Matisyahu is an artist who skillfully blends reggae, rap and rock into his own style. He is coming to Crossroads KC September 30th. Matisyahu recently discussed his earliest musical memory, creative process and lyrical inspiration. For more info on Matisyahu, check out http://matisyahuworld.com/
Did you come from a musical family? Were your parents musical?
They weren’t musicians but they have great taste and were lovers of music, so good music was very present in my house growing up.
What was your earliest musical memory?
I remember watching Michael Jackson and Madonna videos. Doing little performances around the house experimenting with my own inner pop star. Haha
Do you have a favorite memory from childhood?
My furthest memory I have is not particularly pleasent. It was me being followed by older boys in preschool. Berkley Montessori. I remember telling them to leave me alone or my imaginary friend would take care of them. I carried around a little red hammer.
What was the first album you bought?
Well I went in to get Breakin’ 2 Electric Bugaloo, but the guy at Crazy Eddie on Central Avenue sold me Dancing on the Ceiling, by Lionel Richie.
What first got you interested in reggae?
My cousins are bajan (from Barbados) and we would spend summers together at camp. I would listen to what they called dub music. A different version of what we consider dub, but I would call it dancehall.
You’ve said that you are a big fan of Phish. What about their music inspires you?
Their ability as improvisers to listen and play off if each other. That’s the biggest one. That and Trey’s guitar playing.
How does your creative process work when writing songs?
I mainly listen to something on my headphones and get inspired pretty organically by feeling the music. I let myself absorb into it and lose myself. Then I begin to write about my experience. If it’s going well words and melodies start falling into place naturally. I will write and sing or rap in my head the different parts. Then I’ll leave it alone as a note in my phone. When it comes time to record I’ll explore it again. Maybe rewrite or work it over or maybe lay it down. Then I have fun experimenting with doubles, harmonies, and ad lib tracks on top of that. Other times I will create a song from scratch with producer and or musicians based on experimental improvisation or beatboxes that I’ve recorded, voice memos I’ve hummed certain melodies or beats and we’ll start with that as the basis and build out the track around it.
What inspires you lyrically?
You kind of develop a style and it keeps evolving as music expands and changes. Ideally your style will develop and change, but I think the basis is to find words that flow naturally the have music inside them as well as can be instruments of the voice found with in the music. A double edged sword used like the psalms of king David to relay a human essential experience and chanted for the purpose of cutting away the mundane in order to stir the heart. Music hits like gusts of wind filling a sail. It can inspire a person to move, to dance, the words can be sometimes associated with head or heart but serve the dual purpose of being the instrument through which sound often comes through. The mouth of the river where it all connects.
You’ve worked with many quality producers throughout your career. What qualities do you look for in great beats?
If you are making soul music, a beat needs to speak to your soul. Simple.
You’re playing Crossroads KC this year. What do you enjoy most about playing Kansas City?
The friends I have met over the years. Also the venue is fun, outdoor.