Jennifer Matthews Interview with Doug Holder - October 2011
Singer/Songwriter Jennifer Matthews brings 'Tales of a Salty Sweetheart' back to Somerville, Mass. Interview with Doug Holder
Somerville musician Jennifer Matthews was in the words of Willie Nelson, 'on the road again' for the past several years, and she has brought home 'tales of a salty sweetheart.' The sweetheart is not exactly flesh and blood, but her new album to be released in the spring of 2012 based on her experiences across the country, and in Europe. I met Matthews a number of years ago, and I was impressed not only with her musical acumen, but her strengths as a wordsmith. Later the Ibbetson Street Press published a chapbook of her poetry "Fairytales and Misdemeanors" that is in the library collections of Harvard and Brown Universities, among others. Matthews agrees with me that Somerville is great burg to be an artist, and I have had the privilege to interview some fine musicians like Audrey Ryan, Kristen Ford, Allegra Martin, Yani Batteau, Lucy Holdstedt,(of the Women's Musician Network), and others. So it was good to have dinner with Matthews recently in Union Square and see what she has been up to.
Doug Holder: You have lived in Somerville on and off for years...and now after a 3 year stint touring Europe, living in Alaska, New Mexico and Austin, Texas you have come back to the Paris of New England --is it good to back home gain?
Jennifer Matthews: Yes, it is interesting to be back after traveling to and living in these other places. Somerville does have a great creative energy and definitely a very progressive flow, which I can appreciate more now having experienced so many other cultures and towns. One of the significant differences I see is in the world of poetry. Here in Somerville there is a lot to offer for writers on all levels.
DH: Can you tell us about the Female Revolution compilation you were involved for ACM artists? I hear a song of yours is included in a soundtrack for an independent film?
JM: ACM records is a label based out of NYC and they signed on my record 'The Wheel' soon after it was released in 2005. They are a record company that really focuses on placing music in movies, TV, etc... I fond out what they were doing with my songs off that record after the fact... so it is always news to me too. I also found out recently that they placed one of my songs in a movie as well, which also has not yet been released.
DH:Your songs are often nature-based--and you seem to be open to what non-human and even inanimate objects are telling us if we stop and listen. Did this take conscious practice or do you have a natural poetic sensibility?
JM:I am a very nature based person... so everything I do tends to flow in and out with the rhythms of life and nature and at times what is unseen but felt through the veil. I tend to naturally tune in to the natural world around me. This tends to reflect in my poetry and lyrics and something as simple as the markings on rocks, or water, sky, ocean, tree can spark a song and filter through the music.... for example in one of my songs 'a dream of you' the lyric is .... "and there was music of a carnival, and you were waltzing under a silky moon and when you spoke the sky would turn from twilight into a haze of water falling blue" ....I am very drawn to the big mountainous areas which has led me to live in such places as Colorado, Alaska, and New Mexico. I like to be deeply in nature as much as possible. It speaks to me on all levels and provides a freedom and space to create. I think that is where the rootsy style of my music comes from... it reflects strength and peace at the same time....just like a mountain.
DH:You lived in Austin, Texas for a while, which is known as a last bastion for the bohemian, the low rent artists, and the alternative music scene. Give me your impressions of the town?
JM:Yes, Austin is absolutely more affordable than most places I have been for artists!! Lower rents, lower food and gas prices... and audiences that LOVE original music. I had a great time and really enjoyed playing shows there. I found that the audiences truly appreciate the craft of singing and songwriting!! As for what is surrounding there is Barton Springs that runs through the town of Austin and the actual springs are heavenly... pure water that regenerates itself every day.... lots of cool turtles floating around as well... but that Texas sun does burn blazing and mighty hot for half the year.
DH: How have the thematics changed in your songwriting since you first hit the scene. Has wisdom tempered some of the fire or is it now more a powerful but controlled entity?
JM: Yes, still fire, but perhaps a quieter, more reflective one. I have been writing songs for what feels like all my life... so when I write now it feels like an old friend... even though each song is born new, there is a deeper sense of familiarity... and when a great one comes through, it resonates very loudly and deeply.....
DH: Can you tell us about your upcoming new CD coming out?
JM: This record is a special one for me as it was written over the last three years as I was living a very different life style, on and off the road...traveling extensively.... some days feeling richer and luckier than ever and some days not knowing where my next penny was coming from... missing the loved ones that I am close to here. Through that time I was living the dream in some respects. I was living off the grid on a New Mexico mountain in an artist hand built house made of mud and stucco....we had no running water, only an outhouse.... but was surrounded by gorgeous views, endless freedom, sounds of howling packs of coyotes at night and nature abounding... Other songs were written on the road while on tour playing shows in Alaska, also rural area of Florida, in Italy as well as other states in between that I spent some time in and played shows like Louisiana, Texas,and Arkansas.
This record, I am having a great time with... it is as if I am recording it on my own. I am engineering all of the basic tracks on my 8 Trk Tascam home studio. I have some great local musician friends of mine whom I have played with and recorded with in the past who are adding color to the tracks .... Russell Chudnofsky is laying down some guitar magic as well as Rohin Khemani on drums/percussion and Matt Glover on mandolin and an exotic Bulgarian instrument.
The beauty of this is that it allows me all the time I need to lay down each song in its own time and not have a clock ticking behind me.... and in turn it has a really sweet magic to it in vibe and sound.
I think this collection of songs is one of my best and I am very excited to have it released and share it with the world. Each song has a strength of its own, a strong message and hook ... it has me at my best I think as a singer/songwriter... it is clearly an acoustic, rootsy rock album... of course with a poetic sensibility.
It is entitled 'Tales of a Salty Sweetheart' ... and am working for an early 2012 winter or spring release.
Lyrical Somerville - September 2011
Lyrical Somerville by Doug Holder~ Artist Jennifer Matthews ~
Athena, in Greek Mythology, is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, female arts, crafts, justice and skill. Somerville singer, songwriter Jennifer Matthews sent us a poem in tribute to this ancient deity. By the way, Matthews is back in Somerville after a long trek in Alaska, New Mexico, Austin, Texas and Europe. She is recording a new album "Tales of a Salty Sweetheart".
I wanna flow easy like rainfall in July
like gypsy moths retreating as the moon captures their eyes
Receiving horses in my path
inviting me to ride upon the land and not look back
and what is the meaning of everything that hurts
that brings a burden to the mind and blinds a man like thirst
Athena, Queen a righteous believer give me wisdom first
Aphrodite fill me with poetry
Isis give me birth
cast a spell to lead me through this world
To be a bolt of lightning and pretty as red dirt
Athena make me strong as the mountains of the earth
Travelling through distant lands
I felt the wind and heard the sea
speak as within
- Jennifer Matthews
Boston Girl Guide Magazine - 2010
Jennifer Matthews "The Lost Recordings" (Thundamoon Records) record review by TC Krentz
For us Jennifer Matthews' fans, all we can say is thank goodness these songs were not lost forever. A few of these tunes may be considered some of Jennifer's best work. They truly portray Jennifer's quintessential sound that the seasoned fan will recognize straightaway.
The first track "Glitter in the Sand" typifies the soulful songstress' rock driven vein of unique writing. The artful "Emerald Moon" features Jennifer's crafty time changes and esoteric style.
The record is saturated with her signature dreamy yet powerfully passionate vocal talent. The 5 song CD was recovered and released within the last year - damn good thing ! To listen and buy [click here]
2 Pier, Piper Club - 2009
Jennifer Releases "Live in Italy" DVD
This DVD was filmed at The Piper Club in Rome. The Piper Club is a world famous venue... In the past, bands such as The Who, Pink Floyd, Genesis, The Byrds and many more have played at the Piper Club. Check it out on line ... "The Piper Club " The DVD was produced by Terre Sommerse and the DVD is being distributed by them in Europe as well as placing it in rotation on Italian TV. To watch clips and buy [click here]
Rome Media - 2009
Jennifer Matthews - Back in the Capital
Rome, Italy welcomes Jennifer Back for her follow up tour and release of her new DVD. To listen to her interview with Radio Station Nuova Spazio 88.150 FM [click here]
corus cafe - numero 11 2008 by Fabio Furnari
Intervista Rock Canzone D'Autore - Jennifer Matthews
Corus Magazine, Italy
[corus] Some song has a bitter taste like for example... (Wings you put the title of a special song) fruit of some not always positive experience. The music helped to surpass you large tests?
[jennifer] The music has been everything to me in this life. Music and Art, literature, poetry, film, photography, dance, nature and love… and of course my Baritone Guitar….these are the reasons that I have surpassed all of the struggles of life.
When I write a kick ass rock song I feel delivered and redeemed… almost like even though life was wrecking me so hard and wanted to see me lay down and give up, I found the strength through music to fight back and that is something that no one can take away or diminish as it is all soul at that point.
[corus] Talks about the yours last record work how was born.
[jennifer] ‘The Wheel’ was recorded in January 2005. I had written the songs over a three year period. At the time I was playing a lot of shows in Boston and New York City and needed a manager to help me make things happen. Fortunately luck was on my side and I was introduced to my current manager and Thundamoon Records label owner Rose Gardina. She heard my songs and saw that I was standing at the doorstep of a recording studio waiting for the doors to open and she stepped up and said … “Jennifer let’s do a record” she told me find the best engineer and studio and I‘ll find the financing. I was referred to an engineer/producer named Brian Brown who at the time was recording a lot of great music in between Cambridge Ma and Bellows Falls Vermont. He had a rock background and was really versatile and creative. He told me to come on up to Vermont and that we could make a great record together. Myself and drummer Rohin Khemani pulled together New York City bassist Noah Jarrett and Boston’s guitarist Sal Baglio and went into that studio with a vision and a vengeance. The energy was incredibly powerful once we started tracking the songs. The band was so on and I knew that something special was happening.
Once the rhythm tracks were laid down and the band left, I began working intensely with the engineer Brian Brown and started adding some electronic sounds and some drum loops. What was great about that connection with Brian and I is I would hear a sound in my head and say I am hearing this and he’d say hold on, let me find it. He delivered every time and brought into that record every electronic sound I heard in my head including the drum loops. I was very inspired by Radioheads OK Computer and by Pink Floyds Dark Side of The Moon and wanted to show that side of my roots. Not only do I love to sing and record Rock influenced music but I love to do it with a certain spin of sounds that take the listener someplace unexpected. I feel satisfied that I accomplished that on ‘The Wheel’.
[corus] 7) the subject of the next number of the magazine is "the thought". How do you perceive shape of energy? The shapes thought transmit influences and conditionings?
[jennifer] I perceive shape of energy through sound, colors, words and of course numbers. I am ever fascinated with numbers and dimensions. I am also fascinated and in awe with the shapes that the stars create in space as they are always in a perfect alignment and create such beautiful lines and symmetry. I also connect with energy through symbolism… To me thoughts are things… what you put out there with your mind creates an energy that often manifests into a kind of deliverance if you put a lot of strong “thought” energy behind it. It is the law of the universe… I like to think that good Karma comes with good thoughts…And great music comes from an open mind that pushes the boundaries of what has already been done"
Performer Mag - 2006
Jennifer Matthews "The Sunroom Sessions" (Thundamoon Records)
Jennifer Matthews’ latest release, The Sunroom Sessions, is a totally acoustic album, but Matthews is not just another girl with a guitar. Having been labeled as a “rocker” in the past, an acoustic album might seem to be somewhat of a departure for Matthews, but The Sunroom Sessions retains the core qualities that qualify Matthews as a rocker while allowing her to traverse a surprisingly wide range of musical territory.
The album opens strong; both of the first two tracks feature an intensity and vocal confidence that clearly support the idea that Matthews can rock. While the tunes are understated and stripped down, the delivery is not. “Jove” has a more ethereal quality, with Matthews’ vocals wafting above some unexpected, but very interesting harmonic changes. “1000 Miles” is in a much more traditional rootsy style — its delivery, with Matthews’ vocals delving into her lower range, is even more powerful.
The haunting “Floating”… a dark and eerie mood is in stark contrast to the hopeful lyrics, creating a hypnotizing juxtaposition. “Dogs at the Door” follows with a driving, grungy, repeating guitar riff and equally grungy lyrics — all delivered in a style that recalls Tori Amos at her most bizarre. It’s a great cut that really stretches the acoustic format. Other standouts include the captivating tale of “Little Sister,” the disjointed but catchy “Lemon Peels & Tangerines,” and the heart-wrenching “Western Skyline.”
The diversity Matthews displays on The Sunroom Sessions is truly impressive. The breadth of music encompassed on this album belies the fact that it is an acoustic effort while providing something for a wide variety of listeners (Thundamoon Records). Listen/Buy
Metronome Magazine - December 2005
Top 15 best albums of the year by Metronome Music zine in Boston
This month Metronome Music Magazine chose Jennifer's cd "The Wheel" in their Top 15 picks of the year for 2005 right along with guitar god Eric Johnson and Elvin Bishop...
"Jennifer Matthews is sassy, sexy, edgy and above all, talented! Jennifer Matthews rocked the scene with her album The Wheel !"
nationalgiguide.com - November 2005 - by Tim Condliffe
UK Tour Nov. 2005
"Jennifer's innovative and creative style kept the audience baited on every word and pregnant pause. Jennifer’s personalised touches on the delivery and inclusion of an accappella made her really lovely to see live."
Metronome Magazine - August 2005 - by Shaun McNamara
"Currently at the zenith of her local music career, Jennifer Matthews is on her way to performing showcases for record companies in New York, highlighting her latest and most diverse CD, The Wheel. Songs on The Wheel have been spun in the course of time over 5 years; some written 5 years ago and some written within the last year. This is the second breakthrough shot for Matthews in several years. Before planting solid roots in Boston, Jennifer relocated from musical studies and a local fan following in Colorado to New York and formed a 5 piece band, Beautiful Mud, which released a critically acclaimed album that placed her in front of record company showcases for the first time. In her own words though, the timing just wasn’t right, and due to internal and industry struggles, the band dissolved.
Jennifer’s solo career in Boston began in 1998 and she has been a prolific artist, both in music and in poetry, ever since. Matthews does have a progressive feel based in a diverse array of eclectic styles and an all-at-once angelic and alluring delivery in voice, music, and presence, but she is, at the core, a rocker. Though she is immersed in bringing various sounds and musical textures together to round out the Jennifer Matthews sound, there is one innate quality that causes Jennifer to stand out from the fold of somewhat typical female singers- she is not limited to the breathy wistfulness that chains many of her contemporaries. Matthews and artists like Ann Wilson, Pat Benatar, Doro Pesch, and Liz Phair are dissimilar in music style and sound, but they all embody an ability to be recognized as straight-out rockers. Not female rockers, not rock chicks, and certainly not advocates for a spotlight of women in music. They have no need for a one trick pony. They stood or stand in parallel with the likes of Kurt Cobain, Robert Plant, Neil Young, and Chris Cornell, respected for their pure musicianship and charismatic presence. In addition to the closet full of vocal stylings that Jennifer deftly picks from on album and stage, she carries off an intimate and agreeable relationship with the instruments that she plays, highlighting personal best on acoustic and baritone guitar, the latter of which forms a beautiful complementary symbiosis with her voice."
Jennifer: I’m currently on the Northern Coast of California, in the Red Wood forest. There’s no cell service so when I finally found a payphone I was relieved!
METRONOME: Are you touring out there? Are you originally from out that way or do you have friends that you’re visiting?
I’m an East Coaster. I was born in Connecticut and grew up in New Jersey, but I love California and I just felt like getting away for a vacation after a busy year.
METRONOME: Have you played out on the West Coast, and I’m wondering how it was received? You definitely have an East Coast feel with very earthy introspective tones and lyrics that are a staple of the East Coast, especially New England, and even European music.
I’ve come out here three times to play music and the audience reception was great. Last November I did a tour from Los Angeles to Arizona and played the San Diego Indie Music Fest. All the dates were really incredible. I have an affinity for rock, but I also love lyrics. People often ask me about my sound or who my influences are. I’ve always had diverse listening experiences, which has definitely influenced my music. I love Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, and Led Zeppelin, as well as Soundgarden, Elliot Smith, and Joseph Arthur. I also listen to a lot of World Music too. I often go back and forth from folk, funk, and rock to African beats and guitar players, as well as European music. People have made wide ranging references to who I sound like or who I might be influenced by, from the Stone Roses and The Church to being a cross between PJ Harvey and Janis Joplin, but aside from Harvey and Joplin, I haven’t had a chance to hear many of the bands that people mention.
METRONOME: I’m intrigued by the fact that you play Baritone guitar. How did you get into that and did you find it difficult to learn and play?
I love playing the Baritone. I love it, it speaks to me. I grew up playing acoustic guitar, but because of my rock side, I kept trying electric guitar, but couldn’t get into it. The strings were too thin for me. About 5 years ago though, I was in a music store with a friend of mine and he was playing a Baritone and wanted me to check it out. I fell in love with it instantly. I think part of it is that the strings are heavier and I also love the bass, so I think what draws me to it is that similar sound to a bass guitar coupled with the soulful sound of an acoustic guitar, and strings that I can really dig into make it a comfortable fit for me. I’m pretty much self-taught, so I just picked up the Baritone, kept playing it, and let it kind of speak to me. I had already been playing guitar for 20 years before I picked up the Baritone, so it was very natural. I love to play in alternate tunings about 50% of the time and the Baritone is tuned to B. I can move the capo all over the neck and be in great different tunings. I like to play in C on the acoustic, but it’s a pain in the ass to keep it in C, so on the Baritone I just place the Capo on the first fret and I’m in the key of C. When I started writing all these songs on the Baritone and then got together with musicians for the album and playing out, I was lucky in the sense that they were all very good and very open. They would say, start playing the song and we’ll figure it out. I play very organically and tend to improvise quite a bit, especially at live shows. I generally don’t play a song the same way every time because I tend to get bored and I think going in a different direction offers something fresh to the audience. A few weeks ago I played at the Regent Theatre [in Arlington] and I said to the other musicians, just follow me. I’m not sure where it’s going to go. We’re just going to improvise, it’s like a journey.
METRONOME: It must be intense in terms of interacting with the audience, working that out on stage, and having it all possibly go in a different direction from the album.
Oh yeah. They’ll look at me like, whoa, where is she going? It is kind of scary for me too because I’m really putting myself out there, but the thrill of it is when it goes into different places. I definitely maintain the structure of the song and come back so that the listener can place it from the album, but I just like to give the audience something that’s a little different. Especially as a vocalist, if I’m feeling that internal fire to extend myself vocally, I will. Having grown up listening to Robert Plant and Chris Cornell I just love the way they sing so passionately and soulfully. When Jennifer gets back to the East Coast fold from her vacation amongst the Red Woods in California, she is on her way to playing requested showcases in New York City for Atlantic Records, Warner Brothers, and Maverick. In league with Jennifer’s creativity and musicality is the business savvy of her manager, Rose, whom Jennifer remarks is a force to be reckoned with. "She’s very passionate about music and art. I lucked out in terms of her taking me on. Her plan, which is coming together now, was to put the new album out on her label, Thundamoon, and then have a bigger label pick it up."
METRONOME: Is The Wheel, your fourth album, completely different from the first three?
Not entirely. My earlier records had the same kind of eclectic thing going on, but I’ve definitely taken a step back and really built upon the direction that I want to go in and who I feel I am as an artist. I feel much more comfortable and I think it shows through on the album and at the live shows. I think that’s why it feels like the right time to do the showcases for the record companies again and I really feel like I’m moving in a positive direction.
METRONOME: Do you feel, now that you’re getting scouted by record companies, that you might have to go somewhere else to really progress your career? Boston had a burgeoning music scene years ago, but there really isn’t a solid venue dedicated to rock anymore. The Channel is gone, the Rat is gone, and on and on. The enigma of Boston is that it turns out some of the best and most diverse musical acts. No one really has, or ever will have, I think, the diversity that New England has, turning out acts from Aerosmith to The Cars to Boston and J. Geils.
That’s a really good point. I struggle a lot with the Boston music scene because I am an eclectic rock singer. I don’t fit into the folk crowd and I don’t quite fit into the heavier rock thing either. I’m kind of in the middle and when I go out I get frustrated because I want to sing rock. There’s a lot about Boston that I love, such as the intellectual side of it. I’ve learned quite a bit in Boston. Honestly though, I think for my music, Europe has been exceptionally good to me. I always feel good when I play in Europe. After leaving Beautiful Mud and NYC, I moved up to Woodstock for two years and spent a lot of time in between my first time up to potentially getting signed and now writing and playing and really working out my professional music ability, sinking into becoming more of a writer. I believe that all the journeys that I’ve taken and the serendipitous destinations they’ve led me to have culminated in the spot that I’m currently standing in, so we’ll see where the next leap takes us.
Check Jennifer Matthews out at Toad in Cambridge on July 20th at 9:30 pm (1920 Mass Ave, Porter Square, Cambridge MA.) and at Zebras Bistro in Medfield on Wednesday, July 27th (21 North Street, Medfield MA.). Jennifer kicks off a tour of the Southern United States in the fall (check back on her Web site, www.jennifermatthews.com, for further details). She makes another journey to Europe in November for a tour of England and Wales. You can also participate in the current rise of Jennifer Matthews by signing up for her newsletter at her Web site and maybe even becoming a member of her "street team." Personal favorites on The Wheel include "Change" and "A God He Calls Friend" both for their funky elements and rocker feel. Songs such as "Brother," "The Wheel" and "A Dream of You" encompass the ambient and World Music feel that Jennifer mentioned, and "Running Thru My Blood" rounds out the album with a grass roots feel dipped in slow driving blues and topped off by Jennifer’s excellent guitar playing and smoldering, provocative vocals. In all, there is something on this album for everyone and it’s worth adding to your collection, twice.
Publisher/Metronome Magazine, since 1985
Metronome Magazine - August 2005 - by Douglas Sloan
Doug’s Top 5: THE WHEEL 13-SONG CD
"Singer-songwriter Jennifer Matthews has struck paydirt with her new album, The Wheel. Incredibly original and as inventive as the album’s title would imply, Matthews has a progressive bite to her songwriting that rivals that of Melissa Etheridge. In fact, Matthews’ vocals (for good or bad) sound like Etheridge on some of The Wheels more organic, emotive tracks (“Brother,” “The Wheel”).
But just when you think you’ve got Jen figured out, she throws you a curve with her wispy, childlike innocence that begs your attention (“Change, “Be Love,” “Apome”), a biting honesty that recalls Ani DiFranco (“A God He Calls Friend,” “I Believe In You”), and even the twang of the Delta (”Running Thru My Blood”)... but it doesn’t end there. Matthews is quite comfortable giving you big doses of herself too, with the progressive punch of “Digital Jargon,” the seething sweetness of “Holler Out” or the bold lash of “A Dream of You.” No matter how you slice this piece of pie, you come up with a different taste every time.
Matthews wasn’t alone in the making of this fine album. Her stellar band that features the excellent guitar work of Sal Baglio (Stompers), the solid timekeeping of drummer Rohin Khemani, the tasteful mandolin playing of Matt Glover, and the sympathetic bass lines of Noah Jarrett only add texture, color and professionalism to the proceedings making The Wheel a prime candidate for “Album of The Year” at this year’s Boston Music Awards show. Outstanding!"
GoGirls Music - July 2005 - by Annette Warner
Jennifer Matthews "The Wheel"
"The first 3 tracks were a good sign that this project was anything but ordinary. 13 songs and not one of them favor another. Jennifer's vocals are premier in their category of moody, sensual and enticing vocal deliveries to become one with. Nice sound and fantastic raw energy."
Kweevak Music Magazine - June 2005 - by Laura Turner Lynch
THE WHEEL: Review
"Jennifer Matthews is a poet and a rocker. Jennifer plays guitar, organ and co-produced The Wheel, which is her fourth release. This multi-talented musician studied voice at the University of Colorado and Denver's School of Music. Jennifer is a powerful vocalist with a versatile range. Matthews' lyrics are filled with visual, dark imagery about life and love. Jennifer is supported by five able players adding to her dramatic, vivid soundscapes. Her sound is an eclectic blend of the blues, folk, funk and plenty of rock. Jennifer's thirteen-track CD is heavy on guitars that propel the range of styles that Matthews incorporates into her songs. Although the CD is potent as a whole, I particularly liked the emotion and energy on the first three tracks. All feature some heavy guitar licks, driving rhythms and soaring vocals. Jennifer's music is a colorful blend of musical textures and Matthews is a passionate player. The Wheel is daring, deep and diverse!
Recommended Tracks: 1, 2, 3
Ibbetson Press - May 2005 - by Doug Holder
Vocalist Jennifer Matthews Reinvents The Wheel
- Why the title "The Wheel?"
I found when I was in the whole recording process of this album that everything in my life seemed to be coming full circle. When I was reflecting on the years during which I wrote the songs for the album, to the actual moments of laying down the first tracks, I was seeing one coincidence after another, all symbolizing growth and survival - ultimately leading to transformation. I realized that while I was sinking my teeth into this project, there seemed to be one connecting person after another, and one experience after another, leading me right up to the moments of this recording. I ultimately arrived in a spot where I was looking at a wheel and was on it, and realized the circle had gone all the way around leading me back to the top to begin all over again. Plus there is a tune on the CD called "The Wheel" which I think with the help of the band kicks some serious ass.
- You told me you were holed up in an old hotel in New Hampshire for weeks working on this CD. Was this good for the creative juices?
It was actually located in Vermont just over the NH border. It was in the lobby of an old hotel. The place is closed off due to fire but the lobby has a haunting charm to it and that is where the studio is. It was great for the creative flow because it had a certain personality particularly with the high ceilings and open space. It made for a great live room for the band to connect to in and it inspired energy. It was located in an old town where the freight trains run clear up to Canada. The river runs right through it as well, so there was lots of nostalgia there to feed off of. We recorded it in the middle of January which gave the town a certain hush, and with the snow falling most every day I think we were all transported in some way or another.
- You surrounded yourself with a very accomplished group of musicians for this CD. Can you talk about some of the folks. How was the chemistry between all of you? How hard is it to achieve this with a diverse group of people?
The chemistry was great. The drummer (Rohin Khemani) and I have been playing together on and off for four years. We are good friends and always have worked well together. The lead Guitarist (Sal Baglio) and I had a certain fire as soon as we picked up gtrs together and started playing. He definitely fuels me every time we play both on the record and live on stage. He is smoking. Same for the electric mandolinist (Matt Glover) who floors me every time we play and the bassist (Noah Jarrett) was introduced to me by the drummer so they (the ryhtym section) had a great feel together due to their history and connection. Everybody really buckled down and put their all into the takes and I think that is really evident when you listen to it... the moments come through.
- Many of the songs in this album seem to be adressing a high power or entity. There is always such a "spiritual" sensibility to your work. I know that you are a practicing Sufi, does this influence your work to a degree?
Good question Doug. I have to say yes, absolutely. For example the tune titled "The Wheel", was written the day after I had returned from a 4 day meditation retreat up in the Berkshires. Hence the lyrics... "..maker of mine, of yours and time, I love you I want to be with you... Enfold me, my beloved I am weak, waking in the dawn of ecstasy, I'm easy like a future ideal, reinventing the wheel to feel..." Practicing any spiritual belief helps put "Life" in perspective and gives me strength... Sufism found me and inspired me to continue on the path of my creative world which is ultimately what sustains me and keeps me moving in a forward motion progressing through my purpose here.
- Does this CD herald a new direction with your work, your life?
It does herald a certain completion within myself and a feeling of accomplishment. There were four years leading up to and preparing for the making of this CD. The challenges and hardships I had gone through and had to overcome to get to the point of its completion were many. The beautiful thing is that when I thought I should give up...I endured and when I thought there was no hope...I persevered, and in the end I was rewarded with a great team and record. So it has taught me much and I am excited about the directions it will lead me in, the people it will lead me to and its birth of new ideas. Once again in my mind it leads me to evolution and self- betterment along the cycle or "wheel" of life.
- I have heard, that with the help of Rose Gardina, your manager, you started your own label. Why have you decided to go this route?
It is really liberating when you can say f**k it... I'm gonna start my own revolution... and that is the concept behind starting our own label...why wait for this one or that one to come along and get behind the record and often times finding yourself falling prey to empty promises that never see the light of day... I much prefer the concept of paving new roads as somehow that makes the journey appear to be that much more enlightening...
- I was told by a writer recently that the only way to survive as an artist these days is to be "unreasonably committed" to your work. Does this describe you--Jennifer?
It does describe me, unreasonably committed, but then again how can it be unreasonable when most of the time its the only thing that helps me reason or make sense of the chaos... when I sing... it carries me through each cloud and heals me... so, guess you could say I'll probably be reasonably unreasonably committed to it for the rest of my life as it is my sustenance!!
Doug Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press, and the Arts/Editor for the "The Somerville News."
Boston Girl Guide Magazine - April 2005 - by TC Krentz
The Wheel (Thundamoon Records)
"Jennifer Matthew’s fourth release may well be her personal best. The Wheel definitely showcases everything you need to know about this fantastic artist; her mystic, her deep & thoughtful emotions, her talent as singer/songwriter, and last but not least, guitarist.
Track one sets the tone of this heavily influenced by blues & folk rock record. There are some colorful-straight-outta-the-60’s sounds, some nice use of reggae rhythms, and some incredibly heartwarming folk-genred songs. She even caps the works off with a poem & acoustic bass duet.
What threads through the record is an authenticness that can’t be described. Jennifer is clearly an angel enduring the human experience. It can be heard in her hauntingly beautiful vocal style as well as the lyrics. It’s like that magical side of Stevie Nicks you fell in love with even if you hated Fleetwood Mac. It’s the shining clarity of Alanis Morissette, whether you thought she was a bitch or not. The music behind the magic is just as stunning; the talent crowds in en masse. The lead guitar work on the title track alone is mandatory listening. Jennifer Matthews is a siren wailing her soul stories out to us; sometimes at high decibel and sometimes at a whisper. Both are contagiously beautiful. Buy this record (don’t just consider it- you’ll be sorry)"
allmusicproject.com - April 2004 - by Suzi B.
Compilation CD with powerful messages
"Jennifer definately is a great artist, who is breathtaking in all meaning of the words, soft whisper, with white wings, slowly, faster and faster until she lands on the ground and moves in you... Her compilation CD has powerful messages and is a must for each and every one of you. Also, check out her website of many colors."
Mediabistro - October 2003 - By Doug Holder
An artist who lives the life
On stage you see a petite woman, with flowing raven hair, a resplendent blue guitar, and a voice that rises from her throat, as if she is possessed. That lady would be Jennifer Matthews...Matthews not only has a breathtaking voice, and an arresting stage presence, but she "strings words with wings," as she once told me in an interview for the Cambridge Chronicle. Matthews songs are crafted portraits of people, flights of surrealistic fantasy, and bites of ephemeral beauty. She is an artist who lives the life and is the embodiment of her music and words. Don't miss her.
Check out http://www.jennifermatthews.com
The Boston Globe - 4th of July 2003 - by Christopher Muther
Given that this is Fourth of July weekend, we thought it was only appropriate to offer you a musical firecracker by the name of Jennifer Matthews. Like Linda Lavin and Beyonce before her, this independent woman has a true passion for song. She blends rock, funk, and soul into a guttural blend of sweet and sassy. Tonight at 10:30 you can see Matthews do her thing at Toad.
Cambridge Chronicle - June 2003 - By Doug Holder
music and motherhood
Vocalist Jennifer Matthews juggles both in pursuit of her dream
Jennifer Matthews is everywhere. You'll see her in the depths of the South Station T station, singing her lilting, heartbreak of a song, or at the Toad, Lizard Lounge or Middle East, belting out blues-inflected rock with her band. You'll also see her at a local music store, where she teaches voice to students. Matthews, a single mother of a 12-year-old son, juggles jobs and gigs in order to pursue her dream as a singer and a songwriter.
Matthews, a petite, striking woman, has struck a balance between work and motherhood. "Jonathan is my roots. Being a musician is incredibly exciting, but it is also chaotic. The one thing that keeps it all real for me is my son." Matthews, who performs all around the city, also works as a voice teacher and as a counselor at McLean Hospital.
Matthews, born in West Hartford, Conn., was involved with music at a very young age. Her love for performing has never waned. "Getting on stage is like a drug," she says. "You transcend time and place. It is an incredible feeling, when you connect with the crowd through your music."
While attending the University of Colorado at Boulder, she established herself as a solo artist. She cut her musical teeth in New York City, where she played at some of the better-known Greenwich Village clubs such as The Bitter End and the Speak Easy. Later, Matthews did a three-month tour in Japan and recently toured Europe. Back in New England, Matthews formed her own band with drummer Bill Ricciardelli and bassist Jordan Scanella. Matthews is now recording a four-song demo tape at the Magpie Studio in Boston (formerly Fort Apache Studios) that she hopes to market. Her latest CD is " Best Of...," a compilation of her music and songwriting abilities.
Matthews said she decided against working for a "business" band and performing at weddings and such. "I performed my first song when I was in my teens. During this time, I was offered a lot of gigs with business bands. After performing, I would run home, grab my guitar and play my own music. I never felt at home at those gigs. It felt unnatural."
Not only is Matthews becoming well known on the music circuit, but also she is making a name for herself with the poetry crowd in the city. "I am a poet at heart, from the way I deliver my lines in the solo vein, to the lyrical expression that paints pictures with words," she says. "In short, I sing, journey, and then return."
Matthews performed with Jack Power's Stone Soup Poets at the Out of the Blue Gallery, and also at a benefit for the bicoastal poetry magazine Poesy. She will also strut her lyrical stuff at McIntyre and Moore Books in Somerville (June 15 at 5 p.m.) that often has many Cambridge poets in attendance. Matthews says she finds her inspiration walking the streets of Harvard Square, or studying an interesting face on the Red Line. She described her poetry as " strings of words with wings."
To find out more about Jennifer Matthews, log on to www.jennifermatthews.com.
The Alternative News - May - June 2003
female artist of the month
Born in West Hartford, CT, Jennifer Matthews fell in love with music at a very young age. Singing was her first love and her first solo performance was at her church at the age of 7. Her love for and involvement in music and the arts grew stronger as she grew older. As she continued singing, she also began dancing and, then, performing in theatre throughout her teens. However, at age 16 she picked up the guitar and began writing songs. She found that it came somewhat easy for her and it was a natural talent and ability. She still had to devote a lot of time to practice and rehearsals, but she knew she could do it. As time went on, Jennifer relocated to Colorado to attend the University of Colorado in Boulder as well as the Denver School of Music. There she studied performance and various other music courses.
While in Colorado, Jennifer firmly established herself as a solo artist while performing at various local bars and coffee houses in the surrounding area. It was during this where her creative spirits began to flow freely and she developed her unique vocal style and flair. Jennifer quickly won over audiences wherever she performed and her fan base grew with every performance. Her songs gained recognition and she won several awards from the Rocky Mountain Music Association.
At this point, Jennifer did a 3-month tour in Japan and Korea for the Department of Defense, which work out very well. Upon her return she relocated to New York where she formed a 5-piece band known as "Beautiful Mud." Her band released a highly acclaimed 7" single that was well received on college radio and did very well. This further increased her visibility and the public's awareness of this bright, talented rising star. However, after several years of performing in New York City's clubs, the band disbanded and went their separate ways.
Moving back to her native New England in 1998, Jennifer headed to Boston to pursue her solo career. After some time, in the spring of 2002, Jennifer formed a new band to work with and back her up. This band consists of drummer Bill Ricciardelli and bassist Jordan Scannella, both fine performers and graduates of Boston's famed "Berklee School Of Music." Their style has been called "sophisticated blend of rock, blues and folk," while still retaining Jennifer's distinctive style.
Music is a big part of Jennifer's life and she come a long way since her first solo singing opportunity at her church. As a single mother, as well as a "woman in music," she has accomplished incredible goals and overcome immense obstacles to be the best she can possibly be as a mother and a performer. Her undying commitment as a mom, and as a per-former, takes a lot of time and patience as well as courage and hard work. What she has she has sacrificed and worked very hard to achieve and will continue to do so and grow in the future.
Jennifer is currently preparing for a new studio recording with her band. To date, Jennifer Matthews has a total of three albums to her credits. Her latest EP, titled "Blue In Blue Out," produced by RCA recording artist Marc Copely was released in the fall of 2000. This release proved she is better and stronger with every new release and remarkably continues to develop and hone her skills in every way.
For more information on this month's "Woman In Music," see her website at: www.jennifermatthews.com.
View an image of the double page
The alternative News' website has a pdf version of the May-June issue.
The Boston Globe - April 2003 - by Ric Kahn
rewritting brian's song and honoring his spirit
The late Allston-Brighton city councilor Brian Honan loved to rock as much as roll with the political punches. So longtime family friend Joe Cremens cooked up a musical memorial to his pal, who died last July at age 39 of complications following cancer surgery.
To honor Honan, Cremens, 50, commissioned an original tune from local singer/songwriter and fellow Medford resident Jennifer Matthews, a troubadour known to swing vocally from the sweetness of Kate Bush to the sass of Janis Joplin.
Matthews didn't know Honan. However, working off a written eulogy, and a heartfelt talk from Cremens about Honan's vocation as a one-man tractor-pull for the underdog, Matthews said she was inspired to compose a song that would allow Honan's committed spirit to hang-ten on the waves of music; a blues/folk/rock/pop number somewhere between Joan Baez and Joan Osborne that she performed at the April 2 dedication of the Honan-Allston Branch Library.
Titled "Ballad for Brian Honan," here are excerpts from what Matthews sang on her Martin six-string guitar:
You were lightness
In a dark crowded room
You were faithful
When we needed you
You were a vision
Behind the greatest veil
A burning sun paving new trails
Northeast Performer - December 2002
Boston based singer/songwriter Jennifer Matthews just came back from a successful European solo tour. She has performed 10 one-woman shows in 2 weeks around Switzerland and has built up an important fan base, paving the way for her next tour in the summer 2003 with her full band. Besides the small clubs, she has also performed as opening act for top European artists such as Michael von der Heide (Zug, Switzerland, 10/25/02) and Gee K (Krummenau, Switzerland, 10/19/02). Jennifer Matthews signed a publishing deal for her seventh album with Panagency in Murten, Switzerland. This publishing company works very closely with both European and American labels. The album is scheduled to release in the spring 2003 period.
In August Jennifer Matthews released a new compilation album called Best of 96-01 that includes some of her best songs from earlier albums as well as previously unreleased songs. The album is available at the shows and on the Internet at http://www.jennifermatthews.com.
Stuff @ Night - June 2002
live at the plough and stars
The Plough and Stars is one of the most under appreciated music venues in town, consistently presenting high-quality acts, many of, which are just about to break locally and nationally (like G. Love). Is Jennifer Matthews the next great thing to gig regularly at the Plough? See for yourself tonight at 10, as she wraps up a month-long Thursday residency at the intimate club.
Skope - January 2001
live at toad, somerville, ma
Skope gets the opportunity to experience many great bands throughout Boston. Jennifer Matthews is no exception. This beautiful, young lady has played everywhere in Boston from the Middle East, The Lizard Lounge, and the Plough and Stars, just to name a few. Jennifer has been singing for most her life. She has composed songs that deal with everything that people go through in their lives. Her sound produces feelings that cannot be explained. In 1999 Jennifer cut her own five track CD entitled, "Blue In, Blue Out." This CD captures her musical genius through varying tracks of sound. This CD is different from what pop music displays today. She touches on many genres of music to create her own sound.
Skope got the chance to see Jennifer at TOAD in Somerville recently, probably the most intimate place to see a band (the stage barely fits 4 people, and the capacity of the place is not more than 60 people). Every show you go to With Jennifer you can always notice an evolving change of sound. Jennifer and the three other members of the band rocked out to a packed house of local music lovers. She not only played tracks from the past but also played the new songs that are not yet on a CD. She is an artist of great versatility with the ability to play any of her songs with great emotion. Her sweet style of performance make everyone feel comfortable and able to grab on to the music. She played a two-hour set that the crowd did not seem to want to let her finish. She rocked so hard that she busted a string on her guitar. A highlight for us was the Skope shout before our favorite, "Lemon Peels & Tangerines." Whether you hear her live or on the CD she never lacks that musical beauty. This performance was one to be remembered.
Jennifer has been spotlighted to let our loyal readers know that her talent as an artist is not to be ignored. For someone who we can't believe has not yet gone platinum, she is incredibly modest. Jennifer has had many people promise her things that have not come to be in this music game, but she is persistent and for good reason. She is now constantly creating music and playing shows allover the city. To find out her next show or grab a CD you can reach her at email@example.com, tell her Skope told ya'. We have word that she'll be cutting a new CD displaying her ever-changing style. If life and love flow your veins give Ms. Matthews a try.
The Boston Globe - November 2000
caught in the clubs
At times as individual as P J. Harvey and Kate Bush, at times as hippie-sensual as Neil Young and Joan Osborne, Matthews covers a lot of ground. She's an appealing chameleon, and her band (featuring Grits bassist Mark Eaton, ex-Another Planet guitarist Dave Rizzuti, and drummer Django Carranza) is just as versatile. They play the Plough & Stars on Tuesday and the Kendall Nov. 21.
Soundcheck - July 2000 - by L.A. Joe
blue in blue out - 5-song cd
Jennifer sings and plays acoustic guitar and writes songs. And man is she good at it. On the enclosed info sheet they mention that her voice is "... hauntingly beautiful swooning between powerful soul driven deliverances and soft, sultry, and profoundly intimate ballads." I couldn't agree more. I love the trippy guitar textures on "Roam," one of the ballads. Besides the guitar player, she's got drums and bass helping out on her folk rock songs. "Blue Sunday" is nice and "The Wild Ways of life" is one hell of a song title, but my favorite of the bunch is the first song "Lemon Peels & Tangerines." Isn't that a cool title? Well you should hear the song. I even like the name of the collection: "Blue In Blue Out." Guess I'm a fan.
Rhythm And News - Nov. 1997 - by Dean Sternberg
all about heart and soul
"SHOT TO THE WIND"
"Singer-songwriter-guitarist Jennifer Matthews' considerable talents are highlighted on this great sounding release. She's got an excellent voice with a powerful range as she unveils her well-crafted and played compositions with veteran precision. Bandmates Andy Adams on bass guitar and drummer Chris Walsh complement Matthews' tight, impressive style making this pithy trio a real force to keep your eyes and ears on."
"There's an earthy quality to these tracks that's centered in the vocal cords of Jennifer Matthews. The ethereal nature of her voice is suited perfectly to the material, which is a blend of country, folk and sorta psychedelic rock that bears traces of Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds and early Jefferson Airplane. Evidently, the band derives its inspiration from some well-tilled creative soil 'cause they have the results to prove it...My personal pick is 'Half A Mind'; the vocal melody and guitar work stuck in my brain like peanut butter to the palate. I can sense success on a larger scale awaiting this band in the, coming year! "
The Music Paper
"THE LONG JOURNEY HOME"
" ...and to adequately describe how moving this track and the CD is would be difficult. This really isn't supposed to be a record review, but suffice to say that good music keeps your attention, Great music somehow manipulates emotions in you that you otherwise wouldn't be feeling at the moment. This is great music."
Dean Sternberg - Rhythm and News
"EXPECTING TO FLY"
"Call it nouveau primitif. Ms. Matthews backs her breathy, Kirsty McCollish voice with guitars, squeezebox and her own vocal counterpoint. She has no place to hide; still, the songs have enough emotional breadth for Ms. Matthews to show off her notable range and control. These five songs are both a vocalist's and songwriter's showcase… not really folk, not really lament, but having elements of both without sounding pale or tired. Start- to-finish... Pretty.
"Jennifer Matthews... She's got incredible control of her voice as she wanes through octaves with impressive ability. She also shows off her musical prowess, accompanying herself on guitar and piano. Checkout the sultry "Always & True", a radio-friendly hit in the making! Good stuff.
Douglas Sloan - Metronome
4 Song Cassette
"My favorite here would have to be "Shakin' " in which Jennifer Matthews voice at once both breathy and forceful serves as a siren centerpiece spinning out a captivating melody above and around the musical base like a master weaver."
B.F.B - Grandma Dynamite