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|Matt Wertz keeps adapting and stays vital
Paradise Rock Club
By RACHEL HODGES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
When Wertz first started writing songs his freshman year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, it
seemed unlikely that his then-novice voice would ever grace the stage of The Paradise Rock Club in Boston. On
February 17, though, he took that stage for the second time in one year – no small shakes for the Kansas City
“When I first started writing songs, there wasn’t an ounce of me that thought that I would make a living out of
making music,” Wertz said in a pre-show interview. “It was purely therapeutic.”
Although Wertz started playing guitar at age 15, he didn’t truly come into his own until he started playing his own
compositions. In the four years since releasing his debut album, Somedays, Wertz’s musical style has
undergone several profound changes. As the original pieces were composed for purely personal reasons, Wertz
has slightly withdrawn from his baladeering style in order to make his songs more universally applicable.
“My songs have become more memorable, I think. They’re not as naively written,” Wertz said. “I’m probably not
as candid because initially I didn’t think anybody would hear them. To be accessible you want to be specific with
what’s going on but I like a little mystery too … I think songs are too obvious sometimes.”
Still, Wertz is the first to admit that it’s not necessarily a good thing for a writer to become too emotionally distant
from his songs. In earlier pieces, such as “External Fix-It Remedies,” or “Yesterday Morning,” two standout tracks
from his debut, the true emotional merit of Wertz shines through. While later songs are more accurately
composed by modern standards, they seem to lack the intense heart that made his earlier works so intrinsically
lovable. Listening to Wertz fly through gorgeously hooked pop songs will always be a wonderful experience, but it
is not nearly as moving as hearing him bare all in his original works.
Still, that isn’t to say that Wertz has lost any of his luster in his more recent experiments. Opening for Stephen
Kellogg and Virginia Coalition, the hall was virtually packed for Wertz’s performance. With boy-next-door good
looks and an angelic voice, it’s hard not to fall a little bit in love with Wertz every time you watch him sing, and
people nation-wide have taken notice. Between songs Wertz shared anecdotes with the crowd and asked for
their help singing or clapping along. But while Wertz allows his playful side to come through in his live shows,
you can’t get the full effect of his bubbly personality until you talk to him one on one.
Despite his often heart-string-pulling-sobbing-into-your-pillow lyrics, Wertz seems like a genuinely funny and
lighthearted guy. Between lauding his favorite shoe store – Classic Kicks on Elizabeth Street in NYC – and
discussing how a plane crash is no excuse for cannibalism, Wertz is the type of person you just want to be
around. The 26 year old, whose birthday was the day of the show, is as well crafted as a human being as he is a
As a solo artist, Wertz is strong enough to hardly need additional support. While audience participation
occasionally substituted for the beat of a drum, Wertz does a fine job keeping tempo and entertaining on his
own. Lately, Wertz has begun working with a three piece band in what he feels is the natural progression of his
music. He also has plans to begin doing more band work in the future, though he says he still plays many
songs acoustically to maintain his original grass roots feel.
“Working with a band brings a fresh feel to the songs, but I only work with a full band if it’s appropriate for the
song,” Wertz said. “Our records have instruments, and I want to play the songs like that live.”
As he grows as an artist, Wertz seems to be drawing pieces from many musical genres and weaving them
together to create his particular sound. Citing influences like U2 and Stevie Wonder specifically, Wertz says he’s
inspired by any kind of music that is passionate and believable. Wertz listens to anything from country to rap –
Usher to Bruce Hornsby – and his musical open-mindedness is clear in his finished product.
While taking heart from various musicians, Wertz says that most of his inspiration comes from a higher power,
though he is careful to say that his music isn’t really religious in nature.
“I wouldn’t classify my music as Christian music at all – I think Jesus has some interesting things to say, and
that’s the perspective my writing comes from. I heard Bono say that music that interests him comes from people
running away from or running to God. There’s something about that struggle of believing in something,” Wertz
said. “I believe that inspiration comes completely from God for me. I have nothing interesting to say and no
creative way to say it, so I’m completely dependent on God.”
After hearing his music though, it seems like Wertz deserves more credit than he gives himself. This is one
singer/songwriter who consistently balances his songs with musical merit and honest lyrics – a rare act to pull
off so gracefully.
Check out more of Matt Wertz at www.mattwertz.com.