Hit Play And Smile – The Matt Honkonen Interview

Matt Honkonen

Last week I shared my thoughts on Matt Honkonen’s new album Take Me Home. You can read it by clicking HERE.  I loved the record so much I thought it would be cool to talk with him about it.

So this is album # 2 for you under your own name. How’s does Take Me Home line up with Paper Wires? Or even better, how doesn’t it? 

I think Take Me Home is an evolution in my song writing for sure. Honestly I struggled a bit with suddenly being the focal point when I was putting Paper Wires together, and I think that can lead to “safer” tunes and performances. I always had band mates to bounce things off of and collaborate prior to that album. Take Me Home (to me) feels like a more earnest statement with a more focused style. It represents a consistent vibe from start to finish, and the atmosphere is present in every song. It’s a single moment in time that I explored in 10 tracks, through 10 different windows, looking into the same snapshot. I think I captured that well and I’m very proud of it.

With your long history in music, and recording so much with people, traveling, etc. I know this time around had to feel more personal, because it’s a “diy” album. Touch on that a bit. What’s the struggle like?

It was an awesome and humbling experience to craft solo. Working in the studio with a band and/or creating as a group can push you in a lot of different ways, some good and some bad. It can be inspirational and collaborative, while also being a very political process. You’re forced to confront things that make you uncomfortable with the songs you create and deal with everyone’s opinions and aspirations.

How has the family influenced your sound on “Take Me Home”? 

The cheesy answer is support. Christina has always been my biggest believer, supporter and collaborator. She (along with you and some other peeps) probably listened to 10 different versions of the “final album”. It is invaluable to have trusted ears around, in life in general. And Gray is a constant inspiration. Bing a dad opens a doorway you didn’t know was accessible before. Put’s life in perspective in a way that a kid like me wouldn’t see otherwise. I think the tone of the album reflects that, and also calls back to a time in my life of curious freedom and absolute content.

Is it hard for you to be a frontman, do you miss the anonymity of your old job as a drummer? 

That’s a good question. I do miss drumming and providing the foundation, but the challenge of being a frontman is a welcome change. Having to focus on singing, remembering lyrics and stage presentation is almost the exact opposite part of the brain as a focus on playing and syncing with the bass. It’s keeping music fresh for me, and I still drum with enough folks on the side to satisfy both sides of that coin. I used to have a hard time being the focus, a hard time dressing as “the auteur.” Putting this band together to support this album has taught me how to lead, how to listen and trust my instincts (and my new band mates).

Matt Honkonen

What artists inform your general ambitions for creating music, or being creative on any level? 

I don’t have a “type.” I am inspired by craft in all forms musically…lyrics, song structure, live performance and engineering. I find inspiration in sounds and sights that send me to the places I thought were forever lost and return me gently into the warm reality that human beings are infinitely complex, sometimes terribly ugly creatures…all striving to hear and to be heard. But I’m also tremendously inspired by folks here in TN like RB Morris, Kevin Abernathy, Tim and Susan Lee, Madre, The work YOU continue to do with your many projects, Grandpa’s Stash and the HUGE scene we’ve got here. I could write ten pages on bands and artists that I admire here in Knoxville.

You’re about to head back in the studio to record your old band Llama Train, what can you tell us? 

Six songs done thus far, and our next session is Feb 6-8. Its been a blast writing together again and working some familiar territory. We’ve all continued to grow musically as players, and Scott and I have become better songwriters and lyricists as the years have passed. Now that we’ve gotten a bit long in the tooth, it’s more fun to collaborate.

Here’s a fun one. You wake up, the day is yours, whatever you want to do you can do it. But the catch is, you can’t hear anything. What’s that day look like for you? 

Man oh man, well…it’s nature then. It’s coffee and the mountains, maybe with a journal and a cigar or two.

What’s your hopes for “Take Me Home”? 

That 15 years from now, someone on a Sunday afternoon at 2:30PM is driving out-of-town with a sidekick. They’ve only been dating for a month and are headed hiking. It’s cold and crisp outside, and they’re both a little stoned. They are debating over which album will provide the soundtrack of their hour long journey to the trailhead, and both finally agree on “Take Me Home.” They hit play and smile…

You’ve more or less retooled your studio at Tiny Tree House to be this beacon for DIY ethics and a new home for more artists local and nationally. How did that happen, was it just a natural progression? 

Man, I’ve always had the thought somewhere in my mind that I could be doing more with recording/producing. With technology the way it is nowadays, you can really let fly and get weird without having to spend thousands on a space and gear. I’ve always made do with what I had available, but as the years roll by and I get involved in more projects, I’ve been listening and learning, honing my craft and collecting my gear. So in that sense it has been a natural progression. I’ve also, very deliberately, signed up for projects that were too big for me. That way I was forced to get uncomfortable and grow (both gear and skills). I think that is the single best piece of advice I could give someone when approaching recording. Bite off more than you can chew and then go learn everything you can before showtime.

On top of all the releases and recording, you’ve started your own small business in Pitchwire…tell us about it. 

Pitchwire focuses on all things audio to pair with visual art. We specialize in voice over, music beds, live recordings and audio branding. We’ve been up and running for about 2 years now and have worked with the Big Ears Festival (AC Entertainment), Loch & Key Productions, PopFizz, YWCA, Goodwill, Designsensory, The Boy Scouts of America, TNECD, and many others. It’s been a blast and continues to push me creatively to problem solve and get more efficient when creating.

Matt Honkonen

LIVE SHOWS

PRESERVATION PUB

 Saturday, February 20, 2016
8:00pm 11:00pm

RHYTHM N BLOOMS MUSIC FESTIVAL

 Fri, Apr 8, 2016 9:30am

Sun, Apr 10, 2016 10:30am

RECORD STORE DAY – LOST & FOUND RECORDS

Saturday, April 16, 2016
1:00pm 6:00pm

WDVX SIX O’CLOCK SWERVE

Thursday, April 28, 2016
6:00pm 8:00pm

CONCERTS ON THE COMMONS | NORRIS LAKE

Friday, June 24, 2016
7:00pm 9:00pm

For more information go to www.matthonkonen.org

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One response to “Hit Play And Smile – The Matt Honkonen Interview

  1. Pingback: Honkonen Glides Supreme On Take Me Home | Hazy Acres·

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