He writes gospelly rock-soul, his band look like they permanently live in the green fields at Glastonbury and he’s quite spectacularly hairy. What’s not to love about Matthew E White? The Virginia-based musician broke through with 2012’s ‘Big Inner’, a tender album of heavenly alt pop that first broke when British audiences took him to heart and couldn’t stop raving about him. With his follow-up ‘Fresh Blood’ out this week, we talked to him about how it came to be.
1. ‘Fresh Blood’ is full of extremes.
‘I wanted to expand the spectrum of what I had done on “Big Inner”, for things to be lighter and darker and louder and softer. And then you write a bunch of songs – some of them are coming from a really personal place and some less so – and you just pick the ten best.’
2. He thinks touring halts a musician’s progress…
‘One of the hardest things about touring is that there’s not a lot of time to actually get better at your craft. That’s something that the industry doesn’t allow, unless you’re like militantly aggressive about getting that time for yourself.’
3. …and he reckons that it’s been the death of some bands.
‘I think that’s what happens with people that have played rock ’n’ roll for years, and a decade down the line it’s like, “Why aren’t these records as good?” People run out of ideas because they haven’t had a chance to cultivate anything new.’
4. He’d never heard of the biggest date in our musical calendar.
‘Basically I had no idea what Glastonbury was. We confirmed the gig [for 2013’s festival] and my manager was really stoked, and I was like “Cool, that’s great, man…” and he was like “No, man, it’s a fucking big deal!” It’s funny to look back on, because I’ll never have that again.’
5. London makes him emotional.
‘Nowhere else gave me the amount of encouragement that London did, so I have a very warm spot in my heart for it and it’s kind of emotional, a little bit. I would just be teaching third-graders how to play guitar if it wasn’t for writers from there. I have a dream job right now, and I’m genuinely very grateful for that.’