I’m doing well, thanks. Very excited to share the music I have coming out over the next couple of months, and I just finished recording rough vocals on a new batch of songs I’m working on for my next album.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “The Gift & The Wound”?
This song captures some the feelings of my teenage years growing up in Madison, Wisconsin. First glimpses of freedom, first love, driving around aimlessly with friends, partying and getting into trouble, all with a subtle backdrop of grief and mystery beneath the surface.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
My dad passed away unexpectedly when I was 15, and the entire album is inspired by the years after his death. My mother was struggling with alcoholism at the time, and all of these factors made it a challenging period for me. In some ways, I feel as though I’ve spent the last 15 years of my life recovering from and integrating those few years. The album is a deep dive into those themes and an attempt to make something honest and beautiful out of an incredibly painful time.
How was the filming process and experience behind the video?
We had a lot of fun shooting the video. All the locations are places in Madison where I spent time as a kid and teenager and that hold a lot of psychic resonance for me. It was great to revisit them as an adult and reframe some of those memories in the context of healing and moving forward. I was going for a lo-fi home-movie vibe and the whole video was filmed entirely on an iPad using only natural light.
The single comes off your new album Surface Tension – what’s the story behind the title?
During the writing of the music, I stumbled onto a watery keyboard sound that became a cornerstone for much of the album. Surface Tension is a play on the physical properties of the surface of liquids. I love the metaphor of what we show on the surface and what might be alive in the depths below. There can be some uniquely human contrast between the two. For me, I was carrying around some trauma from my childhood that I was ready to bring to the surface and release. Surface Tension became a watery healing journey and a process to help me integrate painful times through art.
How was the recording and writing process?
I love the writing process. The moment when a new song is just being conceived of is the best. This was by far the most intimate and personal project I’ve done, so it was simultaneously nerve-wracking and exhilarating. I did all the pre-production and drum programming on my own and then brought people in to record live over the tracks. From there I would sample and re-arrange the live parts and craft the songs that way. The recording process went pretty smoothly since I was blessed to work with super talented musicians and engineers.
How has your upbringing influences your music?
My parents were both creating art during my childhood, and they played a lot of great music in the house when I was growing up. I remember hearing a wide range of artists like Nina Simone, Erik Satie, Al Green, Howlin’ Wolf, Tom Waits, and Bonnie Raitt. I started writing songs at a young age, and in school, I jumped around from violin to trumpet to bass guitar to DJ’ing. Each of those gave me a slightly different angle to experience music through. After my dad’s death, my relationship to music deepened and crystallized. I believe music saved my life. When I think about all the directions I could have gone in, I’m grateful to be where I’m at. Music is an extremely efficient and powerful healing tool.
What role does Wisconsin play in your writing?
Hmmm, I don’t know. Aside from being the backdrop to this song, I’m not sure if it has a deeper meaning in my writing. I haven’t lived there for 15 years, but it has to be in there somewhere. I appreciate the humble, grounded quality of life in the midwest. But too much of that can be limiting. For a college town of that size, Madison had a lot of good hip-hop and reggae coming through town in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, and I soaked all of that up.
What aspect of tension did you get to explore on this record?
On the one hand, I’m dealing directly with themes of grief, loss, isolation and hiding. Those feelings alone can create a significant amount of tension. On the other hand, there was so much love, freedom, fun, and sense of adventure as well. To honor both and celebrate the tension between the two was a goal for the album.
Any plans to hit the road?
Yes, I’m experimenting and rehearsing in the studio now with how to share these songs in a live show. It could be as big a 9 or 10 piece band or as small as just me and a DJ. It will probably end up being somewhere in the middle. Looking forward to finding the right balance between live and programmed elements and making sure there’s room for improvisation.
What else is happening next in Matthew De Ver’s world?
Right now I’m finishing the music video for my next single “Water in the Well,” and continuing to craft songs for my upcoming album. And I’m always studying and deepening my meditation, chant and other spiritual practices. I look forward to connecting and collaborating with other like-minded artists in the near future, and I hope people who have experienced similar challenges will find something in this album to support and inspire them.