Grateful Web Interview with Matt Glickman

Article Contributed by gratefulweb | Published on Saturday, September 9, 2023

The jamband community is no stranger to rising stars, and among them, New England's very own Matt Glickman is catching the spotlight. A recent Berklee College of Music graduate, Glickman's influences are as varied as they come, from spell books and folklore to adventures in synth-infused Americana. But what sets him apart is his intimate connection with mental health, not only as a subject he resonates with personally but also as an advocate within the music industry.

Set to release his debut live album "Live from Starks, Maine 10.1.22" on November 10th, Glickman invites listeners on a journey that delves deep into the heart of jamband music, but with a twist. The album's remarkable 20-minute solo-acoustic rendition of Phil Lesh's "Unbroken Chain" is testament to his innovative approach. The album also boasts contributions from Darby Sabin, known for her collaborations with Grateful Dead affiliates Oteil Burbridge and Tom Constanten.

Produced by Nadav, the skilled jamband bassist from the psychedelic group Ripe, "Live from Starks" promises to be more than just a regular jamband experience. The polished and echoing ambiance is reminiscent of bands like Goose but still contains those timeless nuances of Grateful Dead songwriting.

The backdrop to Glickman's musical narrative, though, is poignant and real. The challenges of mental health and personal loss have deeply informed the compositions, adding an authentic depth and richness to the tracks. Born and raised in Greenwich Village, Glickman has been an active presence in the New England jamband scene, working closely with well-known acts like Buddahfly and Zach Nugent of Melvin Seals & JGB.

His journey has not been a solo one. Collaborating with legends from the Yardbirds to the Grateful Dead family, Glickman's musical tapestry is a rich mix of old school rock and the new wave of jamband performances. And now, as he prepares to feature in the upcoming Yardbirds' "Family Tree II", the horizon looks even more promising for this young artist.

But don't just take our word for it. Here's Matt Glickman in conversation with The Grateful Web:

GRATEFUL WEB: Matt, the Grateful Dead and its members have clearly had a profound influence on your musical journey. Can you speak a bit about how their music resonated with you personally and how it has informed your own songwriting?

MATT GLICKMAN: Hunter's dark narratives about characters who are down and out resonated with me as a metaphor when I was a teenager trying to find my way musically and as a person. More recently, these lyrics have influenced me to write this sort of sonic saga "Yellowood" about choosing the path of perspective less taken--that of enlightenment and positivity--when you're feeling like you have nothing spiritually, emotionally or in any capacity. With my mother's passing in the last few years, Dead lyrics resonate with my grief, which I am shamelessly opening a dialogue about with Backline Care to try and help others who are struggling. The quirkiness harmonically of the Dead's catalog caught my ear and since then, it has been a lesson in using odd time signatures as a writer when I want to create tension.

GW: Your 20-minute rendition of "Unbroken Chain" is terrific. What inspired you to reimagine this specific Phil Lesh track, and what does the song mean to you?

MG: Thank you! Unbroken Chain was one of the compositions that turned me onto the Grateful Dead, the jamband scene and onto continuing pursuit of songwriting as a whole given its quirkiness and some of the music theory involved...unwritten harmonic rules being broken geniusly by Lesh's creativity. It was an inspiration for me to study music theory and more at Berklee. The song is a big part of my journey as a musician as it has expanded my mind beyond barriers. I wanted to put out an acoustic Unbroken to provide myself more freedom to improvise in ways that are uncommon in the jam scene. Without a rhythm section, I was able to spontaneously use some inspiration from classical music to mess around with tempo while still paying homage to one of my heroes. When I hit the eleven and seven jam section, I spontaneously jam an odd time signature bar here and there in straight 4/4, breaking the pulse, which would be a challenge to pull off with a full band; I wanted to add some surprises like that in my reimagination of the song. The song to me is about how everything in the universe is connected; there are so many contrasting feelings that the composition emotes musically at different times which are all seamlessly tied together and that to me is a metaphor about connectedness.

GW: This album's creation was deeply influenced by personal struggles with mental health. How did this period of your life shape the music on "Live from Starks", and what message do you want to convey to listeners who might be going through similar challenges?

MG: I again unfortunately lost my mother to ALS in 2020, around about the same time as doors in the music industry started to lean closed due to COVID. The combined effect for me has been profound. She was my best friend when no one wanted to hang out with the nerd who was studying classical music all day in high school…it hit really hard. The impact of COVID on music and my grief led me to break down a bit and has shaped a lot of the writing leading up to this show and its release. I wrote a line in "Steady as Footprints" that says "seek, 'cause what you give will be what you chose to take" which is a message letting listeners know that the amount of negativity they choose to accept in their lives will--through their subconscious--become the amount they give back into the world; I've noticed it in myself. So, it could get listeners thinking that if you're struggling with anxiety, depression and more that it's important to seek positive people, events and activities and push aside the pain so that you can create love through your presence despite your struggles.

GW: Your description suggests a departure from traditional jamband recordings. How did you collaborate with Nadav from Ripe to craft this unique sonic landscape, and how do you think it pushes the boundaries of the genre?

MG: Ripe is an amazing band. I met their lead singer through a gig we were called for together, which led to working with Nadav. He was producing the band's work and playing bass for them at the time; they have a poppy sound to their production and songwriting which already pushes the boundaries of the jamband genre. I wanted to take a raw and gritty live improvisational performance and then find someone who works in a more sterilized style and fuse the two extremes into a new creation. I think this sonic paradox moves the needle of the jam scene towards a cleaner yet more honest sound.

GW: From spell books to folklore, you draw inspiration from diverse sources. How do these themes manifest in your music, and what drew you to such eclectic influences?

MG: Cliche influences are boring to me. I always admire writers who take the Dylan-esque path of reading obscure old literature and injecting analogies into the music. Dylan's lyric "written by an Italian poet from the 13th century" inspired me to dive into literature from that era..this was when I found the 13th century occult book The Wisdom of the Ages and the Secrets of the Sages. The book inspired me to write "Secrets of the Sages" about being unexplainably trapped in the past as street lights morph into sad church candles commemorating loss while the main character questions and finds their purpose through depths of mystery. Since ancient times, there has been literature, metaphors and artwork about the unexplainable, the supernatural and things and feelings that can't be put into words or a locus of personal control. I've always found this fascinating. You can't really draw trippy metaphors from more popular classics like Lord of the Flies or Moby Dick as much as you can from occult books.

GW: Having worked with legends like members of the Yardbirds and the Grateful Dead family, what have been some standout moments or lessons you've learned from these collaborations?

MG: Meeting and playing with your heroes is a priceless experience that they don't teach you how to handle in art school. As a Furthur fan, my first of a few gigs with Sunshine Garcia Becker taught me the characteristic Dead 'lilt,’ a feel of the groove that I think you can't really master without the privilege of playing with people in the Grateful Dead family (and certainly not with a metronome); it's especially noticeable on tunes like Franklin's Tower. I cried in my car after this first GD family gig because I was so overwhelmed with inspiration, joy and music; It was quite the experience. Yardbirds Family Tree II is a work in progress that I’ve had the honor of being a part of. Kenny Aaronson's bass playing has improved my organ playing, giving a better feel just through my remote tracking with him and others.

GW: Studying at Berklee must have been transformative. Can you share a pivotal lesson or experience from that time that still resonates with you?

MG: Ahhh! I don't know where to start. So many moving experiences. Berklee was so enlightening. I learned how to phrase lyrics more directly from staff writers in the industry. I learned to be ready when you are called for something the hard way, turning down a lucrative publishing contract as a teen songwriter so I could focus on partying in college and wait until later to start putting eggs in bigger baskets, which has happened through collaborating with my heroes. A pivotal lesson from my organ teacher Dave Limina was to not hold back and to inject your personality and your id—your raw self—into your playing. This man magically taught me Hammond Organ in a few months and it has led to calls to play organ with Zach Nugent, who has gigged a good bit with Phil Lesh and was in a band with Melvin Seals. Intimidating. I'm sort of filling in for Melvin now? Or going to probably be compared to him? Okay. Let's give it a go. Berklee definitely helped me on gigs with Zach.

GW: As a vibrant force in the New England jamband community, how do you see the scene evolving, and what role do you hope to play in its future?

MG: I see the scene becoming more of a melting pot and becoming more commercial. Billy Strings is adding some heavy metal flair into his acoustic work and Goose is pushing alternative production timbres and lyrical tropes into their jamband. Both of these bands are getting so big that I think they're starting to put the jam scene on the map of mainstream music. It's interesting how musicians are expanding on the groundwork laid by our heroes.

GW: Given that you've shared the stage with various notable acts, how have these experiences influenced your approach to live performances and the energy you bring to "Live from Starks"?

MG: My experiences opening for The Elovaters, "Big Ship" Freddie McGregor and more have been pivotal in teaching me how more seasoned artists reach pinnacles of performance and run their businesses. It's a lot of pulling mussels from a shell and keeping what's tasty.

GW: With the upcoming Yardbirds release, 'Family Tree II,' on the horizon, can you give us a sneak peek into what to expect and your role in the project?

MG: So excited about this project! The current Yardbirds lineup has been working hard on this release with the addition of my organ playing. You can expect a classic bluesy 60s invasion sound with a modern twist and some jamband licks from me. A lot of the tracking has been done remotely; I layed down some grooves out of the Boston area over Kenny’s basslines while the rest of the band was all around the globe. It’s been an awesome learning experience recording with seasoned cats who are twice my age and who have been a part of shaping rock music as we know it. I played B3 organ on this record's worth of still unreleased material and made some new friends and great memories along the way. The organ playing led to hot tub conversations with their producer about fishing and a strange impromptu photoshoot of me smoking inside of a coffin that I believe the Lumineers were using for a music video. Fun stuff.