How Sweet it is
Matthew Sweet first gained prominence in the budding Athens, Ga., music scene in the ’80s, and the singer/songwriter found even greater success with the release of his third album, Girlfriend, in 1991. That record was a staple on radio at the time and helped establish Sweet as the king of jangly guitar power pop.
Over the past 12 months, Sweet released both his 14th and 15th albums, Tomorrow Forever and Tomorrow’s Daughter, respectively, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign that helped him raise money for the recordings on his own Honeycomb Hideout imprint.
On June 15, Sweet will be headed to Fairfield Theatre Center’s Stage One to play songs both old and new. Keith Loria caught up with him before the show.
Keith Loria: What can those heading to Stage One expect from you on the night?
Matthew Sweet: When I play live, it’s always a little bit stripped down from the records, much simpler. John Morman, one of the guitar players from the new albums will be playing with us for the show, and we haven’t played with him for a little while, so that will be cool. It’s a really fun show and we’re always good with the fans who come. It’s generally a lovefest all around.
KL: Will you be concentrating more on the new songs?
MS: We have a lot of material to manage, as well as covering the greatest hits. We’ll play some of the new things but there’s plenty of stuff that longtime followers will know and enjoy.
KL: Before last year, it had been quite a while since we heard any new music from you, with 2011 being the year of your last release. Why the wait?
MS: I knew I wanted to do it my way. After the Kickstarter campaign, it took me a couple of years to make it, rather than the year that I thought it would. I really wanted the record to be strong and the way I ensured that was by writing and recording a lot more than I needed.
KL: Rumor has it that you recorded 38 songs in that process, which led to this second recording —“Tomorrow’s Daughter” — which just came out this month. How else did the Kickstarter campaign impact what you put out?
MS: The money raised was enough to add an elaborate gatefold packaging featuring harlequin cover girls painted in the early ’60s by Maio and have mastering by legendary Abbey Road producer Sean Magee, who remastered many of The Beatles catalogue. Because of the generosity of the people who contributed, I wanted to make sure that everything on the record was really good and solid. They’ve been waiting for it for a long time, and I feel like I owe it to them.
KL: Is it too early to talk about new music and what’s next?
MS: I am already thinking about what’s next. I do have another album worth of songs I am going to put out on Record Store Day in the fall. That was a quickie project I did, though I didn’t think of it as ‘my next project’ and I wanted it to be a fun vinyl offering for fans. Over the next year, I will be working on ideas for the next record.
KL: How do you compare performing today than when you first started almost four decades ago?
MS: I’m more comfortable now than I’ve ever been. I used to be nervous and freaky about playing live. I enjoy it much more now because I was dealing with so many of my own demons at the time and I wasn’t able to see the people and feel it in a way like I can now. I’m a lot more comfortable, I don’t get as moody and I appreciate it more. Part of it is selfish because I like to crank up the guitar and play with my buddies in the band.
KL: What’s the secret of getting your songs heard by millennials?
MS: You have to get your music on to social media today. I see a lot of young people whose parents brought them up as fans and I think that word-of-mouth thing can have an impact. But as much exposure and coverage as you can get hopefully leads to someone new discovering your music.
KL: The album Girlfriend really put you on the map, and there’s a new musical based on the songs that is currently earning critical acclaim in the theater circuit. How did that come about?
MS: I actually am not involved in that. Playwright Todd Almond approached me in the late ’90s about using the music for his musical, and I told him to go for it. I have still not seen it, but it’s about two guys in high school who bond over the songs of ‘Girlfriend’ and come to communicate with each other. Everyone I know who has seen it says it’s really charming. It’s been cool to see it have a life of its own and I’m looking forward to seeing it and it’s a fun thing I am rooting for.