Matt Hires talks about his new album, touring with Matchbox Twenty, writing an enduring single and more
Monday was Matt Hires’ 28th birthday. But as he sat in a backstage dressing room in Tampa, discussing his itinerary for the day with a reporter, planning a proper celebration was just about the last thing on his mind.
“Tonight I’m going out with friends,” Hires said. “We’re going to Yummy House and Mermaid Tavern.”
Before that, though, Hires has to do laundry, prepare merchandise, do a bit of press and pack his van for a solo, 28-hour, 1,800-mile drive from Tampa to Denver, Colo. This week has been circled on Hires’ calendar for a long time, and it has nothing to do with his birthday.
Since breaking on a national level with the catchy single Honey, Let Me Sing You a Song — a song that was never quite a hit, yet still receives radio airplay — Hires is gearing up for Tuesday’s release of his second solo album, This World Won’t Last Forever, But Tonight We Can Pretend, on F Stop, an imprint of Atlantic Records. The Seminole Heights singer-songwriter spent part of this year touring large venues with bands like Matchbox Twenty and the Goo Goo Dolls, and next week, he’ll begin a national tour with the pop-rock band Parachute.
This week, you can stream This World Won't Last Forever, But Tonight We Can Pretend this week on USA Today's website. Before he left, we caught up with Hires to discuss the new album, living in Tampa and more. Here are excerpts.
What was the Matchbox Twenty tour like?
It was really awesome. We were playing in front of 2,000 to 5,000 people every night. The exposure was great and I ended up getting a lot of fans from it. And the guys in the band couldn’t be nicer or more hospitable, and their crew was great. We had some good hang time.
Have you been playing songs from the new album, or have you been sitting on them this whole time?
No, I told myself I wanted to sit on them and wait, but I wasn’t able to do that. I finished recording the album back in 2012, so I couldn’t wait that long to start playing the new songs. (laughs)
I guess that’s a label decision, right? You finish an album, turn it in, and then they decide when they’re gonna release it?
Yeah. And I get it. A lot of it is timing. But it’s hard to wait when I just want people to hear these songs.
Have you written two or three albums’ worth of material since then?
No, I find for me, it’s hard to write on the road. And I’ve written a couple of songs while I’ve been home for the past month, because I’ve been home all of July. Since I was out on the road for most of the beginning half of this year, I didn’t really get a lot of writing done. But I do have a handful of songs that are in the works for the next record, whenever that will be.
Why do you write here at home in Tampa?
I guess when I first started writing songs, it was in my bedroom, and so writing at home feels right. And I’m more in the writing mindset when I don’t have other stuff going on. When I’m on tour, I’m thinking about 100 different things related to the tour, and it’s hard for me to get to that place in my mind to be able to write songs.
Most of your band lives in Denver. What has kept you in Tampa, as opposed to moving someplace with a bigger music community?
That’s an interesting question. Last year, my wife and I were thinking about moving somewhere else, just because both of us are from here. I’ve lived in the same ZIP code since I was 5 years old — the ol’ 33604. We were considering possibly Los Angeles or Denver, but towards the beginning of this year, we both just really started to feel more like Tampa was … I don’t know. I guess in thinking about leaving, it made us appreciate Tampa more, or made us miss Tampa without even being gone yet. So I think we’re gonna hang around a while longer.
I confess, I don’t have the new album’s title memorized yet.
It’s a long one. This World Won’t Last Forever, But Tonight We Can Pretend.
Right. Give me your overview . What would you say is the mission statement of this album?
To me, in comparing it with my first record, it still has that singer-songwriter heart of the first record, but we messed around with arrangements a little more. The arrangements are bigger in some songs. So some of it’s more pop, but then it has more of an edge at the same time. I feel like as a whole, the record is more honest. I feel like I’ve matured as a songwriter and been able to let myself sing about things that I wouldn’t before. There’s a song on the record called When I Was Young that’s very autobiographical, and probably the most honest song I’ve ever written, which makes it a little bit scary to play live, but I think it’s my favorite song I’ve ever written, partially because of that.
The first time you played it live — what was that experience like?
It was in Tallahassee. I forget the name of the venue, but it was last year. Because the song is so close to my heart and very emotional for me, it was a little bit hard to get through it, but I feel like that makes the live experience of the song better, when the artist is really feeling it and pulling emotion and not just phoning it in.
Were you nervous playing it live? How did it differ from the first time you play any other song live?
With every song I pull something from personal experience, but some of it is just based on personal experience, and I make up a story around that to form a song. But this one is all me and some pretty personal stuff, so that made me feel a lot more vulnerable.
What prompted the decision to write more of an autobiographical song? What made you think, I need to put this down on paper?
In 2011, I had a period of probably six months or so where I was having writer’s block and just couldn’t finish any songs or come up with anything I was happy with. So with this song, I just sat down and asked myself, why did I start writing songs in the first place? What made me want to do this? This song is kind of what happened.
When your single Restless Heart was released, it was touted as a Mumford and Sons-type song. In terms of marketing, why not compare it to the biggest band in the world right now? How do you feel about that?
I hate to get pigeonholed into that, because the rest of the record doesn’t necessarily sound like that. But I like Mumford and Sons, so I’m not going to complain about getting compared to them.
I still hear Honey, Let Me Sing You A Song out and about.
It’s funny, I actually heard it last month. I was flying to Minneapolis, and when I was getting on the plane at the airport, I heard it. Then when I was getting off the plane, it started playing again.
It’s trite to say it’s the gift that keeps on giving, but it’s a song that’s proved to have some serious endurance. I heard it a few months ago in Home Depot, and then two days later I heard it in a restaurant.
A lot of people have said they heard it in Home Depot! (laughs) I never have, but maybe I don’t do home improvement on my house enough.
That’s pretty nice, to have a song that sticks around.
Yeah. I guess it depends on what scale you measure it by. It never got huge, but it still has gotten around, which is great. Not necessarily on regular radio, but on different TV shows and stuff.
Has it been a nice little chunk of change for you?
It’s not like I’m gonna go buy a Maserati tomorrow or anything, but I’m doing okay.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*