Never Be Me- Song #8 of #365songs – A Musical Memoir

Never Be Me- Song #8 of #365songs – A Musical Memoir

Feature film: Big Significant Things

I went to the Living Room Theater with Mark Orton, who composed the score to that film, to watch that film.

I went to watch it with Mark because I had a song in it. In fact, at the big ‘moment’ in the movie, my song – this song – Never Be Me – played. Hearing my song in a feature film in a theater I have to say was pretty cool.

How that came to be is a really odd story.

Some years ago, I wrote a bunch of music for a character I called Mr. Lonely. Basically, Mr. Lonely sings only songs of heartbreak, I was aiming for the middle ground between Roy Orbison and Tony Bennett.

Big emotional songs, big vocals.

I tried to record some of those songs with my friend Scott Weddle, who introduced me to Mark. I played some of the songs for Mark, we recorded just a little bit of the backing tracks, but then sort of abandoned it, my fault – no money, no time, life skidding into the ditch, etc.

I then – quite a few years later – got a voicemail form Mark.

Saying he was working on a score for a movie, and wanted to ask me about I song he recalled me playing for him. Like – 7 years before. He remembered some of the lyrics, but I had no idea what he was talking about. I went back through a bunch of old hard drives and eventually found what he was talking about – he wanted to know if I’d written the song, Mr. Lonely, and I said no that’s a Bobby Vinton song. BUT then I found this song fragment on a hard drive – where I sing “That guy will never be me, I’m Mr. Lonely.”

And that was it. He remembered that song 7 years later, that I played for him one time.


So I went over to his studio and recorded this in an hour or two.

Not crazy about my vocal but completely crazy for Mark’s piano, guitar and string arrangements.

Mark is brilliant, and we have a blast working on stuff together.

And since then, I’ve written a bunch more “Mr. Lonely” songs.

All of those will see the light of day during this #365ongs project.

Video is footage from the film, slowed down to 6%.


Let’s Pretend We’re Immortal – Song #7 of #365songs – A Musical Memoir

A new song. This was unexpected. I’ve was asked to compose and perform a song based on Chuck Palahniuk’s new novella, “Legacy” at the Bushwick Book Club party.
I was down in LA so no time to read the book or write the song. Got back to portland and had a day to read the book and a day to write the song. I felt like the book was very cynical – but it ultimately was about trying to find a love that would last forever. So I decided to write a song that was the opposite of cynical, a song that was all about believing that love could last forever. And so I tried to write a Roy Orbison song – he is the master of dark deep love. I performed this song the day after I wrote it.

me and my brother – song #6 of #365songs – A Musical Memoir

My brother makes a lot of appearances in my songs, because, hey we grew up together! I have stumbled onto 3 different songs now whose first line is “Me and my brother…”

As I look at all the songs over all the years, it’s easy to now see patterns in the lyrics – words, phrases and themes that repeat. Catholic iconography, fire, nostalgia and regret, drinking, home and ‘you can never go home again’, the complications of responsibility, and among many others of course the old standbys: the beauty of love and the pain of love-lost

THIS particular song, though, was simple in it’s creation and then of course I had to complicate it emotionally.

I was randomly thinking about how my brother and I shared a bedroom that was in an unfinished attic in our home in Minneapolis. As is often the case, a thought or a memory will trigger a lyric, and this one fell out as I strummed some very Ramones-esque chords and happened to have the distortion all the way turned up.

“Me and my brother

Sleep in the attic”

And so where do you go from there, lyrically? Well, I’m already talking about the past – I’m already setting the scene. What were we doing?  More importantly -WHAT RHYMES WITH ATTIC?

“Me and my brother

Sleep in the attic

Under the covers

We hear radio static”

Now we’re talking. That’s a vivid memory, listening to the radio under the covers. I was maybe 8 years old?

Now how can I take that innocent and nostalgic image and scene, and turn it on it’s head?

(you could also ask, why would you want to turn it on it’s head. leave that nice warm and fuzzy scene alone, Matt! you won’t get an answer, but you could ask).

“I told my brother

We were gonna be famous

And we’d end up 

Wherever I aimed us”

Now, did I say that to my brother when I was 7-8 years old? No, of course not.

But I think what I was getting at, was me feeling responsible for him and his understanding of the world. I’m the older brother, though by just 13 months, so naturally I want to do that. The complicating image/theme, though, is “follow me, we’re going to be famous”. There was one brief moment when we were maybe 15 and 14 (I’m guessing) where I said, you should learn how to play the guitar, we would be great together, let’s form a band. He didn’t then, he did later after I was in a band and playing shows. Did I then take responsibility for him, and his understanding of the world like I said? Nope, I didn’t do that either. I was busy writing songs I suppose.

The good news is, I love the simplicity of this song, the complexity of the emotions in it, the throbbing overdrive of the guitars (those not from Ventura don’t know that I wield a stun-guitar when needed) , and the fact that my brother Paul has grown into a man I respect enormously – the guy is literally the best dad ever. He has 5 kids for gosh sake, and his patience is other-worldy. He is always trying to do the right thing (something he didn’t learn from me) and can still make me laugh harder than anyone (he might’ve learned some of that from me). The only thing I can REALLY take credit for is his excellent taste in music. THAT’S a given.

Rewind the Tape-  Song #5 of #365songs – A Musical Memoir

There’s a song by the band Dawes whose chorus goes:

I hope that life without a chaperone is what you thought it’d be

I hope your brother’s El Camino runs forever

I hope the world sees the same person

That you’ve always been to me

And may all your favorite bands stay together”

Although I am not really a fan of the band, that line ‘may all your favorite bands stay together’ is pretty great. It’s a perfect way to sum up what music, and favorite bands, mean to us. And of course our favorite bands never do stay together so it has a romantic or wistful tilt to it. 

Being a super fan of music is fun – and being a super fan of your friend’s music is even better. That’s what Rewind the Tape is about, mostly. Sitting and listening to your good friend’s new song, and feeling excited for them, and wanting to hear it again, and point out that little bit right before the chorus, or some line in a verse that really jumps out that you want them to be sure you noticed. 

Back in the day that would’ve been sitting in Frank’s bedroom listening to albums and handing his acoustic guitar back n forth playing each other our new songs. ( I love you and I miss you, Frank!). Back in the day, AND continues to this day – every time Bill Coffey and I see each other. Showing off the new songs. I don’t think there’s ever been a time where we didn’t have something to show each other. I’m heading your way soon, Mr. Bill, so you better get crackin’ on some new stuff.

I always liked that bit in We Can Work It Out where the Beatles go to 3/4 time…for fussing and “fighting my friends”. So I stole that for my song bit where I sing ‘any new clues’. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to become friends with the Beatles, but if I HAD been….”Hey John, that bit where you go to waltz time? Super cool. Love it. Harmonies are great too.”

All complete songs at


Satellite –  Song #4 of #365songs – A Musical Memoir

Pretty old song here. I remember playing it for someone in the basement space of Ozone Records –  I might’ve still been working there or maybe had just stopped working there. There was a little room down there folks would play in – I think some bands were rehearsing down there too. Bill Coffey and I ended up playing this one a few times in our every-now-and-again duo shows, of course Bill sang that low part perfectly. This recording is just me however, not sure a Matt and Bill recording of this exists – although Bill has been inspired by this project and says he’s going to plow through his old stuff too, so maybe there’s some nuggets in there that I don’t know about.

The first person I played this song with however was a friend of a friend who was a songwriter as well and seemed like a nice guy. His songs were not bad, not great, but they were definitely real songs, not sort of half ideas for songs, which is half the battle.  We decided to hang out a bit and see if we could get some songs together.

I felt like I was contributing to his songs in a collaborative way, which I really like doing and we ‘rehearsed’ quite a few times, with me expecting eventually we’d play some shows. I was starving to do anything musically so this filled the bill as ‘something to do musically’.

And then…he got really weird. He would start getting angry as we rehearsed, at what I couldn’t really tell, and he couldn’t really articulate, but it seemed like maybe he was disappointed we didn’t sound GREAT and that maybe the problem was me? Then he started saying these awfully paranoid things to me, and ultimately accused me of both sabotaging his songs as we rehearsed, and trying to STEAL them. I didn’t have the nerve to tell him he was going to have to write some better songs if I was going to be tempted to steal them. 

But needless to say, that ended that. Not sure what became of that fella.

This song is one that I sang to my daughter Emmalena when she was little, she liked the way the chorus sounded, and still says it’s one of her favorite songs of mine. As with a lot of these old recordings, I only have these cassette copies, not the original tracks, so far as I can find, so many of them I would mix differently given the chance. That’ll have to wait for a re-recording in this and many other cases. I always found this song to be a really difficult one to sing live, not sure why, not sure I ever really cracked it.

Miami Bombast – Song #3 of #365songs – A Musical Memoir

Something that there is very little of in my ‘oeuvre’, if I may be so bold as to use that term…are instrumentals. Crashing Plains had one we played a lot early on, I’ve forgotten what it was it now, not sure any recording exists. This piece here, I am not sure where it came from. My fuzzy recollection is someone asked me to do some spec music for a commercial, and this is what I did. I might’ve made that up though. The “Miami” part of the title, also not sure, I assume it had something to do with whatever I was composing for. 

Miami the city, however, has always fascinated me, starting with the showbiz stories of Jackie Gleason taking over the town. He was such a big star he was able to convince the TV network to build a studio for him in Miami Beach so he could tape his show there, instead of New York. That was crazy power back then.

The city of Miami also plays a very big role in why I am even doing this whole #365songs Musical Memoir project.

Miami was for many years the headquarters of Knight-Ridder Corporation, until 2006.

And my Dad worked for Knight-Ridder for 33 years.

He was managing director of Knight-Ridder Unicom in London until 1990.

And in those connections – Knight-Ridder, Miami, my Dad – there is a story.

More on that in later posts.

Where I’m From – Song #2 of #365songs – A Musical Memoir

My Ventura friends know of course of my long-time musical partnership and friendship with Bill Coffey. We’ve played in a few variations of what we do together – which is, in a nutshell,  the Everly Brothers.  We started with being fans of each other’s bands in Ventura, to doing an acoustic duo act, playing Monday happy hours at Charlie’s By The Sea, for…I’m not sure how long. 2 years? Almost always a really good crowd. As a duo we toured a little, got to open for folks like Peter Case (he was pissed about the quality of the burritos backstage). Shawn Colvin (tripped and fell coming on-stage in Santa Barbara – she was pissed too!.) At one time we had a band called The Third Man which was really mostly Bill’s band, although we did do a few of my songs. We toured this band, with Tim Lauterio on drums and Jason Bays on bass. And I have to say that the shows we did in Missoula (maybe 1997?) were among the best gigs of my life. It was like they’d never seen a rock band before, so I felt like we were the Beatles for 2 days,  It was strange, but…totally fine by me!  Although a spider in the hotel bathtub did scare the shit out of Jason. 

This recording, however, I am not exactly sure when it was recorded except to say I know that that is Gary Newcomb on guitar. Bill and I also played a bunch of shows with Gary on guitar and pedal steel in Boise, mostly at Pengilly’s, and he is that great combination of monster player and really nice guy. He moved to Austin, plays a lot. Hi Gary! As near as Bill and I can remember, this is that touring band, with Tim and Jason, and then we asked Gary to come in and overdub both the lead guitar, and the pedal steel. That’s our best guess!

Speaking of Pengilly’s – for a while there Bill and I played about once a month, or once every two months, and on occasion would play 4 sets a night, Thursday through Sunday. Sometimes with folks sitting in, but most often as a duo. That’s a lot of songs, and man did I love it. Having the legendary folk singer Rosalie Sorrels sitting right in front of the stage with tears in her eyes while Bill and I sang Springsteen’s Highway Patrolman is a cherished memory. 

After we played FOUR SETS, I still couldn’t stop, and would regale bar staff with Bee Gees and Roy Orbison songs while they cleaned up. If you ever need someone to nail Gotta Get a Message to You by the Bee Gees, I’m your man. 

This is a song that we used to do live a lot, that I forgot about until I came across it in that pile of cassettes. We recorded this in Boise, and I am guessing this would be around 2001.  I also think that for some reason, I am singing both lead and harmony vocals on this. Not sure why we decided to do that. Like did I say, “thanks Bill, how ’bout you sit this one out?” 

Verrrrry unlikely!


Take me home

And bottle my dyin’ breath

Take me home

Burned my bridges one by one

I’m going back

to Where I’m From

burns within the heart – Song #1 of #365songs – A Musical Memoir

I bought an Ensoniq sampler in 1994. For a few years I made a lot of music with it, most of which no one ever heard.  

I was reminded, however, just yesterday that this song actually came out on a vinyl release compilation, put out by my friend Shane Deleon. The release included a Rollerball track as well I think.

Anyway! The sampler was a really interesting songwriting tool. I for quite some time had been feeling stuck – or more accurately, fenced in – by the folk/blues tradition of song writing. It seemed hard for me to get out of feeling like I couldn’t write anything fresh because every song seemed like strummy strum the guitar in 4/4. When I got the sampler, those inhibitions fell away, because I “built’ the songs, really, rather than ‘wrote’ them. No rules all of the sudden. Although it doesn’t sound anything like it, I was very inspired by Public Enemy and their sonic approach – I was more interested in creating a sound, and a mood, than hewing to the folk/blues/pop classic song structures. And, the sampler allowed me to indulge in a TON of weird harmony parts. Most of the ‘sampler’ driven songs have 4, 6, 8 who knows how many vocal parts. In fact many of the songs began with me just singing some interesting vocal phrase over and over and dreaming up other vocal parts. The combination of those multiple harmony parts, simple drum samples often taken from 60’s or 70’s pop songs (this one features the drum break from Dizzy by Tommy James and the Shondells), my love of West and North African singing and percussion, and my interest in using my Telecaster to add texture and sound and not just chords – often tremelo-ed up, or using overdriven feedback that made people’s ears explode – I created a set of tunes that I thought were pretty compelling, especially for back then.  

One person that did hear some of it was David Byrne, Mr. Talking Heads himself. I sent him a tape, and he listened to it! Different times. It was pretty exciting to get a phone call from the president of his record company, Yale Evelev, saying “David really likes your songs. What else you got?” Unfortunately ‘what else I got’ didn’t grab them like the first batch of songs and nothing else came of it. One lesson learned – (or at least FOREGROUNDED) – don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I spent a lot of time tinkering with the songs I wanted to send to them, instead of shipping whatever I had out to them the next day, and deep down I think I let the moment pass. Was I scared he wouldn’t like them as much as the first songs? Yes. Did tinkering on them make them better? Also yes. Nevertheless, timing is everything. When opportunity knocks, open the f**king door, don’t spend a month wondering what you’re going to wear when you finally open the door. Opportunity doesn’t hang out for very long.

This was probably recorded sometime around 1995, that’s my best guess – gee whiz only 23 years ago! 

All voices and instruments by me.

Black and white footage of Genevieve Liberte shot by Scott Ballard for my Lower Boom Screen Test Series that screened at the Portland Art Museum during their Andy Warhol retrospective in 2015.

Also: The old stuff I post, like this, have been transferred from cassette tapes, some as much as 30 years old. So…apologies in advance and only this once for less than pristine audio quality.



cassettesI’ve decided to set myself up for failure. That’s a thing, right?
I’ve written a couple songs over the last few…decades. Actually, I’ve written hundreds of songs, and recorded demos mostly on my Tascam 4-track tape machine.

Here’s a photo of tapes completely full of song demos.

Of course, very few people have heard 99% of them.
So! I’ve decided to do something that almost certainly is impossible. Which seems like a great reason to do it.
Starting February 1st., I am going to post a song a day – for a year.
365 songs. I still write a ton, so most of the songs will be pretty brand new. But, I am also going to pull everything out of the archives. I’ve got studio recordings of some of my old bands: Crashing Plains, Cool Engine Myth, The Third Man and the Boxer Rebellion (those last two with my brother from another mother Bill Coffey), lots of studio recordings of Bill and I as a duo, lots of studio recordings with me solo, and tons of these song demos, acoustic. electric and sample-crazed avant pop. And I still write everyday.

At the end of that year I’m going to pick the best new songs, do proper recordings, and put out a vinyl album, in a partnership between Cavity Search Records and Lower Boom.

I’m doing this for several reasons. One, it’s kind of a drag that so many of these songs remain mostly unheard. But, even more importantly, I feel like it’s an opportunity to test myself in terms of rigor and discipline. Can I really write so consistently for a year that I can upload a song every day? Even if I dig 100 songs out of my demo archives, (a drop in my demo bucket) that’s still well over 200 new-ish songs.

I’m betting that I can, but it also means that I’ll have to transform/re-think/evolve everything else in my life. I’ll have to be firing on all cylinders, every day, in order to actually to do this. Will some of the songs inevitably just be sketches of songs? No doubt. Will some be embarrassingly awful? Probably. Will I sometimes skip a day. NOPE. Will I end up with a solid album’s worth of songs that I’ll be incredibly proud to put out? WITHOUT A DOUBT.

Wish me luck!