Matt North is a musician’s musician. The veteran drummer describes his career as “35 years of music with a sabbatical into comedy and film.” His first solo album (Above Ground Fools) is engaging, smart, witty, and, at times, cutting. It features 10 original tracks that address doomed romance, the death of newsworthy news, male jealousy, legal battles, and other upbeat tales of personal failure. All true stories, according to his advanced press.
North was joined in the studio by Nashville A-listers including bassist Chris Donohue (Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris), guitarist Stuart Mathis (Lucinda Williams, Wallflowers), keyboardist Michael Webb (Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton), Michael McAdam (Steve Earle), Billy Livsey (Brendan Benson), Christopher Wild, and The Nashville Horns.
“My only process is just a mindset that it doesn’t matter what I have to go through,” North said recently, “all that matters is what I have when I’m done. It’s the animals that attract people to the zoo and I know how to hire well. Everyone gave their unique fingerprint and it was nothing I could have written or produced. The takes are full takes, we barely rehearsed, and 100% was recorded in Nashville in my garage and Michael Webb’s studio for keyboards. When I worked with Michael Webb, we recorded for an hour then spent three hours making each other laugh. Chris Donohue’s so good he finished his bass tracks in one take then we’d watch Jiminy Glick videos until lunch.”
The lush production (also by North) is what draws you in. Subtle and welcoming, it gives you a sense of security and after a couple listens you begin to focus in on the well-crafted lyrics; which can invoke laughter, self-introspection or both simultaneously.
“I’ll steal Pete Townshend’s line and say that I just make music to entertain myself,” North said recently. “If other people like it, that’s up to them. I can’t control it so I don’t think about it, but I love hearing how the songs impact people. When I wrote ‘Cronkite and Cosell,’ I imagined my living room in the 70s — a big Zenith and green shag carpeting — but what the song means to me is irrelevant now. It’s better hearing how the song made someone think about their own life, their own home.”
Home run effort. Can’t wait for the next one.