My good friend Matt was featured in a local paper recently, I thought I'd share. Sometimes his songs make me sad. Sometimes nostalgic. Normally this does not shy me away from music in the least bit, but when this is produced by someone you know and love it has a different significance. I must say his two most recent songs show that his time since graduation has not been spent in vain. I think they're his best yet. You can find them here ('Morning' and 'Holy Ground').
Sufjan Stevens. M. Ward. Elliot Smith.
The musicians Matt Thompson lists as his favorites all are one-man bands. They're multi-instrumentalists who write and record their own songs.
So is Thompson.
The 23-year-old recently moved back to Elgin, his hometown, after graduating from DePaul University in Chicago, and he's looking for a space in the Watch City to perform in his jazzy baritone.
"I'm willing to play my songs if I can find the right venue for it," Thompson said. "I know there are lots of bars in town for rock bands. I'd have to play at, like, a coffee shop."
Meantime, he's posted six songs he's written on MySpace.com, the social networking site for friends, bands and other groups.
"I put them up on MySpace. I send them to friends. Sometimes I play them for whoever wants to listen," he said.
"Went To Your Hometown," featured on both Thompson's and The Courier-News' MySpace profiles, caught your Readers' Reporter's ear. The folksy guitar and melancholy vocals are reminiscent of Tom Waits or early albums by Sufjan Stevens, the wildly popular singer-songwriter responsible for two albums entirely about the state of Illinois.
The idea for that song, which begins with the line, "Went to your hometown and you weren't there," was simple -- he went to a friend's hometown, and his friend wasn't there, he said. From there, he crafted a story, then a song.
"I think with a lot of my songs, they've been inspired by things in life, but I take them somewhere else," he said.
The things that inspire the subjects of Thompson's songs are as varied as the artists who have influenced their sound.
"I listen to a lot of stuff," he said. "I take what comes to me. I don't know what I'd say my music sounds like."
He throws out the name of singer-songwriter (and the Him of pop duo She & Him with actress Zooey Deschanel) M. Ward, but "the only reason I would compare myself to him is he has more of a lower voice."
Thompson has had plenty of time to pick up that inspiration: He grew up listening to his dad's expansive record collection and started playing the saxophone in fourth grade. He moved on to the guitar, bass guitar and drums in high school; studied saxophone in college; started writing songs on piano; and now also plays the piano, flute and clarinet -- although "not very good" at the woodwinds, he added.
Now he's using his time to focus more on songwriting. He hopes to record those songs and put out his first album soon, and he's inspired by those one-man bands that have gone before.
"I think if I have the motivation and really do it, I could get something going like that," he said.
- Staff reporter Emily McFarlan, 29 January 2009