“A fresh blend of country, rock and blues. ”
“I set out to engage and explore the grit in life through songwriting. I pick up the stone, and look below the surface at all the dirt underneath and the worms crawling around. I seek to find the truth, the good, the bad and everything in between,” says New Jersey-based singer-songwriter Matt Tanner. Matt’s self-titled debut album skillfully engages the listener in a compelling array of storytelling involving triumph and tragedy. Matt’s unique heartland roots rock sound represents a hard-fought victory over real-life personal and professional struggles. Matt pens craft-full storyteller songs with a cinematic scope whisking the listener away to dirt-caked pathways of raw and honest emotion and romance, addiction, and thrilling fictionalized narratives rich in metaphors mirroring his own personal beliefs and convictions.
Tanner’s music is a combination of country, rock and blues blending the Americana of Sturgill Simpson, and the contemporary rock of Dawes. Matt’s style draws heavily from country while featuring rowdy rock n’ roll guitars in all the right places creating a sound that is classic and current. Previously, Matt successfully placed tracks on MTV’s Road Rules and Making The Band, and his song “Josephine,” featured on his debut album, won a songwriter’s competition on Ourstage.com.
Matt’s life in music has been characterized by ups and downs riddled with periods of great inspiration and creativity and long stretches of dormancy. As a kid, Matt would sneak into his big brother’s room to play his electric Gibson guitar and rock out to his extensive record collection of rock n’ roll music such as The Doors, Boston, Rush, Black Sabbath, AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. “I have always been deeply and profoundly moved by great music. Music has always chased me. I just had to write,” he says. Along the way, Matt has found inspiration in the blues, classic rock, and the country boom of the 1990s featuring such artists as Clint Black, Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt and Alan Jackson.
“My very first experience with rock n’ roll was through an older kid who lived directly outside the entrance of my junior high school named Punky Baka. Punky was the coolest guy in the whole neighborhood and he could play the drums like I had never heard before. Every day as I walked home from school he would be playing his drum kit and I would often sit outside the window of his room and just listen. One day he invited me in to watch him play and it really made a major impact on me, I was really moved. I knew then that I wanted music to be a part of my life.”
“I dove into the blues in 1994 when I was working as a fitness coach in LA and training record producer Don Was (Bonnie Raitt). One day I asked Don what kind of music he really loved.” Don replied, “Right now I am listening to Muddy Waters.” “At the time, Don was producing the Rolling Stones “Voodoo Lounge” album and he was gracious enough to invite me into his recording studio to meet Mick Jagger! I fell in love with the blues instantly. It was a sound I could just feel moving through my entire body and into my bones. I started listening to Muddy Waters, Albert King and Little Walter and I was hooked,” says Matt.
Another formative moment in Matt’s artist development occurred through a bluntly honest critique of an original at a TAXI song evaluation conference in a room jam packed with songwriters. That moment 15 years ago would send Matt on a quest to further develop his understanding of the craft of songwriting, paving the long and hard way to his debut album. “Over the last couple of years, I felt my writing finally matured to a level worth rolling the dice on,” Matt confides. “It took me a long time to find my authentic singing voice and to be comfortable with it. In the beginning it was such a painful process and so terribly vulnerable I could barely stand it. For whatever reason it was just something I had to do. In a sense, it was part of my healing process in self-acceptance and self-love, like music therapy.”
Matt Tanner, the record, gracefully mirrors Matt Tanner the man. “This record is deeply personal,” Matt confirms. “It comes from a cathartic process of emerging through a dark time of struggle and failure.” Matt skillfully weaves his private and personal revelations in immersive stories with captivating imagery. The award-winning track “Josephine” is an irresistible slice of hooky country/rock with a tragic love narrative sung with sensually intimate verses mixed with the power, range and control of the catchy and memorable chorus. “Ghost Town” guides the listener front and center to a chilling winter landscape utilizing vibrant visual imagery to convey the increasingly tragic loss of honor and integrity in people holding positions of power.
The moody “No Man’s Land” lives up to the imagery of its tumbleweed-tinged, Twilight Zone title. It’s a really cool and tough outlaw track made resonant with a fantastic Johnny Cash style deep and rich lead vocal, fiddle, superb harmony vocals, and masterful guitar-playing. The uplifting “Wanderlust” celebrates the vibrant joy of a settled and satisfied heart. “That’s about the belief in true love. Everyone wants to experience the kind of love you just can’t live without. We keep driving and driving searching for the real thing, and we hope we find it before the tires fall off,” Matt chuckles.
To capture the true essence of these songs, Matt traveled to Nashville to work with Beaird Music Group, owned and operated by Larry Beaird who is best known as a country session ringer, having played acoustic guitar, banjo and mandolin on tracks by Randy Travis, Rascal Flatts, Luke Bryant, Faith Hill and Brooks & Dunn, among others. Larry and his ace team brought Matt’s songs to life with brilliant musicianship and deft country-flavored artistry. The band recorded all tracks in two days of fevered inspiration, tracking live for a raw, organic feel. “It all came together so fast. Before I could believe my own eyes and ears the whole record was done. The talent and skill of these session players really blew my mind,” said Matt.
"Unlike many artists today, I am not particularly interested in the trophy's and awards nor the fortune and the fame. What I am seeking is the purest expression of truth within my soul through the medium of music. That is what makes the juice worth the squeeze and in my opinion what people ultimately relate to, the raw, unfiltered truth. Too often sales and bottom lines get in the way of artistic expression and I intend to gamble on my instincts. Bob Dillon, once said, "Do what no one else is doing." That is exactly what I aim to do."
“I got here the hard way, it wasn’t slick and glossy,” Matt says of the road to his first album. “Some people have to stay longer in the cocoon. It took me a long time to write songs on this level. I learned to slow down and listen to my interior emotions, and accept and even embrace the challenge and the failure. Living life more simply springs forth maturity. Falling on my face gave me greater humility and a deeper perspective I would not otherwise have had if I had achieved success early in my life. I am truly grateful for all the obstacles I had to overcome to make it to this point in my life.”