Matt Siffert was raised in New York City by a psychologist mother, and as a result he spent much of his teenage years devouring books about the subject. But around the same time this was going on Siffert fell in love with music and found himself increasingly drawn to the vast and vibrant NYC music scene. Jazz, rock, musical theater, avant garde, hip-hop – all of it caught Siffert’s attention and he decided that he would pursue music on his own. He continued pursuing psychology and eventually ended up in Cuba. Here on the tiny island Siffert was moved by the music, eventually buying a Cuban guitar and starting to write and sing songs. The best part was that with music he found he could still tackle psychological issues he was passionate about, so when he returned to the States he decided to go all in.
While he studied formally at Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music, it was a move to Nashville that got Siffert to loosen up and pursue a more rock and folk-influenced sound that is what currently defines his style. On his new EP Gallatin, which comes out on July 21st, this young musician fearlessly dabbles in alternative rock, folk, hip-hop, jazz, and experimental music, filtering it all through a unique, approachable songwriting lens.
Today Glide Magazine is premiering one of the new tracks from Gallatin. “January 25” is an eerie song that definitely showcases Siffert’s love for creating strange and eclectic soundscapes while singing in a whispery voice. He describes it as his “angry Leonard Cohen song”, and it does have a dark poetic tone.
Listen to the song and read our chat with Siffert below…
Tell me about the inspiration behind this song — what prompted you to write it or what is the story behind it?
It was a pretty literal adaptation of real life. You know, it normally takes me a long time to write songs — at least 50 hours of work per song, after all is said and done. This one came much more quickly. I felt like I had to write it and what I wanted to say was right there for the taking. The songs I have to write are the ones that turn out best. They have the most passion behind them; the stakes are higher. It’s like, “What will happen to if I don’t write this?”
How was the recording process for this song? Did it come easily and quickly, or did it require a lot of takes?
It was pretty easy — we did it in two or three takes. My songs have a lot of detail in the arrangement, but also sections that are improvised. That’s my way of merging what I love about classical and jazz music. Classical is all the minutiae in arranging — knowing exactly who is doing what, and when. Jazz is more improvisatory; recordings have an unsanitized quality that I love. “January 25” has some of both — we rehearsed some sections carefully and left others to the spirit of the moment.
Do you have a particular favorite lyric line from the song?
Yeah, I’m very proud of “This may be an ordinary party/But I’m no ordinary guest.” There’s a lot in there — swag, spite, elitism. All deliciously unlikeable attributes.
Your music has a very satisfying sense about it; it feels really good to listen to it. What do you hope listeners take away from having heard this record?
First off, I appreciate your calling it satisfying — it took a long time to get there. I made some pretty experimental records when I lived in New York, and while I’m proud of what I did, my music was more intellectually stimulating than satisfying to listen to. Since living in Nashville, I’ve been exposed to a lot of bands I always kind of laughed at. Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, that kind of thing. Music that always came off as safe and unambitious. Now I see the value in how pleasant it is on the surface. You put it on at a party and people dance. People have a good time. Having a surface quality to your music that is, as you say, “satisfying”, is a way of building a bridge between the outside, chaotic world that is life and the inside, beautiful world that is music. Anyways, I’d hope that people are both moved and challenged by my music. The songs come from real life and the music comes from exploration. I hope people enjoy the combination of emotional and technical.
Matt Siffert release Gallatin on July 21st. For more music and info visit mattsiffert.com.
Photo credit: Jordan Merrigan