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Music in his Head: An Interview with Chris Mathews

Having lived in both Arizona and Alaska, this young singer/songwriter could be seen as an extreme on either side of the spectrum. He is not. He is, in fact, Everyman and Anyone who has stopped to ponder the frailty, beauty and randomness of Life.

He bangs out lyrics on an old Corona electric typewriter in his back room because it “gives me confidence”, perhaps because the randomness of Life aforementioned could crash a computer hard drive forever, losing the perfect phrasing and the sweet longing in a cybersecond. When Chris handed me a clutch of his music after one of his shows— typewritten, dog-eared, with obvious fold marks— and then told me these were original documents with no copies, I froze and asked him to promise he’d get Xeroxes made the next day.

He discusses Wal-Mart and Wall Street: “Capitalism views people as numbers and just pulls them… we’re just pieces. Not souls, just numbers on a fact sheet. There’s a conspiracy to hide information… people are too afraid to ask questions.” His take on popular music: “It’s a trick— a trap. It’s so turned up sonically it pulls you in. No matter how much you hate it, you can’t get it out of your head. I don’t want to seem like a purist, but it’s just… flashy.” His ‘Jesus during adolescence’ was Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes– a folk devotee and a man fascinated with the Eternal. Vonnegut and Ginsberg are his favorite writers; he’s studied the philosophers Plato and Woody Allen (he loves Allen’s quote, ‘Infinity is long time, especially at the end.’), and he’s an avid Carl Sagan fan. In addition to Oberst, he reveres Bob Dylan.

Chris Mathews
Chris Mathews performs on stage at Sam’s in downtown Globe. Photo by LCGross

 

He adds, “I’m not trying to send a message [with my music] but this is why I write long pieces. There’s no attention span at all any more. Look at a symphony! Pop songs last two minutes—everything now is two lines and a chorus.” Elaborating, he says, “Everyone has a set idea of what music is. It’s difficult to move ahead with a song if there’s the distraction of returning to a chorus. Music is geometry and mathematics; I failed math all through high school, but I know my triangles.”

Chris’s partner (in music and in Life) is Alicia Jones; they are poets, songwriters and performers, singly and conjoined. What, then, in five years? “People don’t like change, not always, if there’s something they’re comfortable with. Change is the best thing— once you accept, once you sculpt your reality— if you believe something enough, you can manifest it.” He reads my look and then asserts, “Everything’s a lie, so live your own lies. You can pick and choose what you want to see– we all have our own reality. Everything leads to something else.” While he alludes to religion in his life and music— he admires Buddhism and has read the Bible— “I have a lot of beliefs, but all you have is yourself. We’re all part of a community, a collective conscience.”

In Globe, Chris drove a Senior Citizen bus and delivered meals to the elderly. “They’re amazing people, and the best part is going into their homes and just talking to them. It’s helped me grow up.” He flicks the hair away from his eyes and smiles. “I think I know other people better than I know myself.”

Chris and Alicia performed at Sam’s Good Junk Coffee House in Globe a few weeks ago; the audience was responsive and enthusiastic, and something else: they were respectful and appreciative. Chris wore an old green Army jacket, horn-rimmed glasses and a tweed cap. His vocals, pure and heartfelt, rolled in waves from the stage.

Alicia’s breathy voice was lilting and haunting, suggesting a Gypsy singer preparing tea over a smoky campfire sometime before the First War. She gathered her skirts, took the stool and strummed her guitar with familiarity. There’s an insouciance there; a sly, ‘I’m-singing-for-my-own-pleasure’ sort of feeling. It works.

Chris and Alicia
Chris and Alicia

They have big plans which, when realized, will define them further. His creation of a record company— Sunbeams & Blues Records— will highlight local musicians. Chris also wants to record in one of Globe’s historic buildings (say, the Train Depot) and utilize chanting by townspeople to create a musical collage of “phantom proportions”. He continues to write, both music and lyrics, and his Poetry Book (‘…the ocean of a droplet would drown the world if felt. Drink these reflections.’) is loaded with work he can always mine for future projects. In addition, his newest CD, ‘Infinite Singularity’ will be out in April. Check his Facebook page for more info.

Lastly, a sample from one of his songs, ‘Shoebox Lament’

Salvation may come like a washed-up corpse

in the tarnished cove, gorged with secrets

to tell.

You may wake up gray to see your clock hands

creating a whirlpool, where you swore you’d be for a spell.

You may find the bane of your tawdry haze,

after the spread is too vast to contain.

While the others just get wet,

I hope you feel the rain.

 

 

About Darin Lowery

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