INTERVIEW: Matt Simons

Photo by Shervin Lainez

Matt Simons is currently finishing up the international leg of his tour. He has an upcoming show in Boston this Monday Nov. 12. Simons is most known for his song “Catch and Release” and has just released a new single called “We Can Do Better.” He looks forward to releasing his album later this year. WTBU writer Grace Lauson chatted with Simons about being on the road, writing hits, and growing up in a musical family.    


Grace Lauson: I’ll start of with a real basic question; what inspires you when you are songwriting?

Matt Simons: I would say life stuff inspires me for the most part. It’s not necessarily always autobiographical. I like dealing with big subjects.


GL: I know you are just finishing up the international leg of your tour. Do you actually get to explore any of the countries you visit?

MS: This tour was especially busy. Even my days off I had other promo I had to do. Although, I did get a day off in Cologne with my wife, which was really nice. I would say over the years I’ve gotten to see a lot of these cities, but it’s definitely not every time I go there.


GL: Do you have a favorite city to play?

MS: I would pick Amsterdam. It has to be my favorite city to go in and visit, because I lived there for a few months and it feels really comfortable.


GL: Can you notice distinct differences between the various crowds you play? Are American crowds different than international ones?

MS: People are mostly just people to be honest. I’ll say that the Germans are especially quiet. They’re just a great audience. Clap when they are supposed to clap. Sing when they are supposed to sing. They are always a very pleasant crowd to play for.


GL: Have you ever played Boston before?

MS: Yeah, I have done Boston a few times. I can’t remember the names of all the places, but definitely the Red Room. I’ve mostly played solo. I’ve never really toured with a band. In the states, it’s so much smaller than it is in Europe. They just really want the venues full. Boston always has been great. It’s a fun place to visit. A really unique city. I am looking forward to coming back.


GL: What is your favorite song to play and why?

MS: “We Can Do Better.” I didn’t necessarily expect it. On this tour, that song was on the radio this whole summer, so it was just really fresh in people’s brains. Everyone’s singing along and dancing and it can just be really fun. So that one, for this tour at least, is just really fun.


GL: What was the writing process like for this song for “We Can Do Better?”

MS: I showed up to a writing session with Emily Warren and Scott Harris who are top-notch pop writers. We started talking about what was going on in our lives. I was about to propose, so we started talking about the state of relationships and state of marriage–how it seems like not a lot of people are jumping into committed relationships or they have kids before they are married, just because of the example that has been set for the young people that marriage doesn’t work. So we decided to write “We Can Do Better” for me and my wife, in hopes that we can do better.


GL: How long does it take you to write your songs? Is it a long process? Is it complicated?

MS:  It can be but it really shouldn’t be. I would say the best songs are quick. The best songs come right out. My songs that have been the most successful are the ones that took the least time to write. Even like 20 minutes. Like “Catch and Release,” I wrote that song in 20 minutes.


GL: Are there any non-musical influences on your music?

MS: I would say the road is the biggest one. Being tired and being on tour influences the writing you get in after touring. Thoughts like, “I want to write a song about being away from home” happen because that’s where I’ve been for six months.


GL: Do you enjoy the process of constantly being busy and on the road or does it get overwhelming?

MS: I enjoy it as long as it seems like it’s for a purpose and it’s helping. You know, you can start getting bogged down if you don’t think anything is changing. It’s like one brick at a time trying to build a big wall, a foundation, a career. Some people think working hard is the biggest thing, but I really think it’s about working smart. Conserve my energy. I would rather have a couple things to do and take a couple days off as opposed to going, going, going. It’s better for my mental state.


GL: Do you have any hobbies that aren’t musically oriented?

MS: I started collecting sneakers this year. I got way into that. It’s pretty stupid, but it’s pretty fun. I never really cared about shoes until someone started showing me the limited edition stuff. I took a few on the road and wore them on stage. They are actually really comfortable and fun!


GL: How did growing up in a family so centered around music affect your upbringing?

MS: I think having music around is really important to get kids involved in it. When I think about growing up in my house, I think about my dad playing kids’ songs on guitar all the time. I was three years old and singing along. Being musical at that young age probably makes those connections in the brain. Then it translated into the teenage years.


GL: Do you have any bad habits?

MS: I can get a little bit lazy when I am not touring. If I have a week at home, I don’t want to do anything or only want to hang out with friends. It’s hard to be productive.


GL: Do you like touring or being in the studio more?

MS: I like playing live shows more than I like being in the studio. I don’t necessity like driving for eight hours; that’s not super fun. The studio is great. I mostly just do the instrument and writing part. I don’t do the computer stuff; that’s someone else’s job. So maybe I would enjoy it more if I was into that. It is fun to be in a studio. It’s fun to take something that’s just piano and vocals and turn it into a real song, but there is nothing like playing a live show to an audience.


GL: How did you meet Chris Ayer?

MS: I met him like seven or eight years ago. His tour manager at the time was Morgan Holland who went to my friend’s high school. We were all living in New York. I went to see one of his shows and in early 2011, he took me on tour. It was the first tour I had ever done. I had just graduated from jazz school. I didn’t know what I was doing. My first live shows were opening up for Chris. We are best friends. We used to be roommates but he moved out to LA. We try to tour and hang as much as we can, because the best way to tour is with your friends.


GL: Who are your favorite artists?

MS: I really love Betty Who and Allen Stone. I also really like Khalid. I feel like every single song of the last year that I’ve liked has featured him in some way. He just can not put out a bad song.


GL: What’s next for you? What do we have to look forward to?

MS: I am looking forward to finally getting this album out. From the time that I wrote these songs to the time they are put out, I have been working on it for about two years. It feels like a  really long time. So I’m really looking forward to getting all the music out there and playing more shows next year. This year was a light year for shows, really just this month. The rest of this time was spent making the album. Next year maybe I’ll play some festivals in the summer. It will be really nice.


Matt Simons will be playing at the Great Scott on Monday Nov. 12. Tickets can be purchased here.