Matt Nathanson talks 'Kinks Shirt,' Taylor Swift, opening for pop stars and more
Matt Nathanson isn’t afraid to poke fun at his sensitive image. Just see his video for new single Kinks Shirt, directed by comic Bobcat Goldthwait, in which the singer falls in love with a Kinks-loving stripper who — spoiler alert — turns out to be a dude.
“What I love about him is that he sees things slightly warped, and hilarious, but also with a real sweetness,” Nathanson said of Goldthwait. “That’s my favorite part about the Kinks Shirt video. It shows a couple who, let’s face it, most of society would label 'freaks’ doing everyday things. Being in love, like the way it should be, and the way it WILL be, once people get their heads out of their asses and stop being prejudiced. Bob handled it perfectly.
Nathanson, who scored a hit with the shuffling pop-rock single Come On Get Higher, has risen to fame opening for major acts like Maroon 5, Kelly Clarkson and Sugarland. That’s helped build his own fan base, which will no doubt turn out when Nathanson performs Oct. 17 at the Ritz Ybor in Tampa.
We caught up with the singer-songwriter via email for a quick Q&A in advance of his Tampa show. Here are excerpts.
Did you see where Ray Davies said there might be a Kinks reunion in 2014? As the guy who wrote Kinks Shirt, how does that news strike you? Is there a Kinks song you’d love to hear live?
Oh man, I totally saw that. He said there was a 50 percent chance. I’ll take those odds. I would love to see them. I would have LOVED to have seen them in their fist-swinging prime, but I’ll take what I can get. As far as a song, this is totally uncool ... but I would love to hear them play Come Dancing. That song kills me.
What’s your favorite band T-shirt that you own? Has one of your T-shirts ever served as an icebreaker with a girl?
I’ve never used a concert shirt as an icebreaker for a girl. Most of my band T-shirt buying happened when I would see bands like Skid Row and Poison back in the ’80s. I could have used all the help I could get. My mullet was fierce back then, but I was no match for the Aqua Netted ladies.
You did an episode of Live from Daryl’s House with Daryl Hall. What’s the best thing about Daryl’s actual house that no one gets to see on TV?
The house is incredible. I think he has since sold it, but it was two houses from the 1800s, yoked together by the live room, where we played. He had the houses disassembled and moved to upstate New York. There were no nails used. Only wooden pegs. The sinks were beautiful. Copper everywhere. I didn’t want to leave. That was a blast. Getting to hang with Daryl was a highlight of my career, for sure. He rules.
You’ve toured with some pretty big pop acts over the last few years. What’s the best thing about opening a massive concert versus headlining a smaller show, and vice versa?
I like opening, because there is a “beat them over the head and drag them back to your cave” element. Trying to MAKE them like you. That’s always fun. But nothing beats headlining. Being able to play to people who I have a history with, who sing the songs back with passion. That energy is incredible. It fills you up in an incredible way. Transcendent.
Last fall, you had a dustup on Twitter with some of Taylor Swift’s fans over the similarity between your song I Saw and her song All Too Well. What lesson did you take away from that experience?
I learned that Taylor Swift fans are super passionate. And when they get together, it’s like Lord of the Flies. With smartphones.
Your new album, Last of the Great Pretenders, is something of an ode to San Francisco. How does one write about a city? At any point did you wonder, “Man, what if the locals don’t dig it?”
With this record, I just didn’t edit out the specifics from my own life in the lyrics. Which I used to do. And when the songs were done, I realized that a lot of the songs took place IN San Francisco. I got a little self-conscious about it, actually ... ’cause I had never written so descriptively about my own experience and my own city. And I’ve never had a record with a theme, but San Francisco is the only place I have ever lived that has felt like home, and it’s a huge part of who I am, so it just kind of bled into the songs.
A while back, I asked Mat Kearney if he’d ever been mistaken for you. (He said no, by he way.) I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you the same question. Have you ever been mistaken for Mat Kearney?
Now that my hair is long and I have a beard, I think it’s more likely that I will be mistaken for a homeless person or Charles Manson more than anyone else.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*