Photo by Ryne Martin

INTERVIEW: Matt Hannah

Hi Matt, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Doing well, thank you!

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Sidelines”?

“Sidelines” was the last song I wrote for the CD and it ended up being my favorite.  I wrote it with a slower country vibe initially, but then Matt Patrick (producer) suggested we take it in a rock direction and it became a new song.  

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

I became a first-time parent 5 years ago and found myself thinking about my own growing up.  I grew up in a small farming town in Michigan with parents from the Detroit area, so we were different.  When I moved from Michigan to New York City, I felt also very not of that place.  It’s sort of a thread that’s just part of my personality.  I try to embrace that in the song.

How was the filming process and experience behind the video?

The idea for the video was my wife’s. We envisioned something that would complement the sense of journey in the song.

The single comes off your new album House of Illusion – what’s the story behind the title?

That title track, “House of Illusion,” became the metaphor for the album overall.  I think on the album a lot of the songs take place inside a physical or mental space the narrator is trying to preserve in opposition to the outside world.  In that song it’s about keeping a sense of fantasy alive as you get older.

How was the recording and writing process?

Once I had found the title track the rest seemed to fall into place because I had a theme to riff on and explore.  The recording was my second time with Matt Patrick at the Library Studio, and it was really a joy to come back.  I worked with the same musicians as well and it just felt celebratory to me to be back again making another record despite all the ups and downs of the previous few years.

What role does Ingmar Bergman play in your music and this album in particular?

I’ve always enjoyed his movies because they often take place in these places of isolation.   Bergman talked a lot about drawing a “magic circle” around yourself to keep the real world out.  I think his films and his plays were that for him.  That metaphor seems to run through a lot of songs on this record.

What aspect of illusion did you get to explore on this record?

I think in the title track it’s very much about being a spectator at a magic show and being a kid.  In other songs like “Last of the Flophouses” and “Real Guitars,” I reflect on these little magical spaces that exist very distinctly from what is outside of them.    

I read an article one day about the White House Hotel, a flophouse/hostel which has existed in New York for over 100 years.  I had spent about a month there when I first moved to the city.  The Bowery has become a very high rent neighborhood and wants to evict the White House, but a few guys have been holding out because of squatter’s rights, keeping this place going while the city outside changes so much.  The article talked about how some people living there wanted to stay in their own worlds, in these small spaces they’ve carved out there. There is also an artist, Sir Shadow, who is quite well-known who has lived there a long time and views his life there as essential to his being an artist. This story meant a lot to me. 

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

On this album, I worked with words quite a bit first, searching for titles.  I would write multiple versions of songs with the same title. I found ideas that way, especially when I had titles that resonated with each other.  I also really dug through my memories trying to find stories that would be interesting. 

I always am listening to music too, looking for ideas. I was really inspired by Guy Clark, who writes songs that are often descriptive of a situation, a place, or a moment in time.  I also have loved Bruce Springsteen since I was a teenager and found a lot of inspiration in his version of storytelling.

What else is happening next in Matt Hannah’s world?

I’m looking forward to really getting out and playing these songs this year.  I really love having a new set of songs to share with people.

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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