As anyone who follows me on any of my social media sites has probably gathered, I’m a huge fan of Knoxville-based musician Matt Woods. I have to be in a strong state of mind and heart to listen to his music, and anyone who writes songs that make me feel that much is automatically Essential Listening for me. I had the opportunity to interview Woods briefly last time he was in West Virginia, the state I currently (and for a brief period of remaining time) call home. Woods has a lot going on right now. He’s currently on tour with Larry Fulford and Pete Stein and will be going out later this year with Caleb Caudle. He has a 7” out now, called Deadman’s Blues, with a new record due out this spring. On top of that, he’s participating in a giveaway over at Dear Ben Nichols that’s also featuring Lucero and wood carving artist, Bryn Perrott.
Let’s get to it.
You have a new single out right now, “Deadman’s Blues,” with an EP to match.
Yup. There’s an acoustic version of “Deadman’s Blues” on there and a version of “Help Me Make It Through the Night” by Kris Kristofferson. It’s the first time I’ve ever recorded a cover. I wrote “Deadman’s Blues” in the summer of 2011, because I was out of business for a while with my broken finger. While I was down with the broken finger, I hoped to write a lot of music, but I pretty much only wrote that one song. [laughs]
It’s a pretty intense song, lyrically, especially because you tend to write songs that are non-autobiographical. What inspired you to write this one?
Being on the road, mostly, you know. Just, you know… Being away. It’s a very personal song. It’s just, kind of, you know… Part of life, kind of a thing. And, you know, there are always elements of truth in a song. There has to be. It’s a pretty introspective tune, and I don’t always write that way. I mean, sometimes I do, but, like you mentioned, sometimes I write story songs, but even with those, there’s always parts of me in it. The emotions are pretty real, even if the account is fictional. Like, “Johnny Ray Dupree” is a fictional account about a murderer, but the emotions in it are pretty real.
I think you’re good at that too. Not a lot of song writers can write about what they don’t personally know, because I’m assuming you’re not a murderer. [laughs]
I like songs that tell stories. They’re some of my favorites.
I think the thing about it, though, is that if you’re writing story songs… Like, a story song can work for face value, you know, just as this narrative, but I think those songs always work best when there’s subtext in there. You know, when there are more intangible, underlying themes going on. Whether it strikes the listener or not, there’s subtext in my story songs. I hope people connect to those songs in that way, but, ultimately, if they just like the song because it’s about some dude killing people, that’s cool too. [laughs]
Oh, I think it strikes them for sure. The fact that there are underlying emotions and truths to your songs… I think that’s evident, and I think that’s one reason why people enjoy your songwriting and performances so much.
“Port St. Lucie” is an interesting tune. It’s got this happy beat that puts me in a great mood, but the lyrics are not happy at all.
No. No, it’s not, and I think it’s the juxtaposition that makes it. It’s, like, the most cheerful misery you have ever heard. [laughs]
It’s weird, I have this song I’ve played forever. I wrote it in the late 90s. I’ve traveled with it and brought it through all of the bands I’ve had and everything, and now Bryan [Childs] really loves it, so maybe I’ll record it again. I’ve recorded it five or six times. It’s called “Sunshine.”
Oh, yeah, that’s a great one. You should definitely record it again. I know a lot of people who love it, too.
I was playing a lot around Knoxville in those days, when I wrote it, and, for some reason or another, it became apparent that people were connecting with it, and a lot of women in particular would connect with it. They would come up, and be like, “That’s my song!” And they were so happy when I played it. It also kind of struck me as odd that, like, when a lady would come up and be like, “That song, that’s me,” and it’s, like, so sad. The song is really sad, you know, the content of it, and I want to tell them, like, “I really hope not,” [laughs] but it’s cool that it moves them. Sometimes I think it’s mistaken for a happy song, because it really kinda moves along, you now, but if it’s coming from me, it’s probably not a happy song. [laughs]
[laughs] Sad Bastard’s Song Club.
I think that’s been happening a lot with “Deadman’s Blues.” I see it around, you know. People talking about how they can relate to wanting one thing that doesn’t necessarily coincide with some of their other desires. It’s a very universal, human theme, I think. I think even people who don’t travel for a living can to relate it.
Well, it’s what we hope for, as songwriters, that people can relate.