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07
Jun

Interview: Matt Alber

mattalberPhotographer Adrian Lourie – the man behind cult photo-zine Meat – talks to San Francisco-based singer/songwriter Matt Alber, ahead of his June appearance in the UK…

I first met American singer/songwriter Matt Alber in November 2012. He was in London performing his first UK show to a standing-room only crowd. I’d been introduced to his music only a week or two before his visit by a friend who encouraged me to listen to his second album, Constant Crows, and a heartfelt acoustic cover of Whitney Houston’s, ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’. His lyrical storytelling and voice, not to mention his dashing looks, captivated me instantly, and I was determined to photograph him.

When you meet him it’s easy to understand why Matt entrances those who cross his path: his bright, affable charm is hard to resist. Add to this an incredible talent for heartbreaking, sometimes melancholic, and always profoundly emotional lyrics, and that voice, and he makes sounds so soulful and achingly beautiful that he’s been compared to Rufus Wainwright and even had Madonna gushing his praise.

A self-confessed ‘choir geek’, Matt earned his singing credentials from an early age singing in Fundamentalist Churches. Not quite as odd as it seems for a young gay kid growing up in St. Louis.
“I toured Japan with the St. Louis Children’s Choir and got to climb Mt. Fuji, teach kids in Tokyo how to break dance and take a hot springs bath with all of the boys in my choir. It was a trip I will never forget,” he says.
A degree in Vocal Performance, summer singing at a run-down amusement park in Iowa, and a brief tour with a Christian pop band followed. Fate then  brought the boy to San Francisco where he joined professional men’s ensemble Chanticleer, honing his craft as a counter-tenor who could belt out gospel songs like no one else . His first record with the guys went on to win a Grammy.
 
Matt ended a five-year tenure with the group to pursue solo songwriting, and ended up in Vaudeville. Always up for a new experience (and a camp outfit), he landed a lead role in the legendary San Francisco Cabaret show Beach Blanket Babylon. “I never dreamed I’d end up as a tap-dancing Christmas tree, but it was just what I needed. I’d show up early to the club and if I got my make-up on quick enough, I’d pop down to the basement where they stored the giant wigs and rickety pianos and I’d write songs in the dark.”

Tommy Boy Records signed Matt to their new label for gay and lesbian artists in the mid-00s, which prompted a move to the City of Angels, where he shot the epically romantic, Mad-Men style video for ‘End Of The World’. The video was a gift from his Hollywood friends and proved a pivotal moment for Matt. Deciding that the more corporate side of making music was not for him, Matt left the record label and began touring as an independent artist in 2010. Three years on he is a mainstay of the live music scene, not only in his adopted San Francisco, but across America and beyond. “I was so terrified on that first tour. I was like, ‘What if nobody comes?’ Then I got to Chicago and 300 guys were packed in up to the stage and I thought, ‘OK, you’re going to go do this now.’”
 
This summer Matt returns to the UK to perform at London’s Royal Vauxhall Tavern to launch ‘meat San Francisco’, a special edition of my pin-up pictorial magazine, shot earlier this year on location and featuring a host of men from ‘The City’. Unsurprisingly, he features on the cover and shares the pages of meat SF with many of his best mates (and one ex-husband!).
“To me, meat reminds me that handsomeness is more intoxicating than sexiness,” says Matt,
Along with his RVT show, Matt is planning to gig across the UK and though his shows are acoustically-led, Matt hints at some additions to his set that may prompt a change of pace for the singer.
“Most people know me as the beardy gay guy behind the piano or guitar, but I’ve got some dance moves nobody knows about and I wanna show London how we do it in San Francisco!”
 
For more information about Matt Alber visit www.mattalber.com. Catch Matt live at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern on Friday 14 June 2013 - www.rvt.org.uk

Posted: 7 June 2013

 

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