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Matthew Sweet Girlfriend Tour w/ Callaghan - 6/11
at City Winery New York City
Additional tickets may still be available, please call 212.608.0555 Ext. 445 to inquire.
During a career that stretches back to the mid-’80s, Matthew Sweet has never followed trends, though his landmark 1991 album Girlfriend was responsible for starting one—its bone-dry, caterwauling sonics opening up a wild and picturesque new terrain for restless singer/songwriters to inhabit and explore. Two decades later, Sweet has once again swung for the fences—and connected—with the boldly experimental yet still deeply personal Modern Art.
Matthew will be playing the Girlfriend album in its entirety
Defiantly unorthodox, but often playfully so, Modern Art is a stealth album, embedded with half-hidden hooks lurking in its recesses, just out of focus, waiting to be discovered. Nope, this is not a one-listen album, but a progressive deepening has always characterizes the most memorable longplayers, whose authors rarely put all their cards on the table right away. Not that there aren’t some instant grabbers here: “She Walks the Night” captures the Byrds of “Eight Miles High,” while “Ladyfingers” stomps along with the authority of T.Rex, and the tortured “My Ass Is Grass” could serve as the belated follow-up to “Sick of Myself,” the hit single from Sweet’s 1995 LP 100% Fun. At the other extreme are provocative, soul-deep, virtually unprecedented tracks like “Oh, Oldendaze!,” “Late Nights With the Power Pop,” “Modern Art,” “Evil by Design, Goodbye Nature,” “At the Screen (With the World Flowing In)” and “Nowhere.”
For this record, Sweet discarded his normal process of laying down ideas as they came to him and shaping them into songs. Instead, he allowed those spontaneous kernels of music dictate the direction of each piece. Rather than bringing his left brain into the process, he put his right brain in charge and simply let it rip.
Still evident through this musical and sonic shell game are echoes of Sweet’s touchstones: the Beatles, Byrds, Beach Boys and Big Star. “Although I really didn’t think about other music while making the record, if those things are there, it’s just because I love them,” he says. “And even the long songs with all that weirdness in them tend to have recognizable parts.” Indeed, these exploratory songs exemplify the very quality Sweet finds in his treasured Big Star albums. “When I discovered Big Star at the end of high school, it was the greatest thing ever, and Alex Chilton became one of my heroes,” he recalls. “What I loved about Alex’s thing was that it was pure emotion—you experienced his feelings through the music. And that’s the kind of music I love: when an artist seems like they’re really feeling something.”
Never has an album’s title more accurately described its content. It’s fitting that Modern Art will appear on the 20th anniversary of Girlfriend.
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.”