Listen Up / November 2011

Who to see and what to hear in November.

A Conversation with Matthew Mayfield

Matthew Mayfield

It’s hard to believe that this is the second anniversary of B-Metro. Time has certainly flown by, and how odd it is to think that, in just a few months, we’ll be embarking upon 2012. I will be 37 years old this month (that just sounds weird), and while life brings with it many changes, one thing consistent is the abundance of talented musicians in our city. Matthew Mayfield is a prime example of the bevy of gifted artists that surround us.

Mayfield is based in Birmingham. He tours regularly but still calls the Magic City home. For this month’s column, I have decided to change it up a bit. I recently sat down with Mayfield to explore some of his thoughts on his career, the Birmingham market and music in general. I found his comments to be informative, entertaining and insightful. See for yourself.

TC: At what age did you get turned on to music?
MM: I remember my dad playing James Taylor and Neil Young on guitar through the thin walls as a little kid. Those melodies affected me so heavily at a young age. It used to make me cry. Melody has always been a powerful thing to me.

TC: So when did you first start playing guitar?
MM: I was nine years old and I wanted to be Slash. I’m 28 now and I’m still working towards the same exact goal. (He smiles)

TC: Good luck with that.  We’re all pulling for you. How old were you when you wrote your first song?
MM: I was probably 12 or so, and although I can’t remember exactly what it was, I’m sure it RULED. I just hope my songs have improved over the last 16 years.

TC: If you find a copy of that song, let me know. Who would you say are your biggest musical influences?
MM: That one’s always tough to answer because it always changes. Some (artists) have never wavered: Peter Gabriel, Led Zeppelin, Guns N’ Roses, Pearl Jam, Patty Griffin, Bruce Springsteen. Their brilliance never gets old to me.

TC: Which local artists show the most promise for future success?
MM: There are so many folks I’m honored to share roots with—Preston Lovinggood, The Great Book of John, Red Harp, Duquette Johnston. The list goes on. Birmingham is full of incredible talent. I love watching everyone evolve as we go.

TC: So are you happy in Birmingham?
MM: I am. I get asked that a lot on the road, and people are often surprised by my answer. But Birmingham is home. Being a touring musician makes you appreciate the familiar—streets, settings, faces, voices, etc.  At the end of the day, real relationships with real people are what matters most.  It’s not easy to build those in the traveling circus.

TC: Do you have plans to  stay based in Birmingham?
MM: Absolutely. It’s a great place to come home to. I’m so fortunate to have that.

TC: How about your personal life?  Any update there?
MM: Let’s just say my days of taking jet planes to California all the time are over for the time being.

TC: And we shall leave it at that.  Let’s talk a bit about your most recent record—the recording process, the success of the release, inspirations while recording.

MM: Now You’re Free is definitely the most “me” of all my records. There’s a little bit of everything in there. I’ve never been more proud of a record from top to bottom. I did it in Nashville with my friend Paul Moak.  We worked our asses off to get it where it is. I think everything from the songs to the Sonics to the mix are something I have put my stamp on.  And it’s nice because everyone seems to have a different favorite track.   At the moment, mine’s “Fire Escape,” which we just shot a video for.  It should be out in November.  I am really proud of my friend and fellow Birminghamian Seth Newell for capturing that emotion on camera.

TC: Nice.  Are you currently writing for a new record?  If yes, plans for release?
MM: I’m always writing, always changing.  No plans for a new solo record quite yet, but there’s talk of another rock record with my side project The Blue Cut Robbery.  It’s the most fun I’ve ever had playing music.  I just love rock & roll.  It’s in my bones.

TC: You have on more than one occasion taken a popular rock song and put your own spin on it and have had great response and success when performing these songs live. Was there something that happened that made you want to do this on a regular basis or was it something that just happened organically? Walk us through your favorite cover songs to play live.

MM: Hmmm. I just love taking a familiar melody and tweaking it to fit my sound, like Coldplay’s “Fix You” or R.E.M.’s “Losing my Religion.” Those are masterpieces, so the challenge is to do them justice on your own. Sometimes I pick a winner and it just resonates with folks.  And then there’s Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” That was just an excuse to shred on guitar.

I ask Mayfield if there is anything in closing that he would like to get out to the readers of this column. He says triumphantly, “Birmingham rules. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.”  I have to say that I agree emphatically with him.  Mayfield brings his rock & roll show to WorkPlay on the first Saturday of this month, co-headlining with Graham Colton.

11/5…….Matthew Mayfield & Graham Colton – WorkPlay Theatre
11/9…….The Lee Boys – WorkPlay Theatre –
11/11….. Hayes Carll – the bottletree –
11/12….. Phantogram – WorkPlay Theatre –
11/15….. Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – BJCC Arena
11/16……Indigo Girls & Brandi Carlile with Grayson Capps

Alabama Theatre –
11/24……Maria Taylor with the Grenadines and Dead Fingers

the bottletree –
11/26…..Jimbo Mathus – WorkPlay Theatre –

Todd Coder is the Director of Music Account Development at TicketBiscuit.  He is also the talent buyer at WorkPlay Theatre and for The Hangout Music Festival.

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