Guitarist, singer, and songwriter Matthew Curry is tweaking his sound as he opens up to new styles on his listening reportoire.
“It’s really interesting to step back from my comfort zone and listen to stuff I never thought I’d get heavily into, but it turns out I did,” said Curry, who stopped by the GLT studios ahead of his Dec. 15 show at the Castle Theatre to showcase newly recorded (if not yet fully mixed and mastered) songs pegged for an upcoming album.
The now 23-year-old Bloomington High grad has been digging into Americana and country sounds from the likes of Jason Isbell and Merle Haggard, among others. The Allman Brothers, Warren Haynes, and other jam-bandy artists are still high on his radar, but even if Curry may not be pegged as an Americana artist quite yet, you can hear how those influences have impacted the music of this guitar prodigy who grew up idolizing blues legends including Albert Collins and Luther Allison.
“The Great Midwest” has a John Mellencamp feel both musically and lyrically, and one he’s particularly proud of. He had just written the song before he stopped by GLT last year, where he unpacked an acoustic version in-studio.
“I listened back and thought, ‘Man I sounded rough,'" laughed Curry about his December 2017 interview. “That was early in the morning for a musician.”
As the sun hits the horizon
And yields the light of the moon
My mind takes me back in time
To a lazy afternoon
On the banks of the Mackinaw
As I threw in the line
Almost heard my daddy call
Son you’ll get back some time
- from "The Great Midwest" from Matthew Curry
Curry said “like any road dog” he likes to travel and cited mountains and everglades as particular scenes that stick with him, as does Times Square in New York City.
“It’s always cool to see that stuff, but Bloomington and the Midwest is home, and probably always will be,” said Curry, who then shared a story about what he calls “Polka Dot Beach” on the Mackinaw River.
“My (twin) brother Andrew and I were maybe 7 or 9 years old, and my Dad took us on our first river camping trip to this spot. It overlooks this really beautiful bluff. And we found a little soft-shell turtle with polka-dots on its back. From then on it was ‘Polka Dot Beach’ to us. I always remember my Dad saying, ‘Whenever I die, I want my ashes spread on the Mackinaw,’” said Curry, whose father Paul died unexpectedly in June 2012.
A year or so later, the Curry’s fulfilled Paul’s wishes.
“That’s where he stays, so every time we go camping that’s where we camp,” said Curry, before playing “I Think Of You,” an acoustic ballad obviously an homage to his father.
Well I think of you
At those quiet times
When my mind will drift away
And I think of you when I hurt inside
When words I just can’t say
I think of you
- from "I Think Of You" by Matthew Curry
“This one was tough, man,” said Curry. “It’s one of those that was in the works since he passed away. Took me years to be able to put it together the way I wanted to and not break down in the midst of doing it.”
“Illusion of Hope” is different both musically and lyrically for Curry. It’s also an unusually dark and pessimistic commentary from him. The song he wrote with frequent collaborator Greg Neville is set in a fictional big city, but he seemed to indicate New York City was the inspiration.
They’re deceived by the promise that
They’ve got something to live for
And nothing to lose
- from "Illusion Of Hope" by Matthew Curry
“This was a music idea I had, and showed it to Greg,” said Curry. “He told me he could envision it being about the big city and all the shady dealings that go on, and so we sat there and knocked it out in one night. When we started building the song, my drummer Francis (Valentino) and I started putting these big harmonies on the chorus and we were like, 'Wow, this is a powerful tune.’ It’s one of my favorites and one we’ll be playing at the Castle.”
Musically these songs aren’t a drastic shift for Curry, but he is subtly moving away from the blues-rock of past albums. And whether it’s the gritty city or a river out in the country, he and Neville lyrically put you in an easily imagined place. It’s music begging to be heard. Except he’s having trouble finding the right person to bring these songs to a wider audience.
“I want to make sure we get our ducks in a row before we do it (release the songs),” said Curry. “I want to find the right management and hopefully the right record label to get behind it.”
It’s not a new phenomenon for Curry, who has shared his frustration with finding proper management the past few times he has stopped by GLT.
“A lot of the industry is really in it for a quick buck,” said Curry, who is currently managing himself.
What does he need to hear from a potential manager that will win him over?
“Just excitement from them,” said Curry. “I guess we’ve gotten that, but just not from people who I felt would take us to the next level. You really do need a lot of help from folks like that in order to find the best record deal. I guess I don’t want to sign with someone just to do it. I want to make sure it’s the right person who really believes in it and is not afraid to get down in the ditches and battle it out.”
Matthew Curry returns to the Castle Theatre on Dec. 15 for two shows. He plays an acoustic set beginning at 8 p.m. followed by a full band set at 10 p.m.
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