Thursday, March 24, 2016

This Week's Interview with Matt Rouch

Hailing from Virginia and growing up near Washington, D.C., Matt Rouch has now landed in Denver, CO and is diligently working his way into the music scene. A long-time member of several bands on the east coast, Matt is taking on a new challenge - performing solo as a folk and country singer,

"I think entertaining and captivating an entire room solo is one of the most difficult things to do in music."

Matt's style is a blend of new and old, listing contemporary acts such as The Decemberists, The Tallest Man on Earth, Iron and Wine, and The Milk Carton Kids as major influences, he still draws upon well of the golden age of country for inspiration from artists like Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, and Conway Twitty. Matt's music is dynamic, he can enthrall a crowd with passionate soaring vocals with a loud twangy country number, then mellow things out with a quiet intimate folk song.

Storytelling has always been a passion of Matt's and it has permeated through his music, songs of lost loves and new loves are as old as time, however the honesty and intimacy with which Matt approaches his songwriting is what gives his music its charm.

Hey Matt, thanks for coming on with us,

What´s the name of your solo project?
My project is named after me, Matt Rouch, I'm a solo act. I've played in bands for years and recently decided to try the solo route. Over the years I've written a lot of songs that haven't worked with a band so this has been a good outlet for them.

Where are you from?
I grew up in Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C. and recently moved to Denver.

How old were you when you first got into the music scene? What got you started in music?
Actually my mother got me started in music, she put me in band when I was in 4th grade playing the clarinet. Deep down I always wanted to play guitar but it was hard to convince my mother to buy me one. I played in band through elementary and middle school moving from the clarinet to the saxophone. I was also learning guitar on the side, my friend gave me their guitar to practice on, I'm a lefty so I had to play it upside down and string it lefty. Finally when I got to high school I joined jazz band because you could play guitar and my mom finally bought me my first guitar, a real lefty guitar and the rest is history.

What were your ambitions when you first started? 
I really just wanted to be a guitar player. I was very shy introverted kid, I never had any desire to be a front man and to get all the attention. In high school and college I played in a few bands as a guitarist and really didn't have too much ambition, I was just happy to get to play a few gigs here and there.

Where was your first gig? 
My first gig was at a small bar with my band in college, I don't even think we had a singer, we just kind of jammed out for a while.

Where was the latest gig?
My latest gig is actually on St. Patty's Day at the Hi-Dive in Denver, I'm really excited to play that venue, I've seen a lot of great shows there.

What are your good and bad traits as an artist?
Well starting with the good, I'm very focused when writing songs, I like structure and composition, which can be bad as I've been in bands where the other musicians are much more laid back, not as focused, don't practice as much and I sort of crack the whip and get labeled as a tight-ass but I just want to put the best product out there as we can.

What genre do you feel you are?
I guess I'd consider myself indie folk/country, I think I'm a mix of old and new styles. I'm heavily inspired by the golden age of country -
Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, etc., but I also love some of the more modern folk acts like The Milk Carton Kids, The Avett Brothers and The Decemberists

Why did you pick that particular style? Or what about that style called to you?
I was drawn to folk music by The Decemberists, after college I started listening to them and quickly became obsessed, I thought their first few albums was the best music I had ever heard, they had these great melodies over these narrative historical stories about mariners and legionnaires, Colin Meloy basically made it cool to be a nerd. He's actually who I listened to when I was teaching myself to sing, I can still do a mean Colin Meloy impression.

Have you released any albums? 
I actually just released my first full-length album called The Beautiful and the Damned, it's a collection of folk/country songs I've written over the past 10 years.

Do you have any clips on YouTube?
Yes I do

How old are you now?
I am now 30

How old were you when you first stood on a stage? How did it feel?
I was 15, I remember it felt like home, although I was so nervous I was dry-heaving backstage.

What was you Best/worst gig you've played?
The best gig I've played, or the one I was most excited about was my last show with my DC band, we played the main stage at The Black Cat, the main indie venue in the city.
I had seen all of my heroes on that stage, it was an incredible experience. The worst gig I've played was probably a Battle of the Bands in college, our band wasn't very good
and we were destroyed by the critics, that was a painful experience.

What places will you be playing in in the near future? Where would like to perform in the future?
I'm constantly booking gigs around Denver, I'm playing at Cervantes and Lion's Lair soon, my goal is to play at some of the bigger venues in town someday like The Bluebird and The Ogden

Which band is the best that you've seen live? What made their show so good?
The Avett Brothers, hands down, best live band I've ever seen. They're so great because they give 100% every show, I've seen them 4 or 5 times and every time they're drenched in
sweat by the second song, they're running around, getting the crowd into it, you can really feel their passion, it's intoxicating.

What has been your most promising gig so far?
This upcoming gig at The Hi-Dive seem pretty promising, I booked it a few months ago, hopefully there will be a great turnout on St. Patty's Day, or at least the hardcore alcoholics
should be there and hopefully they'll think I sound great.

Any plans of touring?
Not as of right now, possibly someday, for now I'm happy playing around the Denver area

How big was the biggest crowed you preformed for?
I got to play a festival one time for a couple hundred people, that was exciting.

What are the plans for the rest of the year music wise?
I'll be playing as many gigs as possible, trying to get more into the festival scene and trying to promote my album.

How do you typically get psyched up for a gig?
To this day I still dry-heave in an alley before each show right before I go on, but I usually practice for a couple of hours before I head to the show.

Is it easier to get your inspiration from older bands or from bands more modern?
I think it's a mix of both, I love the modern stuff, but it's great going back through the old music, it's much simpler and it was all about the talent, people played instruments, people wrote great songs, people sang well, that's it.

What are your sources of inspiration?
Mainly the people in my life and the interactions I have with them, relationships, love is a big one, wasn't it John Lennon who said he only wrote
about love because there was nothing more interesting to write about?

What's the first step when writing a new song?
Usually writing the guitar part and melody, I have hundreds of unfinished songs where I have the parts but just sing gibberish over it, lyrics are last, they
are the most difficult to write.

How do you feel about the downloading of music instead of buying albums in today's digital world?
The music business has certainly changed drastically and it's certainly made it tough on artists now that album sales are not their primary source of revenue, but I think any exposure is good exposure, if someone likes your music enough to find a way to download it for free I'll take it, that's a fan, and hopefully they'll support you in other ways like coming to your shows.

What would be your dreams performance/venue?
Well now that I live in Denver my dream is to play Red Rocks, I feel like it's the most well-known outdoor venue in the entire country, I couldn't name a venue in
most other cities, but everyone knows Red Rocks.

Besides your own music, what genres and bands do you listen to?
Mainly folk and country, my favorites are The Tallest Man on Earth, The Decemberists, The Milk Carton Kids, and The Avett Brothers

Has stage fright ever been a problem for you? What advice can you give to aspiring musicians with this problem?
Of course, I remember the first time I sang with my band in DC I think I was 10 feet away from the mic with my eyes pinched shut and I was barely whispering let alone singing. It just takes time and practice, the more you do the less it becomes scary and the more it becomes exciting.
You have to learn to not think about the crowd, forget they are there and just relax and find a level of comfort on stage and be yourself, people can tell when you're honest and passionate and that will draw them to you.

Are you a part of any other musical projects?
Not currently, although I have been toying with the idea of starting a band.

Have you been in any other bands before this one?
Yes I was in a band in DC called The Last Monarchs for years, and a band in Richmond, VA.

Do you have a job other than your music career?
I do, I'm actually an environmental scientist with the Bureau of Land Management, nerdy scientist by day, wannabe rock star by night.

How often do you rehearse?
Daily, I play guitar and sing for a couple hours every single day.

Where do you typically rehearse?
Usually in my kitchen or in my bathroom, good acoustics in there.

Do you have any webpages?
Why, yes I do,

What is your favorite instrument?
Cello, it's the most beautiful instrument in the world.

Describe your show, visually and musically? How do you interact with the crowd?
I usually just play songs without much talking, I may reference my love of bourbon, or make a joke about a song that I thought I wrote
as a sweet love song but now just sounds like a desperate guy in a bar trying to get laid.

Any pearls of wisdom for all other bands out there with less experience than you?
Don't worry about anything else other than writing the best songs you can possibly write, play as many shows as possible and be great
live, be absolutely captivating live.

What advice would you give less experienced band, that you wish someone had given you?
Don't try to be anyone else, be yourself, I know that sounds cliche, but when I started out I wanted to be Colin Meloy, I wanted to dress like him, write
songs like him, and it took away from I did best.

How would you describe your sound in one sentence?
Passionate, dynamic folk songs that are as honest as they are catchy.

Matt, thank you so much for coming on and doing our interview. We wish you the best of luck and everyone out there, show your support. Follow the links below and Like, Follow, and Subscribe!

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