Sitting Down With a Superstar

Ashley Winward

I had the unique experience of sitting in on a recording for WNHU, our campus radio station, as Eric Neilson of “The Late Night Buzz” interviewed the incredible Matthew Santos.

While the name might not ring a bell for all at first, go put on Lupe Fiasco’s smash hit “Superstar” and pay attention to the hook. Yup, that would be Matthew Santos. Not a huge hip hop fan? Never fear, because Santos is truly more than meets the eye. Actually delving into his discography, you’ll find more of a folky/acoustic performer with a Gavin DeGraw vibe. His lyrics are deep and thought-provoking. He’s so much more than just the hook of a Lupe song.

The interview started with discussing his work with Lupe Fiasco. He talked about how it was exposure to a very different crowd than his own, but the exposure was great for him. He also discussed how difficult it is in the music industry to “brand” yourself some times in a certain way.

“Humans are much too multifaceted to be considered one niche,” he explained.

He also discussed his musical start a little bit. His first calling was actually visual arts before moving to Chicago to pursue music. The artwork of his album Matters of the Bittersweet was, in fact, done entirely by him. Studying music composition at Columbia College Chicago, he began performing at open mics at a coffee shop, boasting eclectic locals like bagpipe players and the infamous “Sitar Steve.”

His musical inspirations range from Jeff Buckley and Bjork to Radiohead and Fiest, which find their way into his musical style in the most subtle of ways. When asked what he’s been listening to recently, he shared that he’s a big Alt-J fan and highly recommends The Dirty Projectors because “they’ve found a way to write music without cliché.”

Santos is currently working on a new album, which he’s hoping to get out in the fall. He says his new music is more of “old songs, revisited with new knowledge.” When asked what he wants to get out to his fans through his music, he answered “a sense of emotion depth that they can relate to.”

Just in the few songs he performed in the studio, Santos did just that. With just him on acoustic and his keyboard player Matt Nelson, the duo had such a big sound. Santos’ voice has such a soul that I can only liken to that of Marcus Mumford and Jeff Buckley. In an age of such heavy electronic music, listening to such artful songwriting and pure instrumentals is not only refreshing but relaxing. After personally having a very stressful week, hearing Santos play melted all my worries away.

To the aspiring musicians and music majors on campus, Santos gives simple advice: “Those who seek fame and fortune in music shouldn’t be expecting this as an end goal. Embrace the weird in your voice. Entertain the unique qualities about yourself.”

Between the questions and plugs, both Matthew Santos and Matt Nelson were down to earth guys. I very much enjoyed sitting around and chatting with them and it made me appreciate the lengths they take to get their music out that much more.

I’d like to thank Eric Neilson with “The Late-Night Buzz” for letting me tag along for the day. Catch his show every Wednesday night on 88.7 WNHU from 10 p.m. to midnight. Also keep your eye out for new music from Matthew Santos in the fall; all of his other music can be found on matthewsantos.com or Spotify.