Walking into the green room of the Bearsville Theater after the evening’s performance, I couldn’t tell who was more in a haze, myself or the room I was about to enter. A small group formed, celebrating the night’s incredible performance when I met up with Matthew (Matisyahu) and we headed toward the couch at the back of the party to chat. A very chill presence, it was probably the most calm and existential conversation I remember having. Matisyahu’s stage persona is reflective of the man he is behind the scene as well. We discussed his upcoming album, collaboration in the jam scene and how his evolving faith influences him and his music.
Jim Gilbert: The New Year’s coming up, and what I wanted to talk about was your evolution ya know, everybody talks about how they’re going to change in the new year… what they’re going to do in the new year. Over your career you’ve done quite a bit of evolving, and I wanted to kinda get a feel for why you made the changes you did, how they’ve affected you, how they’ve affected your music. How have you evolved over your career?
Matisyahu: I would say that like when I started out, there was more just my understanding of music and what it is, my voice, and my sound, and what it is I do, it was just new. It was like when you first start learning something or first getting to know something or someone and it’s fresh and it’s a certain kinda excitement, energy, passion love… Also sort of like unfamiliarity, or a little bit of an uncomfortability with it. And over the years, being able to be on the road, make music, play music, write music, just become much more solidified in terms of my understanding of what music is and what it is that I do. So I think there’s a lot more dimensions to what I do now, in terms of my evolution. When I first started out, it was more like there was one kind of dynamic to what I did. And now there’s a lot of different dynamics and colors that I use in order to create music.
JG: When you started out, who would you say your influences were? It’s a unique blend, so who did you look at and go I want to be like them? Or did you just want to do your own thing?
M: No, I was influenced and continued to be influenced over the years.
JG: So, the change in your appearance over the course of the last couple of years, you’ve changed look and feel. Was there a reason for that?
M: Well, my look has always been a direct reflection of what’s going on in terms of my expression of my inner world, so absolutely. My look is kind of defining what’s going on.
JG: And that’s coming out in the music as well?
M: Exactly. The music is like the main place for me to express it intellectually, emotionally, and even intuitively and style, fashion and like the way that I look I guess, is sort of the outgrowth of where my existential self is.
JG: I see you evolving into more and more integration into the jam world. And tonight you guys went on it was beautiful, you let some of those things just go and evolve on stage. What kind of direction are you seeing yourself in that world, the jam world? You’ve been on stage with Umphrey’s McGee quite a few years ago and you’ve got a tie with Twiddle too, right?