Old Saxophone

I once heard that Jimi Hendrix hated his own voice. And I’m sure a lot of singers feel the same way about their vocal gear. When I think of the money that guitar players spend trying to find a new instrument that satisfies them, it’s kind of amazing that anyone could be happy with the one and only physical voice machine they happen to be born with. I know some of you nice people appreciate my voice. I do, too, for the most part. But the thing is limited in what it can do and it was built in 1963. Sometimes I wish it could soar in other ways.

I find that in order to become a musician, to learn to play and sing, you have to engage in some odd mind games with yourself. And this is especially true when you’re trying to manipulate areas inside your body that you can’t even see, like your throat. When I was just beginning to sing, someone told me to imagine a very hot potato inside my mouth as a way to cause my throat to expand. You use the trick to make something good happen inside your body. Then eventually you learn to make the good thing happen without using the trick. There are tons of mind-fucking gambits like this that have helped me figure out how to sing just a little bit better. And I feel like I need every single one.

So here’s a fantasy scenario has unlocked some vocal happiness for me lately, because it helps me to accept and enjoy my voice. This is going to sound insane, but I’ll share. I’ve been pretending that my voice is a very old and fragile tenor saxophone that I found in my attic. How exciting! And I’m picking it up for the first time, learning to make cool sounds with it. Don’t know why, but right now this particular mind-fucking fantasy is helping me approach singing with a little more joy. More gentleness. It’s helping me embrace the limited but totally acceptable sounds of my vocal machine.

"Real Life". I want to tell you what it means.

"Real Life". I want to tell you what it means.

My mentor, friend, guide, musical lover and all-around meal ticket John Munson always advises me to avoid explaining the lyrics to my songs. He thinks that by doing it you reduce the breadth of what songs can mean to people. I know he’s right. But sometimes as a musician you just have to do things to please yourself and not for the purpose of making your art more powerful to other people.

Playing House Concerts

Last night John and I played a house concert in St. Paul. I didn’t succeed in my personal goals for the night, so that was disappointing. But still the show was at time amazingly fun and it reminded me of how the advent of house concerts as a mode of performance his been a revelation for me. They are my favorite kind of gig.

First of all, if you’re interested, here’s how I failed last night. I’ve been trying to learn how to sing for about 5 years and last night felt like a setback. I just wasn’t doing the things I planned to do, breathing right, taking a thoughtful of approach. We got on stage and a reverted to a frantic puppy dog with no plan, just winging it like I might have 30 years ago. Bad Matt.

But the magic of the format, and the graciousness of our hosts, made the show a joy anyway, and we all arrived at a few magic moments. House concerts are incredible because everyone is comfortable and happy – they’re mutual friends of the host. And to a person they are focused on the music, a situation performers love. Add in the close proximity between John and me and our audience the whole situation leads to a direct connection between musician and listener that can’t be equalled. I absolutely love it.

Plus people bring great food and wine.

John and I have a number of these shows on our calendar right now. But you won’t see them listed on our website because the magic is that the host can just choose who they want to invite. So if this is something you might want to try at your place, by all means check out our house concerts page and you can see precisely how the logistics work. I’m sure we’d love to play at your place, too.