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



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


 Fri, Apr 8, 2016 9:30am

Sun, Apr 10, 2016 10:30am


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


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


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

For more information go to www.matthonkonen.org

Honkonen Glides Supreme On Take Me Home


Life should feel real to all of us. If you’re honest about it, you get a small sliver of time and then poof; the earth continues on, and our true impressions are left with those who knew us best, and the places we called “home”.  It can be forever lasting somewhere out there. Its an energy fiercely propelling cycles, through the ether, like those wonderful “Sunday Leaves” fueled by the gusts of wind on an autumn day.

Matt Honkonen has been touring for more than ten years with such bands as Tenderhooks, Llama Train, RB Morris, Tim Lee 3 and Joey English. Honkonen has shared the stage with acts like the Fiery Furnaces, The Features and ZZ Top and played celebrated festivals including Bonnaroo and CMJ.

Now, Honkonen finds himself hitting the lessons hard in his own studio as poet and producer. This his second album as an independent artists, and his eighth record to date. Matt retooled his Tiny Tree House Studios to be a beacon of DIY ethics, and a new and promising place for musicians to come and craft their material. Currently he is working on the new Llama Train record, and Cody Noll’s EP. And I personally hope to get his help finalizing the next Nomadic Firs effort as well.

We owe a lot to our Artists. Sadly, the modern way to appreciate music is pretty weak, treated as a commodity in the robotic voids of trendy “hashtag culture”, Spotify, and throwaway Top 40 garbage. A new album is old after its release, etc.  This is not to say that pop culture and getting a spin in a local coffee shop isn’t a great feeling, because of course it is. But the music makers create the greatest pastimes we have. Like wine, they lubricate the mundane, and assist the communications of our collective weirdness as humans. Revelations like this is why I celebrate a DIY mentality, festivals like Big Ears, and the love and sacrifice on Matt Honkonen’s new album.


Take Me Home is filled with shades of soft colors, sprinkled through a valley of gray nature. Its quietly yelling for us to walk a mile in its shoes. From the tinges of southern rock mostly tucked behind a hazy neo-folk sound. There’s the reverb riddled elements on tracks like “Sea of Clouds”  which is easily one of the best singles I’ve heard in the last year. The album really has a kind of blueprint for all listeners with its sort of happy moments that bleed into the faint bloom of melancholy, nestled into really catchy cadences, and of course Matt’s ability to turn phrases. On “She Is A Mystery”, he sings “You put the flowers to bloom, you put a man on the moon, you pull the sun from the clouds, you turn my quiet to loud”.  He drops lyrics that will stay in your mind for days, and pop up in random for years to come.

Take Me Home is already turning heads here in Knoxville making a top 15 albums of 2015 list. And another Top 20 list where The Daily Times said “The songs draw you in because they deserve to be lived in..”. I couldn’t agree more.

Although on his new album Honkonen explores different territory outside the world of straight folk. He still rocks the south, still rocks a steady bourbon, and of course that “scruffy city” mentality we here in Knoxville live by.  But he’s also putting a little “west coast folk” in there, and some very light electronic elements. So, sorry “purity” lovers, its only reverb.

There’s songs on Take Me Home we can all agree are wonderful, tracks like “Honey Bee”,  an absolute must for the repeat feature on your system. And a tune destined to blast off toward some higher level of acclaim. My own Mom texted me regularly for a whole month to get a copy of it. We don’t like the same music, so that should tell you something about the new album, Take Me Home.

To exude trust and companionship via sound is a unique gift, and on Honkonen’s new album, he glides supreme.  Honkonen reassures us that its tough, but we’re all good. He’s opened a window to modernity for the sake of relevancy and creativity, and that spark is now fire. An artists grateful for his existence but not overwhelmed by the blind myopic circumstances of being comfortable. This cat loves the struggle, it makes him love life. After all, Take Me Home is a straight DIY effort. It takes plenty of grit to pull that off, especially all by yourself. This is a big step forward for this Knoxville Troubadour.

I highly recommend you SUPPORT albums like this. So buy his new album Take Me Home. BUY IT HERE BY CLICKING HIS NAME. MATT HONKONEN.  Its also available at all major digital outlets. And hopefully someone approaches him about a proper vinyl release. It deserves it…

Matt’s touring the East Tennessee area in support of Take Me Home. Read the Hazy Acres INTERVIEW with Matt Honkonen HEREAnd LISTEN TO Nomadic Firs remix of “Sea Of Clouds” BY CLICKING HERE.


other dates:

PRESERVATION PUB – Saturday, February 20, 2016
8:00pm 11:00pm

WDVX SIX O’CLOCK SWERVE – Thursday, April 28, 2016
6:00pm 8:00pm

7:00pm 9:00pm

For more information on the Honkster, visit http://www.matthonkonen.org

Nomadic Firs Update

cover.1 more color

The new album for Nomadic Firs is swimming along nicely. At this point there’s no release date but I hope its ready by spring, out by late summer, or early fall. Mainly, its just two years of exploring sounds, and experimenting with different ideas and approaches. The hope is “texture” wins out as the main theme throughout the 9 or 10 track album. In the middle of that, I’m narrowing down the amount of things I do so I can transition this project into some level of performance. Most likely me hitting buttons and wiggling my head weirdly. Continually, I come to the same revelations about music. Its just a place I like to go in my head, almost an absolute personal thing. But I don’t want to let this flowering solitude squander away in some kind of reclusive obscurity. So, I’m gonna try and be out there.

I’m also recording a second album under a different name with my close friend Adam Stolz, in Chicago. We’ve been flirting with the name Hot Butter Lunch, and the album is 8-10 tracks deep already. Its a revamp of our former band Case Point, and honestly the new sound we have going is pretty damn special in my view. Kind of a “psych hop” if you will. No word on when we’ll stop recording and release, but within the next year for sure.

The newest song thats coming out is a remix I just wrapped under Nomadic Firs, for Matt Honkonen. Its for his first single “Sea of Clouds” off of his new album Take Me Home. Hopefully we drop that puppy quite soon. After a more formal release for his new gem of an album. I’m actually doing a Q/A with him on Acres, so thats coming as well. Here’s the official video for his new single, FYI I’m the taller dude in the video. Very fun day! His new album is really good, I encourage you to explore his history indeed.

For now, thats about it. Plenty going on in life, and in music. Big Ears 2016 just announced, so thats always a big moment for us Knoxville peeps. Lee’s coming back!

all the best,


Big Ears 2015: The Boom Bangs and Whispers


If you walked into the Bijou Theatre to see Tanya Tagaq, an inuk throat singer from Canada, you would have been absolutely still with a massive amount of weird sexual endorphins hitting overdrive. That performance was hugely erotic, then it went into this quasi-exorcism, which rattled some cages. I’ve never felt more aroused and terrified at the same time. But utterly in awe of her, and the amount of courage to become anthropomorphic in front of an audience. Yes, the more conservative festival goers left with looks on their face as if they were punched in the gut, licked, then pissed on. But damn, I fell in love with pure truth all over again.

Which brings me to the closed-door analogy. It’s open to all of you, but be ready for it once you enter. There’s absolutely no going back. You will be transformed, then fixated on how bullshit everything you’ve done leading up to that point actually is. But not in a negative way, in an uplifting, ‘hey I might try to fly home” kind of thing. And it’s not just about music, or being creative. I think I’m a better person, a better brother, a better husband from being in those rooms. Breathing in the same shitty smoke machine air with all those talented people. You feel like you belong somewhere. You can’t go back after that, it cannot be undone. You’ve seen behind the curtain and can’t believe how free you felt. Until you have to go home and settle into your robotic pod of modern-day civilization, thats life I guess. I feel as if the attendees, the performers, anyone in the proximity of this beautiful experience, created a massive ground ether that launched when SWANS wrapped the last set on Sunday. It’s still moving up there. The traveling sound collage that was our weekend together in Knoxville, Tennessee. This small, vibrant, and wonderfully “Scruffy City” has something going on.

Back in 2009, AC Entertainment, most known for Bonnaroo music festival, launched Big Ears. From the jump it was apparent that “ears” wouldn’t be your typical festival experience but more in line with acts that focused on the avant nature in creating. I recall the first one in fact, Dan Deacon directed the crowd to form a tunnel, while one of his sonic jams looped in the back ground. Or the infamous moment when Matmos had to change venues because their videos would offend the businesses religious bends. Sadly that place is still in the venue rotation, but that’s only “sad” for the horrible sound the room still has to this day. Ask Steve Gunn if he liked it…his performance was my top pick for the weekend, but the venue made it quite average. His album Way Out Weather is something to be heralded, so make sure he has the right sound to deliver it. He was a pro though, so it was fine.

After missing 2010, I was thrilled to see it come back from the dead in 2014. And last years success further instilled the yearning people have to be in a room with something unique. A call inherent in our DNA from the primitive mind. It only feels satiated after the kind of experimental ritual this weekend booms and bangs. Then there’s the whispers, the almost silent pauses in performances that are as loud as Ben Frost’s low-end at the Bijou. A friend of a friend who heard his sound check said “The bass is so loud I felt nauseous”. An example of the whole ethos behind Big Ears. Make you feel so uncomfortable that eventually you transcend into feeling completely at ease within yourself. Poetic indeed, but its truth in these moments couldn’t be more real. There’s nothing like it, anywhere. A bartender friend of mine, who works downtown, said “It’s like our Sundance”. That quote was on the list of my favorite things from the festival. He mixed drinks watching the performers and attendees stroll through downtown, back and forth between venues. How sweet it is…

This year was just as great as the last, but had a special quality for me personally. My Brother made the trip from the North. A human with his own special sense of living, and special talents with a guitar, very special. I’d been telling him for a year he had to come. It was a weekend built for him, people who can carry your interest with a word, or a recommendation into something unknown. So, the fact I was able to see and be present in all these amazing performances, with an “individual” giving his own meaning to the word, it was profound. We were essentially having these breakthroughs from one show to the next. It sounds silly to you maybe, but it gets to the core of what this festival is doing for music, whats it’s doing for us. I leave every time with the courage to be who I’m suppose to be. So this review is much more about my evolution, or better, my devolution into something else. Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs suggest as much when she talked about ego, and how big all of ours can be. Her performance, absolutely fun, was easily a stand out for us. It came perfectly in the apex of the weekend. An obvious stroke of the brilliant brush for AC Entertainment.

Big Ears 2015 obviously evokes a great deal about life for me. I’m sure it feels that way for a lot the people smart enough to pay the money to be there. It’s simply worth it. The great performances were non-stop. It was truth in Art forms. The Hive for example, Tyondai Braxton’s creation of performance and functional installation was brilliant. A genre exploration in electronic music, with live percussion by other musicians, all sitting atop these lit up pods. Something you’re not going to see that often.

Other great moments, Little Annie Sunday night. She was vivacious and poetic, gorgeously charming in the way she swayed around, without a care in the world. So damn inspiring. Likewise for Silver Apples, a pioneer in the minimal electronic sound. Simeon Coxe couldn’t have been happier up there. It was contagious, the whole weekend. And Terry Riley and son hypnotized me early sunday as I sat with family and friends at the KMA. Gosh darn memorable, in every way.

The end was just as potent as the beginning. And I chose to be decompressed by Max Richter with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra performing the score for the HBO series The Leftovers. Nothing short of breath-taking. I was so tired and wiped out from walking and listening all weekend. I more or less fell into my chair, slouched down as low as I could, and just let it all settle in. I let that performance carry me home, mentally, like a serene boat ride down a mystic river.

I asked local musician Matt Honkonen, a very close friend, for his best moment at Big Ears, he said “Tito’s and burgers after the weekend, slowly unpacking the layers of three full days. The inspiration that comes to you slowly after a weekend of music is hard to put into words”. I was able to partake in that, and believe me when I say we ate and drank like kings. Its was similar to eating after a long hike in the Smokies. We made the bar rain down a gluttonous storm. The Bistro is the best place to feel you’re somewhere special, or at least different. How fitting that while we were soaking up everything we’d just experienced, Little Annie was just finishing her Hot Totti, KSO was down the bar eating, and chatting with others. A couple well-respected locals were doing the same. It feels special to live in Knoxville, I’m thrilled about it. Can’t wait for next year!

Matt Honkonen Pure Journey

Matt Honkonen

With the new album dropping July 12, Matt Honkonen gives us a taste with Paper Wires (singles). Out of the three tracks, all of which are great sounding, the one I think stands out the most is “More Than You Need.” A close to perfect Indie Pop number, with clear southern influence. Honkonen is having fun doing this, showing off his full range as a leader, creating a world for us where we get the best of everything musically. The line “You want an open book, with pages in their place, and all your answers written down, with a hand that never shakes” immediately tells you this cats a poet. Soulful bends that reveal the aged heart of the road, the idea of the next life on the horizon, and a delicate delivery not afraid to express the learning and the teaching. You’ll explore this new valley as a pure creation, letting things just be, as you get thrown into the musical journey. Matts a real light amongst all this sound clutter. So grab a small cup of whiskey, sit on the porch and chill to this batch of singles.

Look for a full album review in July, I’ll keep you posted.