Matthew de Heus • Greatest Misses

The Stylistic Odyssey of a Musical Storyteller

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music, Artist Feature,   From Issue 929   By: Robert E Martin

28th April, 2022     0

Over the past ten years singer/songwriter Matthew de Heus has evolved into a vital musical fixture of creativity within the Mid-Michigan music scene, releasing three albums of original material blended with inventive cover arrangements consisting of Town & Country (2016), Silk Purses (2018) and Mercy Me (2020) that were all recorded at Reed Recording Company, while also working the local live venue circuit with his power-trio Catfood Sandwich.

Now de Heus has released a newly packaged assortment of his material consisting of three new original songs along with an array of the strongest songs from his earlier releases in a priceless 15-track ‘ Greatest Hits’ type collection with a tongue-in-cheek title called Greatest Misses that is a ‘must have’ piece of work from one of the strongest voices populating our regional music scene.

Replete with haunting melodies, invasively infectious musical hooks, and thoughtfully concise visual lyrics, Greatest Misses serves as an excellent sampler of the broad musical odyssey Matt has embarked upon with his studio work, which takes bold and inventively experimental forays through the world of Country, Power Pop, Jazz, Blues, and Indie Rock; which is a bold move in and of itself for an artist who is often compared to classic Country icons such as Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Charlie Rich, largely due to the lushness of his rich and powerful baritone voice.

One of the core reasons that the evolution of his songwriting is so engaging is the background of the songwriter himself. A former chemical engineer for Castrol and British Petroleum who resided in England for many years, Matt also taught chemistry at Delta College, and also ran for State Representative on the Green Party ticket, in addition to playing and performing his music. 

Deciding to focus his energies squarely upon his musical career, Matt quit his teaching job and bore full-steam ahead with music as the primary focus on his compass while also working as a guitar technician at Bay City’s  Herter Music - but the depth and breadth of his life experiences factor solidly into the depth and layers of his musical acumen. 

The fruits of his labors and commitment paid off last year in spades when his musical endeavors were honored by the voting public when Matt secured four trophies at the 35th Annual REVIEW Music Awards for Best Country Songwriter, Best Music Video, Best Single Release, and Best Country Video for his haunting song, Gone, which is also included on Greatest Misses.

Throughout the evolution of Matt’s musical odyssey, he has created a diverse collection of original material that refuses to be easily classified by genre and is both purposeful and personal in terms of its lyrical and narrative tone, which pull the listener into a semi-autobiographical mosaic of lyrical insight and tightly crafted musicianship.

When asked about the songs he selected for Greatest Misses, Matt responds that each track - most significantly the newest ones such as You’re the Milky Way showcase the evolution of his growth as a songwriter. “Being in on the joke of assembling a ‘greatest hits’ album of sorts, I’ve been writing and recording my own music for ten years now and have three albums under my belt, with Silk Purses being my Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in terms of experimenting with different styles.”

“Certainly the songwriting part has evolved quite a bit and now I have a broader catalog of material because of the amount of opportunities I’ve had to expand my craft,” he continues. “The groove that Andy Reed and I have in the studio is pretty well established, so now there’s a real comfort level and chemistry in being able to get my musical ideas across.”

“I keep trying different things. When we grew up music had more diversity on the radio because genres weren’t so narrow; whereas when you perform in bars you’ve got to have some diversity to the material in order to hold a crowd, which is what I do with Catfood Sandwich,” he states.

“The other thing that sometimes plagues Indie musicians is that it’s really easy to write the same song again and again,” emphasizes Matt. “One of the things I’ve become very conscious of being a vocalist and bass player is how playing the bass affords you more flexibility than other instruments where you have a more specific voice - you have a tendency to sound like yourself on a piano or a guitar, whereas bass is more flexible.”

Matt goes into a more detailed explication of how he’s rethought the methodology behind his latest crop of material, citing one of the newest songs You’re the Milky Way as an example.

“One morning I was watching some videos on YouTube and this pop band called Lawrence popped up that had a little informal performance with this tune called Gracie’s Song. It had an energetic Latin vibe to it and I shared the song with a couple of people, because I’ve never recorded anything with that Latin feel.  Some time ago I took guitar lessons from David Swain at the Herb David Guitar Studio and he taught me about the clave’, as Latin music was his specialty. Out of the recesses of my mind I heard that descending bass line and was still looking at the video of that YouTube song and thought, ‘What if this song is about Gracie’s Mom? “

“So I came up with the line, ‘Gracie’s Mom has it going on’ only to quickly realize that I couldn’t use a line like that if this is a song about my dream girl,” he laughs. “I needed something sexier than that, so I came up with: ‘Next to my dreams and stars you’re the Milky Way’, Then I thought, let’s do a song about Midnight and came up with ‘Midnight is a Deeper Shade of Blue’, tapping into my engineering background to come up with Celsius and Fahrenheit. Bingo, I had a song. That’s the process right now and they really came together that quickly.”

“I had another song to go into the studio with on a Saturday, but replaced it with this one and both wrote and recorded it in one day. I had Loren Kranz come in and do drums and keyboards and it came out great.   Part of why I write in different musical styles is that working in a music store, I’m constantly exposed to different styles.”

Does Matt find it important to stick to the defined standards of a particular genre, or does he strive  to blend the styles, even if that runs against the grain of musical purists?

“I have a couple of thoughts on that,” he responds. “In one way because of my bass playing background, I know quite a bit of music theory, but work with people who know much more.  I bounce ideas off them and ask can I do this? What should I do here? Things like that. They’ll listen and sometimes say, ‘You can’t really do that’. To which I usually respond, ‘Well if I do it twice than its’ not really a mistake!’ “

“But apart from that, you are trying to write within the confines and boundaries of a context, so things aren’t out of focus and all over the place. Sometimes I find I’m being very intentional in not copying a particular style, but working within the boundaries of that genre.  I find it very entertaining and healthy for me to be at the mercy of my Muse instead of trying to make decisions and advance myself intentionally in other ways.  I like to just work with it and see where it goes.”

Regarding his catalog of prior releases that have led up this latest release of Greatest Misses, Matt states that he prints up CD’s out of necessity.  “I don’t use business cards but compact discs. Apart from containing my music along with the correct spelling of my name, they’re also harder to lose than a business card and it’s a good way to focus peoples’ attention upon the music.”

“Putting something like this out is really a labor of love,” reflects Matt. “I’ve reused  songs in the past on both Silk Purses and Mercy Me so I could rearrange them to sound like an album; plus, I don’t want them to disappear. The other ones can go obsolete, because no more copies of Silk Purses will be produced. That way if I hit it big those other CDs will make me a millionaire,” he smiles.  “I want to make the early ones special.”

Does Matt find it difficult balancing the hats between performing musician in a bar band and building his career as a budding singer-songwriter?  “I consider myself a singing bass player and kind of back into it that way,” he states.   “If somebody wants to describe my bass playing style, I don’t get a whole lot worse as a singer, so the way I see it I’m either going to get up and sing my own songs or make the cover songs that I do sing my own.” 

“Fortunately, this community has always encouraged that kind of thing,” he concludes.  “When people ask for your songs it’s a rewarding feeling; and my approach to covers sometimes overlaps with my approach to songwriting. I’ve never been able to really learn things by the record.

“One thing I’ve learned is that some songs are so bad I don’t try to cover them; but if you write new lyrics you can also have a new song.”

People can order Greatest Misses directly through Bandcamp or by hitting Matt up directly. “It’s on all the streaming platforms as well.”

 

 

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