Thursday, November 18, 2010


I've never been very good at public relations. I think it's because I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, which usually means I'm not very good at smiling and taking it on the chin. Sometimes I can let my emotions get the best of me. Occasionally I'll be a brilliant actor, playing the exact role that will win fans and friends, but it's a veneer that wears off quickly, and sooner or later I'm back to my blatantly honest and sometimes disturbing self. I wear a lot of hats. I'm an artist, an entertainer, a business owner and a husband, to name a few, not to mention I profess to follow the teachings of Jesus while being all of these things. It can get difficult to know which hat to wear when, and more importantly how to change them. With every hat there are certain expectations, certain pressures and obligations that people place on you.

As an artist I'm called to remain true to my art. To seek out the best conditions in which music is inspired. Unfortunately, many of those conditions can be destructive to my role as a husband, because they often include emotional withdrawal and seclusion. The best artists, I've always felt, tend to maintain a considerable amount of pain and suffering in their lives... either that are they are true empaths who can feel and communicate the pain of others in a real way. The problem with self destructive, 'tortured artist' behavior is that it can be damaging to my faith as well as the relationships I have with other people. But aren't the best Psalms the ones of longing? Don't we relate best to the sadness that comes from distance from God? Or is that just me? These are things I struggle with. These are the "hats" I try to manage.

As a husband I'm called to be there for my wife, to be a leader in our relationship, an ear that will listen and a heart that will pray. I want to serve her, to be a solid foundation for her to be able to grow. Can I do that while withdrawing from society and isolating my heart to write more honestly? Playing the role of husband does not lend itself kindly to playing the role of artist, and it's hard to know when to switch hats. The tricky thing is that the artist hat comes whenever it wants while the husband hat is always firmly around my head. How do you balance inspiration when it's distracting you from your primary human relationship? I'm sure everyone struggles with managing different hats, these are just a few of mine.

Occasionally I will look at great artists who live depressing yet inspired lives and I want, if only for a second, what they have. But then I remember that what I have is what THEY want. I have happiness. I am blessed beyond belief. Still sometimes, somewhere deep inside me, I'll feel this nagging need to self-destruct, to ruin the beauty of what I have in order to discover the 'true inspiration' that they've discovered. Silly right? I know, it's stupid.

If you read this blog, you've probably heard me grumble about how hard it is to reconcile the artist hat with the entertainer hat. Although the two are fraternal twins when it comes to being a musician in a band, they come with very opposite obligations. The artist is a sincere, emotional thinker and the entertainer is an aerobics instructor, a facade, a projection of true inspiration. We as musicians are expected to be excellent at both. But night in and night out it can get hard to fake it, to be the entertainer, the one responsible for everyones good time. It can tend to come off trite and insincere, and that bothers me deeply. Insincerity is my biggest pet peeve. It even beats picky eaters.

As a business owner I'm responsible for the growth of my company. The Classic Crime is a brand, after all, and I need to market that brand in a fashionable and alluring way. I am terrible at this. Music will not be heard without the industry so money has to exchange hands, and there is a lot of pressure on the business owner to move units, to promote the brand and to expand. If I could take one hat off for good, it would be this one. I've never received one ounce of joy when it comes to the numbers. I hate numbers. I hate that they can tend to dictate the direction of art. I hate that they can dance around in the back of my mind when I'm compiling an album. "Will this sell?" They ask. "Is this commercially viable?" Numbers are at odds with the creation of true art. They are adverse to sincerity. Numbers are pro-industry, but in opposition to honest art.

All that said, I'll admit that I don't have an ounce of inspiration outside of God blessing me with it, and I know that. None of my music is in my control. My art is connected with God, it is spiritual, and tomorrow if the melodies and lines leave my mind for good it will be because God saw fit. I'm not a proud man in this sense, I think that anybody is capable of being ten times the artist I am if God chooses to use you. I guess I just long for those sacred moments where true music is created without bias, secular or spiritual (and yes I think God inspires songs that aren't at all about Him). It is never enough, once you feel that glow, that spark of inspiration, you're instantly hungry for more. I am not satisfied with what I've played a part in creating, and I hope I can figure out this hat issue long enough to play a role in creating much, much more.


  1. You, sir, inspire me. As a reader of your blog and a fan of your music, I can honestly say that the thing I admire most about you is your honesty.

  2. Artists,no matter what the medium, have said the same things for ages. That they were just the vehicles for the messages that came to them. Where do these messages come from? There always seem to be those that are tapped into bringing those visions to the rest. Art, music, writing, dance, prayer, its all inspiration from God.

  3. Have you ever written an album or song and thought "screw marketability, lets just do what feels right?"

    Also, aren't their other sources of inspiration aside from angsty anti-socialism? This just seems like a bizarre scenario to be caught in, especially since your music doesn't sound like it comes from that place whatsoever.

  4. I understand the difficulty about the different hats. There are so many roles that we all must play and it gets confusing (at least to me). Lately I've learned that you just have to take life as it comes. Regardless of what hat you must put on in the moment. Thank you for being honest. It's reassuring to know that I'm not the only one dealing with this.

  5. Spent a 3+ hour drive listening to all of your albums and am still impressed by the way your songs make me examine my life, my beliefs, my relationships, etc. I love you guys. Thanks for putting into words and music what many of us feel. Coming near Albany, NY anytime soon?

  6. I don’t know, Matt, I’ve been picking up on some vibes of tortured artist syndrome in your blogs lately. Perhaps, it’s your calling to be used as the interpreter of the anguish and torture you see in others, though it’s not necessarily your own, it makes you feel and therefore acknowledge it and act. Seeing the suffering of our fellow man and working toward relieving it, without actually going through it ourselves, is essentially what God wants us as follows of Christ to do. If we are meant to be His hands and feet, maybe you were meant to be His voice to the world!

  7. Hi Matt,
    You should strive to be simple. Take one thing at a time and in everything pray to the Lord and ask for His guidance. I know there are many tasks and hats for you to do and put on but as long as you do things from the heart I know you will always have the fans' support. Throughout all of this I do appreciate you for being honest; that's one characteristic that's hard to find in people nowaday

  8. You're certainly right about writing music. I used to write a lot of (what I believe was) good music because I was frequently in the depths of despair or the positive equivalent... But now I've stabilized and am not hyper-insecure anymore, so I barely seem capable of writing anything good. What a depressing trade off.

    This being a dilema in and of itself, I cannot but admire the balancing act that comes with having to make the precious, organic, artistic creation conform to a material box, a practical box. Without having to live on it, it's difficult to write something you feel complete about. And then having to sustain the lifestyle as well! Entertainment is so difficult to transfer to others in any case... Hard stuff.

  9. Maybe your not satisfied in what you have created because you are not supposed to be in order to succeed. Maybe God is using your lack of satisfaction as a method of keeping you alive in continuing your creations. God only knows what would happened if you became satisfied. You might get lazy in expressing your inspirations, or there would be no inspirations to be had.
    With failure there is a drive to continue.

    As far as the hats thing goes, I may be young and stupid but maybe you can try using your "husband" hat as your "artist" hat. That is, wear one fully and completely and the inspirations that feed your art will come through that... ?

  10. Amazing post. I'm keeping an eye on this blog now. And since I'm a shameless promoter, here's the URL to mine...

    Here's the important stuff. Do you think there's a possibility that the tortured artist has become such a cultural fixture that no one can easily think of a non-tortured one who still creates good art?

  11. I'm not sure its a new idea, Thoreau, Van Gogh, even Beetoven... the more eccentric and damaged the seemingly better the art. I'm not saying its the only way to be good, I'm just saying that struggle creates meaning and inspiration, where lack of struggle creates laziness.