Speakers’ brand of rock lands in funky terrain. With Matt Enbring on saxophones and lead singer Matt Taflan’s scratchy, guttural vocalizations, local audiences may be reminded of the late, great Gran Torino.

In the midst of a solid regional touring schedule, Motivational Speakers is familiar with the frenetic pace a festival can present.

“Club shows are much more intimate in that the audience is right there in front of you, so it’s somewhat easier to connect with the crowd,” Andersen says. “Whereas a festival show is a little more removed so you have to make your own energy on stage and try to pull the people along with you.”
- Metro Pulse -- Knoxville, TN

"Motivational Speakers"

Midpoint Music Festival
Artist Showcase Guide
September 22, 2004

Though it may seem a bit out of place as a full-time instrument in a rock band, here the saxophone blends perfectly with the jazzy guitar, soulful vocals and funky backbeats. Their first studio EP, Just Add Water, also features some Hammond B-3 workouts, giving the tunes a jam flavor without resorting to solos longer than eight measures.

Dig It: Steely Dan, Soul Asylum, NRBQ - CityBeat -- Cincinatti, OH


Demo -- January 2003
1) Towel In The Ring
2) Gracefully
3) French Vanilla
--Produced By Motivational Speakers
--Engineered By Chris Tyler

Just Add Water EP -- February 2004
1) Half A Mind
2) Tall As Can Be
3) Just Add Water
4) A Little Perspective
5) Aida
--Produced By Elisha Hoffman
--Engineered By George Tutko
--Recorded At The Sound Kitchen; Franklin, TN And Quad Studios; Nashville, Tn
--Features Reese Wynans On Hammond B-3 Organ

Radio Airplay:

ACRN - Athens, OH
BearCast - Cincinnati, OH
CFRC - Kingston, ON
CHRW - London, ON
KAFM - Grand Junction, CO
KAMP - Tucson, AZ
KANM - College Station, TX
KAOS - Olympia, WA
KAPU - Azusa, CA
KBTL - El Dorado, KS
KBUX - Columbus, OH
KCAC - East Camden, AR
KCCR - Tacoma, WA
KCFV - St. Louis, MO
KCOU - Columbia, MO
KCR - San Diego, CA
KCRH - Hayward, CA
KCSS - Turlock, CA
KDCS - Des Moines, IA
KDNE - Crete, NE
KDNK - Carbondale, CO
KDUR - Durango, CO
KDWG - Dillon, MT
KEOL - La Grande, OR
KEPC - Colorado Springs, CO
KGNU - Boulder, CO
KGUR - San Luis Obispo, CA
KHNS - Haines, AK
KIDE - Hoopa, CA
KKCR - Hanalei, HI
KKSM - San Marcos, CA
KLC - Portland, OR
KLCR - Dubuque, IA
KMNR - Rolla, MO
KMSC - Sioux City, IA
KMSU - Mankato, MN
KNWD - Natchitoches, LA
KPUR - Forest Grove, OR
KRCL - Salt Lake City, UT
KRNL - Mount Vernon, IA
KRUX - Las Cruces, NM
KRVS - Lafayette, LA
KSAU - Nacogdoches, TX
KSCR - Los Angeles, CA
KSCU - Santa Clara, CA
KSFS - San Francisco, CA
KSLC - McMinnville, OR
KSLU - Hammond, LA
KSOC - Ashland, OR
KSSU - Sacramento, CA
KSTO - Northfield, MN
KSVR - Mt. Vernon, WA
KSYM - San Antonio, TX
KTEK - Socorro, NM
KTUH - Honolulu, HI
KUCO - Edmond, OK
KUCR - Riverside, CA
KULT - Cedar Falls, IA
KUMM - Morris, MN
KUNR - Reno, NV
KURA - Ouray, CO
KURE - Ames, IA
KVDU - Denver, CO
KWCW - Walla Walla, WA
KWMR - Pt. Reyes, CA
KWSB - Gunnison, CO
KWTS - Canyon, TX
KXUA - Fayetteville, AR
KYMC - St. Louis, MO
KZMU - Moab, UT
KZOW - Forest City, IA
Lake FX Radio - Muskegon, MI
M3 Radio - New York, NY
Radio Crystal Blue - Brooklyn, NY
WAIH - Postdam, NY
WARG - Summit, IL
WASU - Boone, NC
WBAI - New York, NY
WBCR - Beloit, WI
WBFH - Bloomfield Hills, MI
WBIM - Bridgewater, MA
WBKE - North Manchester, IN
WBMB - New York, NY
WBNY - Buffalo, NY
WBRS - Waltham, MA
WBWC - Berea, OH
WBUZ - Nashville, TN
WCBN - Ann Arbor, MI
WCCH - Holyoke, MA
WCCS - Norton, MA
WCKS - Allendale, MI
WCLC - Grayslake, IL
WCLH - Wilkes-Barre, PA
WCRX - Chicago, IL
WCUA - Washington D.C.
WCWS - Wooster, OH
WCYJ - Waynesburg, PA
WDBM - East Lansing, MI
WDCE - Richmond, VA
WDCR - Hanover, NH
WDNS - Bowling Green, KY
WDPS - Dayton, OH
WDTS - Georgetown, DE
WDUB - Granville, OH
WDWN - Auburn, NY
WECI - Richmond, IN
WECS - Willimantic, CT
WECX - St. Petersburg, FL
WEFT - Champaign, IL
WEIU - Charleston, IL
WEOS - Geneva, NY
WERG - Erie, PA
WERW - Syracus, NY
WESS - East Stroudsburg, PA
WEXP - Philadelphia, PA
WFCF - St. Augustine, FL
WFCS - New Britain, CT
WFMU - Hoboken, NJ
WFNM - Lancaster, PA
WFNY - Farmingdale, NY
WFWM - Frostburg, MD
WGAJ - Deerfield, MA
WGCC - Batavia, NY
WGFR - Queensburg, NY
WGLS - Glassboro, NJ
WGMU - Fairfax, VA
WGSU - Geneseo, NY
WGTB - Washington D.C.
WGXM - Dayton, OH
WHFR - Dearborn, MI
WHSN - Bangor, ME
WICB - Ithaca, NY
WIDB - Carbondale, IL
WIDR - Kalamazoo, MI
WIUV - Castleton, VT
WIXQ - Millersville, PA
WKCO - Gambier, OH
WKHS - Whorton, MD
WKKL - West Barnstable, MA
WKNH - Keene, NH
WLFM - Appleton, WI
WLJS - Jacksonville, AL
WLRA - Romeoville, IL
WLSO - Marie, MI
WLTL - La Grange, IL
WLUR - Lexington, VA
WLVR - Bethlehem, PA
WMAR - Poughkeepsie, NY
WMBC - Baltimore, MD
WMCO - New Concord, OH
WMHB - Waterville, ME
WMHC - South Hadley, MA
WMHD - Terre Haute, IN
WMHW - Mt. Pleasant, MI
WMLN - Milton, MA
WMSC - Upper Montclair, NJ
WMSS - Middletown, PA
WMUA - Amherst, MA
WMUH - Allentown, PA
WMVL - Purchase, NY
WNDY - Crawfordsville, IN
WNEC - Henniker, NH
WNMC - Traverse City, MI
WNMH - Northfield, MA
WNSU - Fort Lauderdale, FL
WNTE - Mansfield, PA
WNTI - Hackettstown, NY
WNYO - Oswego, NY
WOSP - Jacksonville, FL
WOUB - Athens, OH
WOWL - Boca Raton, FL
WPCR - Plymouth, NH
WPTC - Williamsport, PA
WPTS - Pittsburgh, PA
WPUM - Rensselaer, IN
WQAC - Alma, MI
WQAQ - Hamden, CT
WQRI - Bristol, RI
WQUB - Quincy, IL
WRBB - Boston, MA
WRBC - Lewiston, ME
WRCU - Hamilton, NY
WRFS - Savannah, GA
WRGW - Washington D.C.
WRLT - Nashville, TN
WRMC - Middlebury, VT
WRRC - Lawrenceville, NJ
WRRG - River Grove, IL
WRSE - Elmhurst, IL
WRSK - Slippery Rock, PA
WRST - Oshkosh, WI
WRTC - Hartford, CT
WRUB - Amherst, NY
WRUC - Schenectady, NY
WRVU - Nashville, TN
WSBF - Clemson, SC
WSDP - Canton, MI
WSHC - Shepherdstown, WV
WSHF - Sheboygan, WI


Feeling a bit camera shy


In an industry where image is often more important to an artist's career than talent, and catch-phrases earn the most spins at radio stations, it's rare to find a band with the courage to step beyond the boundaries set by current trends. Nashville-based band Motivational Speakers is among the few who dare to find their own platform.

Formed through a string of “Musician Wanted" ads, Motivational Speakers developed almost by chance. However, it did not take long for the member -- Matt Taflan, Matt Andersen, Matt Jaggers, & Kyle Burnham -- to find a kinship that seemed to have been in place for years. Sharing the same purpose for creating music and similar tastes in styles, the band quickly agreed on their overall sound and a plan for the future.

Pursuing a perfect balance between rock, funk, R&B and jazz, the band places a large emphasis on finding original and fresh ways to approach their music. Their mission is to give the listener a mix of the energy of today's rock with the stylings of old school influences. “I like rock and funky jazz -- old and new", Taflan explains. “I think that a lot of bands do one or the other, but you don't see too many doing a good job of mixing the styles. It's either too light or too heavy."

Along with their dedication to their sound, the band is equally concerned with the message of the songs. Avoiding clichés and the typical love song, the band wants to give their audience more than a catchy tune. Pulling from personal experiences as well as political and social issues, Taflan as the primary lyricist for the group, crafts the ideas for the songs around real life. Andersen says of Taflan, “He comes in with material that you don't hear every day." Taflan explains about his approach to songwriting, “The most important thing for me is for it to have some sort of impact."

Now with the introduction of their first studio EP, Just Add Water, Motivational Speakers is ready for the world to hear their voice. The five-song album, produced by Elisha Hoffman and engineered by George Tutko (John Mellencamp, Rod Stewart), highlights the best of the band's song list. The EP features the single, “Half a Mind", in which Taflan sings -- With the scars and the words to an old song; Close your eyes relax and sing along. Singing along is what many people will be doing after hearing Motivational Speakers.