Matthew Perryman Jones & Matthew Mayfield
There comes a time in every man’s life when he must question the principles of his culture, his community, and his ancestors. Some may ignore the questions, while others, particularly artists, wrestle with them until something new and lasting is formed from the struggle. Shortly written after the death of his father, Matthew Perryman Jones’ latest record, Land of the Living is a courageous personal Odyssey through life’s most troubled waters of love and loss, and communicates the process by which we grieve, and the fight to find restored hope.The writing process of Land of the Living was an intense wringing of words, emotions, and melody from the rags of Jones’ solitude, but are an account of his truth found in the pain.
His first full length album since 2008, Land of the Living was produced by Cason Cooley (Katie Herzig) and is set to be released on May 29th. The record could not have found a better birthplace than the elusive bohemian studio in Round Top, Texas, where it was recorded. The studio itself was made from a 1700’s Amish farmhouse, is surrounded by vast land and skies, and haunted by a woman the band came to call Sarah. Matthew slept in a teepee outside the studio for the week the band recorded. The short time span forced them to “trust our gut and bring our very best to the table.”
For this record, Matthew decided to entrust the fate of his musings to the ones most likely to connect with it: his fans. In just thirty days Matthew’s “tribe” contributed $26,000 to fund the creation of the album. “Going into making this record supported by fans inspired me in a whole new way. It really awakened the sense of why I went into music in the first place-creating a meaningful connection with people through music.”
Inspiration also came in the form of the writings of Rumi, the letters of Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo (from which the title Land of the Living was taken), and Federico Garcia Lorca, who wrote about the idea of Duende—loosely translated as a heightened sense of emotion, expression, and authenticity in art, and particularly, in music.
In each song there is a sense of wandering in the desert and wrestling with the angels. “Waking up the Dead” conveys the transition from mourning to once again feeling passionate about life. “I want to dance on fire and be born again” is Jones’ earnest mantra. Matthew mirrors the poetry of Leonard Cohen when he sings, “You stand in the water with your arms crossed, groaning hallelujah.” In “Oh Theo,” he grasps Van Gogh’s artistic and spiritual struggle saying, “My heart was still unknown, I was drunk and full of sorrows. I was longing for a home with nowhere to go.”
Perhaps the crux of the record’s struggle can be heard on “Cancion de la Noche”, or “Song of the Night.” Echoes of Daniel Lanois’ mysticism float in the mournful guitars and full, round drums. He sings, “I was alone in the water, deep in the water, where did you go? Oh the light is in disguise, breaking slowly, pull me close and I will push you away.”
A response to “Cancion de la Noche”, is the song “The Angels Were Singing”, which delves into Jones’ grief over the recent loss of his father. As if in a Flannery O’ Connor short story, he says, “I started running to feel more alive, to wake up my senses that slowly had died . . . each tear was a chorus, a sacred reprise, and I finally was grieving that long goodbye.”
Is the pain we encounter in loss worth living and loving to the fullest? In no way a trite answer to the question, the title and last track on Matthew Perryman Jones’ philosophical record gives us a resounding yes. “You cannot love in moderation, you’re dancing with a dead man’s bones. Lay your soul on the threshing floor. . . I am coming home.” And as Rumi said, and Jones has shown us to be true through the journey of Land of the Living, “A thousand half-loves must be forsaken to take one whole heart home.”
My journey started in 1992 when I fell in love with Guns N’ Roses after seeing Slash get up on the piano for the finale of “November Rain.” When I was 9, I decided I was either going to be a bank robber/surfer or play in a rock ‘n roll band. I’m not brave enough to ride the big waves and not radical enough to rob banks, so here I am with a guitar in my hand. I think my mother is very happy with that call.
As a kid, I gravitated toward three things: songs, swagger and spectacle. When I turned 11, I got a bright red Gibson Les Paul, which I took all over my hometown of Birmingham, AL – talent shows, birthday parties, middle school dances, and all the other glamorous gigs you book when you’re a kid who just wants to play all the time. I was enamored with over-the-top rock stars that were pushy and unapologetic because they were that good. I was drawn to the weight and chops of Jimmy Page and Stevie Ray Vaughn, and the soul and grit of Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder. I couldn’t get enough. As the fascination grew, I quickly started writing my own songs.
At 19, I quit school, started a new band, played every dive in the Southeast for 50 bucks and beer, and eventually signed a giant record deal with Epic Records in 2005. We spent lots of their money making a big record, opening big tours, and believing big promises. The wheels eventually fell off, and we realized this isn’t about overnight success. You have to grind it out for a LONG time. You have to work your ass off just to get by. You have to keep paying your dues and keep paying your dues and keep paying your dues.
In 2008, I decided to go solo and take the DIY route. It was time to own it. The thrill of any success and the weight of any failure would be on my shoulders. I wasn’t going to hide behind a band or pretend it wasn’t my name on the marquee. I was ready for another season. I recorded The Fire EP in August 2008, and the reset process was in full effect. I self-released 7 more EP’s over the course of the next year and a half. I toured in my car, shared bills with some incredible artists, and made some new friends. I had a couple of songs placed on Grey’s Anatomy and made it to number 1 on the iTunes singer/songwriter charts a few times. By May of 2010, I had a list of 30 tunes that I still hadn’t recorded. With the help of fans, Pledge Music, and producer Paul Moak, I had the team and the resources to make my first full-length album. I headed to Nashville to make the record I’ve always wanted to make.
Now You’re Free is everything I want it to be. Honest, anthemic and diverse. The songs are full of hope, which in some ways is very new to me. They are the sound of a fresh start. I’m excited about attempting to change something with this record. It could be someone’s mood for a few minutes, the temperature in their room, or the way they watch the sunset driving down the interstate. Music has changed everything for me. I want to be a part of that for other people.
So here I am. 27 years old and still climbing the ladder. Partially because I love it, partially because I’m addicted to it. I still tour in a van. I still rummage through the gummy worms at 4am fuel stops. I still look out the window for hours because I can’t sleep in a moving vehicle. I still miss home. And I still dream.
A wise man once sang, “I know it’s only rock n roll…but I like it.”
I hope you do too.
At some point in the early stages of an artist’s career, there’s inevitably that defining moment—an ultimate test of one’s fortitude and willingness to gamble on a dream—that either sends said artist back to their day job, dejected, or provides the final mental push needed to become something greater…something glorious. For UK-born singer-songwriter Callaghan, that all-or-nothing proposition was manifested at 35,000 feet, in a flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
Scheduled to record her full-length debut with artist/producer Shawn Mullins in Atlanta during the summer of 2010, Callaghan left her London digs and boarded a plane headed for the American South, toting suitcases and a heap of songs. The elation and sheer exuberance of the experience drives “Best Year,” the opening track on her forthcoming album Life In Full Colour.
“When I got on that plane from London to come over to Atlanta, I didn't know what to expect, how long the album would take or what kind of reception my music would get,” she reflects. “There have been all kinds of challenges, but the whole experience has been beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I could not have asked for more; 2011 was such a fantastic year. I'm just going to keep singing that song every single year, because next year's going to be even better.”
Born in Boston, Lincolnshire to a musical family, Callaghan was classically trained on flute from age 6, then gravitated toward singing and playing piano. By 14 she was writing songs, and started trekking to London to record with various producers. At 18 Callaghan relocated to London permanently to live with her sister (whose flat was so tiny, the singer slept under the kitchen table), while recording a number of independent EPs and playing all over the city, at spots like the Bedford, Regal Room, Royal National Theatre, and 100 Club. A long-time Mullins fan, Callaghan contacted him in 2009 through MySpace while seeking a producer, and he agreed to a rare collaboration. An initial recording trip to Atlanta yielded three songs, prompting her life-changing relocation there in 2010 to finish the full-length.
"I knew the sound I wanted and that collaborating with Shawn could really deliver it. He's a hands-on producer, a total perfectionist. He will stay in the studio until it's right. Some songs we got through easily, with others we were there until 3 or 4 in the morning. It was my first experience of recording an album from start to finish, so it was great to work with him, see how an experienced producer approaches things and learn more about the whole recording process. I'm really excited about the record we've created and I can't wait to get it out there"
Life In Full Colour presents the singer as the truly eclectic, dynamic musical force she has become, combining shades of folk, country, rock and pop into a seamless fusion of feeling and melody. While representing the diverse sonic palette, the album’s title also captures the thematic underpinnings of the release: From expressing moments of joy, love and happiness to those of sorrow and despair, the record captures a range of human experience within its 12 tracks.
“Life In Full Colour is about the highs and lows of life; those common experiences that everybody can relate to,” she says. “I like writing about things that touch all of our lives every day, whether it's falling into or out of love with someone, losing them, being alone, or being overjoyed.”
Since landing stateside Callaghan has toured extensively throughout the U.S., especially alongside Mullins, and regularly sells out shows in her new home town of Atlanta. Now that Life In Full Colour is ready for its full release, further touring is planned in support. This year promises to pick up right where 2011 left off, but where the singer’s compelling story goes from here is all part of the adventure. For now, Callaghan will focus on sharing her latest creation with listeners, wherever they may be.
“I've just touched the tip of the iceberg with touring, especially with this country being so vast. I've played in close to 30 states since I got here, but there are still so many places I haven't been to,” she says. “I'll be on the road a lot this year, and getting the music out to people and just trying to spread the word and grow it organically. I can't wait to see where this year leads and I have a good feeling about it I think 2012 is going to be the best year yet.”