In pursuit of honest and intimate music in Avon
Vail CO, Colorado
AVON, Colorado ” In the world of young, striving musicians, it can be hard to distinguish yourself, especially if you’re just one man and a guitar. But Denver singer-songwriter Matt Boyer pulls it off, peppering his melancholy, everyday tales of loss and love with ambient, reverb-drenched atmosphere.
Boyer’s music might seem spare and simple on the surface, but it hints at a deeper complexity and ability: This is likely because Boyer spent time on tour with critical favorite Sun Kil Moon, essentially a solo project for Red House Painters’ celebrated Mark Kozelek (who also incidentally co-starred in “Almost Famous”).
“The biggest part is that it’s a big confidence builder,” Boyer said. “After I toured with Mark, I opened some shows too. Playing with someone as respected as Mark builds confidence in that you have somewhat of a resume. Once you get that feeling that you’ve accomplished something as a musician, it takes away that I have to prove something. You relax and worry about how you feel rather than the audience, and as a result the audience enjoys it more because it’s less contrived.”
Matt Boyer’s Bruce-Springsteen-on-a-rainy-day storytelling draws sizable crowds, but fans have had to weather a long dry spell since the release of his last acoustic CD, “Sukuinage.”
“I released the acoustic CD because that’s always been my taste,” Boyer said. “For my initial EP, I wanted to put something out that said ‘what you see is what you get.’ I wanted to keep the misleading factor as minimal as possible. But for my next releases, I’m definitely working towards a sound that’s more produced.”
When not playing solo, Boyer often plays with lap steel player Dave Devine and drummer Dusty Privette, but he might go so far as to even rock a bit on his next release.
“I’m envisioning that being straight-ahead, atmospheric and melancholy but a little more rocking ” I’m sure those guys will be on it,” he said. “There’ll definitely be (guitar) solos and some rocking out, in a Neil Young sense.”
Boyer hopes to record another acoustic disc to be released this spring, with his full-band, full-length effort dropping in winter.
“I’m hoping to go up Toronto to record a short, acoustic EP this spring, with a full-length band album in winter,” he said. “I’m probably going to record in San Francisco. I like going out of town, because it helps cut through all of the distractions you face when you’re trying to get something done in your hometown.”
Boyer originally hails from Indiana, and he credits cloudy Midwestern days for providing melancholic inspiration and keeping him indoors. In fact, moving to sunny Colorado a few years ago actually impacted his productivity negatively ” more sunshine equals less time spent indoors writing songs.
“I haven’t been as prolific ” that really is a factor,” he said. “If I’m in Indiana, I’m creative after the third day of grayness. When it’s sunny, I don’t want to sit at home. I go through periods where I don’t write for a while. But I’m learning, and I’ve got plenty of songs still to record. It’s all building stories.”
Matt Boyer’s website reflects his music: It’s spare and all white, with minimal text. The only defining characteristic is a series of antique, black-and-white photos that shift and reflect subtle changes in mood, depending on what page you’re on. In one, clean-cut kids wait at the starting line of a tricycle race as disinterested parents stand nearby; in another, blurred children run past a swing set while strange-looking trees loom in the background.
“I got those old photos from a British academy in Japan,” Boyer said. “I just like that they infer something unseen, something nostalgic about the time and place. I like nostalgic things and creating things that make people feel nostalgic. I like feeling nostalgic myself.”
When honing his guitar chops in the early ’80s, Boyer emulated Eddie Van Halen and the prog-rock and metal guitar-gods of the era, but after rediscovering early Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Cat Stevens, he dropped the finger-tapping to focus on melody and storytelling. It’s all in pursuit of an honesty and intimacy that Boyer tries to convey at each and every show, whether he plays alone or with his band.
“I definitely want to keep that intimacy ” my music isn’t necessarily upbeat, and it doesn’t usually engage people in a way that makes them want to dance,” he says. “When the room is quiet, I know I’m accomplishing what I want to accomplish.”