So, Matt Hires: How's life on a major label?
In March 2009, tbt* profiled a Tampa singer-songwriter named Matt Hires, who was about to release his debut album on an imprint of Atlantic Records. It was a potentially huge moment for a local artist: A solo pop singer getting a major-label release, and major-label support to boot.
After parting ways with his Tampa band, Brer, Hires spent most of 2009 and 2010 on the road, touring with artists like Paolo Nutini, Needtobreathe and American Idol’s Jason Castro. His music appeared on TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, and in the film When In Rome with Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel. His album, Take Us To The Start, debuted in the top 100 of the Billboard album charts.
A year and a half after we first met Hires, what’s changed?
Next week, Hires will release a new EP, titled A to B. In September, he’ll embark on yet another two-month, cross-country tour. But first, on Friday, he’ll perform a solo gig at New World Brewery in Ybor City, opening for friends Alexander and the Grapes.
We caught up with Hires during a rare week off in Tampa to find out if life on a label is everything he thought it would be.
It seems like you’ve been on the road pretty much nonstop for about a year, is that right?
Yeah. I think I figured out last year, I was home six months and gone six months. But this year, so far, I’ve definitely been gone a lot more than I’ve been home. I expected to be touring a lot, especially after the album came out, to keep on promoting that. You get used to it .
What have you learned about being signed to a major label that you didn’t know before?
I’ve learned a lot, that’s for sure. I remember Gregg Nadel, the A&R guy who signed me from Atlantic, saying, “Getting signed is half the battle,” or something to that effect. When you’re a local artist, trying to get signed, in your head — at least for me — you feel like once you do that, then you’ve made it. But still, there’s a lot more work even after that happens. It helps, because you get a lot of support, but I’m doing a lot of work.
What kind of reaction are you getting around the country? Do people know your music when they come to your shows?
The first year, not so much. But now that Take Us to the Start has been out for a while, when I go back to cities that I’ve been to a couple of times before, it’s good to see that I’m connecting with people. Seeing some of the same faces and same people singing along — that’s probably the coolest thing to me. And each time I go back to a city, there’s more people.
Are you able to play barefoot at all of these clubs, or do you have to put on shoes?
(laughs) I actually haven’t been playing barefoot as much lately. Earlier this year, I did a tour that was my first rock tour I’d done, and I took out a full band, and we were playing a little more rock ’n’ roll. So the barefoot thing didn’t seem to fit as much. I haven’t been doing that as much lately.
Your new EP has yet another version of your single Honey Let Me Sing You a Song, which has to be the fourth or fifth version of that song that I’ve heard. How much mileage can you get out of one song?
(laughs) I don’t know. … I think this one’s really cool — it’s kind of like the acoustic version, but with strings on it. It’s a little more driving than the regular acoustic version. But I really like it a lot.
Are you going to retire the song after this EP?
I can’t say for sure, but I think this’ll probably be it for Honey Let Me Sing You a Song. For a little while, at least.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo: Reid Rolls.