I wonder how much time on average artists spend trying to be good at something else other than what they are destined to do? How many lawyers are out there with screenplays stashed in their drawers? How many plumbers with a talent for the piano? I'm sure some spend months, years, and even decades living out another kind of life before they dedicate themselves completely to their art -- and some never reach for their artistic destiny at all.
Matt Sucich is one of the exceptions who stays true to his talent and his desire to make great music in the here and now. I promise that experiencing one of his heartfelt tunes will shock you back to a moment in your life that relates directly to the moment in Matt's life he's expressing through music. And that's a rare power for an artist to possess.
The Astoria-based singer-songwriter just released his second full-length album, Layers. With his uncanny ability to translate without pretense the many ups and downs of love to his audience through his voice and his guitar, Matt has produced a truly heart-rending and honest album that draws on influences ranging from M. Ward to Springsteen to Dylan.
I recently sat down with Matt to talk about artistic inspiration and aspiration, how music binds us together across cultures, and why getting off the couch and into the scene is really very important.
Laura Cococcia: What motivated you to create a career as a musician?
Matt Sucich: I guess when you know what you want to do, it's motivation enough to keep doing it. I know that sounds like a cop-out answer, but I feel like I lived a whole other life before I decided to give all of my attention to music. During that time, there was a definite void that I couldn't quite place, and I think it made me a tough person to be around. I just wasn't happy with the direction my life was headed, and when I started performing regularly and hanging out in the NYC music scene, that demeanor changed. I had never quite believed the saying "you'll know when you find it" until I found it.
LC: What inspires you to write?
MS: Life and love experiences. Mine, or others'. I've never been one for forcing anything, but I'm always prepared to write something down when it shows up.
LC: What established artist made you want to perform and why?
MS: My first real concert was when I was 18 and saw Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers with Bo Diddley as an opener at Irving Plaza in NYC (which is such an intimate room for such a major act.) We were three people from the stage, and even though I had only been playing guitar for about three or four months, I remember studying every move, watching the guitar players' hands, where the mics were placed on the amps, and how the band interacted. I still keep my guitar picks in my back left pocket because I saw Bo Diddley's guitar player do that.
It's safe to say I have NEVER been able to enjoy a concert in the traditional sense of sitting there and listening. For me, it's always been a lesson. It's not that I didn't enjoy the lesson, but ever since that first show, I'd just much rather be on stage than in the crowd.
LC: Art, in all of its forms, has the unique ability to unify people across cultures, geographies and communities. How do you see music playing a role in changing the way we look at the world?
MS: I like this question! I feel like I should be in a swimsuit vying for the Miss America title...
The music I listen to often reflects the mood I'm in. So as far as changing the way I look at the world, music helps make my life a little bit more like a Rob Reiner film. Not always, but often. I spend a lot of my days in the city with headphones on. It's not that I don't like the sounds of cab drivers fighting, or the guy across from me on the train clipping his nails, but aside from enjoying a soundtrack to my day, as I mentioned in my last answer, I'm studying. I'm always listening to production and how I can learn and grow in that area.
I wish music would play more of a part in impacting society in positive ways. Wouldn't it be great if guns had to be traded in for harps? That instrument just seems impossible to me. Do you have a problem with our nation's policies? Are we going to war? Fine, then let's have a harp battle! Not only would this be non-violent -- it would be hysterical.
I've always felt in line with the saying "music is the universal language." No matter what language you speak, where you come from, or how you were raised: you like what you like, and there's no arguing with that. This might be a silly example, but if you put five people in a car, all from different parts of the world, friends and enemies alike, and Bon Jovi comes on the radio, there's a strong chance all 5 will be singing along.
(However, when I hear something like Baden Powell's rendition of "Rosa," that speaks to me far beyond "You Give Love A Bad Name").
Did I answer your question? I suck at being Miss America.
LC: For those who have never heard your music, explain your sound in 5-10 words.
MS: I like to call it "reverb-a-folk."
LC: What's the biggest challenge you currently face in your professional career?
MS. Just being heard. There's a lot of music out there, a lot of blogs, and a very short attention span. The goal is also to play for people who want to hear what you have to say, and that's a difficult thing. But the minute it stops being fun...you know the rest.
LC: What advice do you have for anyone looking to start in today's music industry based on your experience?
MS: Network x1000. Every time I've struggled to make it out to an open mic, or just to see someone I know play a gig, it's been worth it in the end. It will always be worth your time to meet someone new, support a friend, or just be surrounded by the scene you want to be in. Don't let the couch win every night of the week.
To check out Matt online, head over to esmatteo.com. There, you'll also find streaming tracks from Layers and information on where he's performing next.