Matt Nathanson wanted to be in Kiss at the age of six.
And the love affair with music never died away.
"I was seven, maybe six. I heard Kiss for the first time, up in New Hampshire. I was like, "I gotta be in Kiss, " said the ever-growing pop music star. "I'd play the tennis racket. I took piano lessons in fourth grade, and saw my first concert in third grade. In first, second and third grade, I'd put on lip synch concerts. I just always knew that I wanted to do it. Music is the one thing in life that I have always devoted myself to."
Nathanson was one of the headliners at XL106.7's Red, Hot & Boom in Altamonte on Friday night.
He took 20 minutes with the Sentinel inside of his hotel room overlooking the venue, where he talked about his love affair with Orlando, a woman tattooing his signature on her body and why live performances are sexual in nature.
You've made quite a few visits to Central Florida, some type of vibe?
Man, I don't know, I think so. This record cycle has been so long that we've been doing places that I may have only done once or twice a record, like 10 or 12 times. That feels like I progress. Weird thing about it is that you get intimate with airports. Like I would never have thought I would be so familiar with the Charlotte airport as I am. The same with Orlando, we have been doing tons of stuff in Florida. We've gone Gainesville, Tampa and bunch of others. Before, it would be Orlando, maybe Ft. Lauderdale and Jacksonville, and that's about it. It's been really fun. I got to see hotbeds like Ft. Myers. It's kind of crazy.
How exhausted are you? Ready for some rest?
Ready to take a break, but I think I can keep doing this as long as things keep progressing. For me, it gets a little much when we do two months of touring and then for three weeks we are in a different city every day, that's when it gets tiring. If I can find a balance, that's key for me.
About a week and a half ago, I was pretty tired, but I went home for a week and now I am rejuvenated and psyched to play today and play tomorrow, and then go home for a couple days. When it comes in manageable bursts, it is ok. But when it is 30 shows in 30 days in different cities, by the fifth time you are at the Minneapolis airport, you are ready to kill someone.
Where has the success come from? Is there a moment when you knew that your career was changing?
I wish I knew, I would bottle it up and sell it. I would also take it and make 12 songs that did what ("Come on Get Higher") did. I was sitting in my room and listening to that Katy Perry song, "Waking Up in Vegas," and I was so into it and I don't know why that song is so great and the rest of them didn't really move me. "Hot and Cold" was alright, "I Kissed a Girl" was cool, they are good pop songs. But, I have no idea why that one song I latched on to and why it is relating to me. It probably won't be as big as "I Kissed a Girl," so I don't know what makes stuff happen.
So, for me, this last round of songs was just like the last seven rounds of songs I wrote. I sat down with my buddy Mark and we set out to do "Pour Some Sugar on Me," but with better lyrics. But everytime we seemed to fall short of writing something like "Pour Some Sugar on Me" or "Kiss Me Deadly."
There are times when I'll put on Desolation Row by Bob Dylan and wonder why it is so perfect. I have no idea why my last record stuck. I guess it was a bit of luck, and the moon aligned with the stars.
Is it nice to have these seemingly new opportunities?
It's fun to have opportunities given to me. Before, you had to battle to get stuff. You'd ask, "Can I play on your tour?" Now, it's like some people say, "Hey, would like to come on tour." What a relief. So, I don't know how this all went down, but I am totally into it.
We started writing for the next record and we started doing the same thing again. Mark came up last week and we just hung out and just listened to why "Save A Prayer" from Duran Duran is so great. We get inspired. We get turned on by it. Then we'll watch "Purple Rain" and it is so good. We write a lot of things that end up being (bad), but then you get 10 or 12 songs that you dig and put on a record.
Where are you in the recording process?
We've done a couple rounds of recording. We are now dialing in and locking down. I've been doing a lot of writing, which I really didn't do before. What was so cool about "Come on Get Higher" is that I put out seven records, and they never did anything. I guess that isn't true, they garnered fans. But I really never got any external validation that I was any good, except for the fans showing up at the shows. But it is hard to listen to the fans because they are your friends, they have a good time, you interact and you have a moment. Then you'd go back to that city the next time, you'd all hang out again and have a good time.
"Come on Get Higher" had success on a national level, so that gave me confidence to follow through writing wise on my own. This go-round, I showed up with a lot of ideas. Usually Mark and I create from zero. For me, the writing process has been easier because I am a lot more confident. I feel validated in a way.
It's like when you date somebody, and before you date that person you tell yourself, "I know I am good looking." Then you look in the mirror and you hate yourself. Then, when somebody finally dates you and makes out with you, you are, "Alright, I must be good looking." It's a validating moment.
The writing is going well, but I could be back to being the ugly duckling if this next record doesn't do what it is supposed to do.
What is success in your eyes?
It begins and ends with finishing the song and the album. Everything else doesn't define me. When the song gets done, when the lyrics get done, when the band plays it well, when we record it, it's that moment, that is my moment of success. Everything else is either up and down, it has to be from the creative place.
It's the time before someone tells me that it sucks or doesn't suck, when I think it is (good), that is cool. Whether it makes no sound in the forest or crushes a family of 12, either way for me, it is about the creative process.
Do you still get the butterflies playing in front of a big crowd like Red, Hot & Boom?
This could potentially not be fun for me. These type of shows aren't about connecting, they are about showing. For me, what's fun about performing, is about connecting with the band and then with the crowd. So, I don't get nervous. When I play these large pop shows, I am used to trying to win the situation. But 9 out of 10 times, in these situations, it isn't about winning, it is about enduring. Everyone kind of knows one song, everyone is not there for connecting, the rock the things that make music great to me. These events are about seeing who we can turn on. Sometimes my perfectionism gets the best of me and I'm like, "We didn't win!" But, I've learned to let go of the rope a bit.
Your performing is a big part of how you connect with fans, how much do you put into that?
It's like sex. Just having sex is really boring. It could be the hottest person in the world, but you are like, "Yuck." But, when they are engaged, then it is dramatic and full of connection. That is sex. That is what my shows are like. If it can't be engaging, and eye-to-eye sweatiness, I might as well be watching television.
You've covered "Jessie's Girl" by Rick Springfield quite a few times in shows, is that on purpose?
I do it because it is fun. Sometimes we'll bust into White Snake, sometimes into Springsteen. If I am feeling the audience has no idea who I am. But, when it is my kind of show, we can bust into things and go on tangents. But, when you are trying to win the crowd, and they don't know more than the song that they have heard on the radio, how can you do this? For me, it's a teaser to get people into it. Then you hit them with a song and they are into it. It's like foreplay.
Are you taking on a mentoring role for younger artists?
Not really, because musicians can be so arrogant. No one ever asks. I guess everyone thinks they are doing it right, or are so insecure. We are all such a mess. If anyone ever asks, I tell them what I think and what my experiences are. For me, I am always quizzing people that I am opening for. I totally ask the Sugarland folks, the Bret Michaels folks when we were doing Ellen, I ask all of these people, they are my heroes and people that I know. I am the guy that does that. I haven't had many people ask, but I am here if anyone cares.
Any crazy tour stories?
There is some really weird stuff. Not in a bad way. This woman tattooed my signature on her body. I was like, "I don't think I'd do that." But, she digs it and I think it is super cool. For me, the biggest thing, is people don't think I am who I actually am, which is just this douchebag kid from Boston. There is a lot more people demanding things of you. And, I am always getting into fights. They'll say, "So, you are a (jerk), huh?" And, I am just like "What's your problem? Do you want to fight me? We can just fight and it'll be done." That type of stuff happens.
How do you deal with people demanding things of you?
I have a pretty good tolerance. My biggest thing now is people coming up to me and saying, "You're too big of a star now to come out and sign (autographs)." Those are the moments where I look at them and think, "Do you have any idea what I did yesterday? Do you have any idea what my day has been like? I don't come and tell you that you didn't smile big enough at the show." My thing is people feel entitled, because people feel like they are a part of you, because of the songs. I am guilty of the same thing. I am pretty bendable, I can go and go and go, and then draw the line. Most people get it.
What is your dream? What may people not know about you?
I just want to exist without being miserable. That is a deep answer. I just want to be satisfied. That isn't in the sense of a ton of money or a record, but I am just dying to be satisfied. I get to live my dream, I get to write music. I get to rock. I get to shake my butt. And play with a drummer. That is awesome.
I just want to exist without the insidious, poisonous, oil that drips into your brain in the quiet moments. Everyone has it. And I have been working hard these past couple of years to be satisfied.
What's great is that the more I bust my butt, the better the songs get.
Matt Nathanson wanted to be in Kiss at the age of six.