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Matthew Sturm: Living the Dream
By Sean Smith
Fort Wayne Reader
When singer/songwriter Matthew Sturm decided to move to New York a few years ago it didn't come as any great shock.
After all, this was the guy who had grown up in the shadow of Ghostbusters and by his legal drinking days was showing up for costume parties dressed as Dr. Peter Venkman, complete with homemade proton pack assembled from everyday household items. No wonder when he first visited the city that never sleeps he found his way to the firehouse where scenes for the movie were shot sans map. That's right. Call it a sixth sense or great intuition. Sturm would probably tell you that he simply felt at home.
So, in November of 2006 he made it official and if there was any doubt that leaving his friends, family and supportive fans to fulfill his dream of living in the Big Apple was a bad idea, it was done away with the day after he arrived. "I moved out here on the 1st, so by the 2nd I knew it was the right decision. I knew that it might not last forever, but it was definitely the right thing to do. It was time to move on and try something new," reveals Sturm.
Though the move wasn't surprising, the fact that his music got placed on the back burner was. Sturm had already found an apartment before his uprooting and quickly secured himself a job with Apple. As comfortable as he found himself with the city, it was still a bit tricky figuring out the subway system and adjusting to different living expenses. The cliché of settling in began to settle in and his muse must have either gotten lost along the way or was a tad on the homesick side, because Sturm just wasn't writing songs like he used to.
Realizing that the music wasn't happening, Sturm turned his attention to another passion: comedy. "I had always told myself if I moved out here that I would get involved with Second City Theatre, because I knew that they had a training center in New York and then realized after moving out here that they weren't really doing anything with it anymore. Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre was kind of filling that void, so I chose them," shares Sturm. "It was a fantastic experience and something that I will continue on with. I'm working on a two man improv show that will start up this summer. There are two locations that we are talking to about doing this. It will be a half hour show based on audience suggestions. The zenith of comedy gold."
While training in sketch comedy and improv theatre, part of his education included seeing other improv actors perform at least once a week. "It was great because you got to see people who were at the same level or maybe a little further along. In some cases, like Asscat 3000 at U.C.B. on Sunday nights, people who were much further along," declares Sturm. "I got to see very recognizable names in comedy. Amy Poehler, Horatio Sanz and Jason Sudekis."
Then last September, Sturm found himself out on his patio with his guitar and before he knew it he had written two brand new songs. Then when December came around, two more songs. Where did this sudden surge of inspiration come from? "I don't know. With a lot of stuff that I write, there's a lot of truth to it, in regards to what I'm going through at the time," admits Sturm, "So, it's difficult when I'm in a situation that doesn't have any resolve to it, even if that's not what the song is about. Having gone through a few different things since moving out here and seeing those things wrap up, its been easier to find some way to complete these ideas that I've been tossing around for awhile."
Now that he's writing again, Sturm says he has close to a dozen songs for an upcoming album. "There are 10 right now. I was just going to do an E.P. and then I thought there was enough to do a short full length. So, I just wanted to get started and do it in one really big push, instead of piecing it out. So, I was trying to carve out time to get started on it, but then I started writing a couple more songs and now I've got one more done and two more that are halfway done. I'm going to wait to record until after I get these done. I'm not going to rush through to get them on there, but I'm confident about getting them on there. So, it probably will end up being 12 tracks."
Given that he utilized a band for his last album, fans might expect more of that full-bodied sound for this upcoming record. But, due to the hectic, random nature of New York musicians and a decision made some years ago, the album will consist of the bare essentials.
"Very shortly after I did the last record, I wanted to do something stripped down. I'd spent a lot of time playing and performing songs with just a guitar and none of that ended up on the album," he says. "I'm solidifying how I want the overall sound to be on the new album. I just basically want a guitar, a microphone and a big, echoey room. Almost like a Jason Molina kind of thing. I'm doing it all on my own. I have a couple people who have had some really incredible experiences with engineering and mastering. They've worked with some pretty big names and they're going to help me out with post-production. All of the tracking and recording, I'm doing that at home."
Sturm hopes to have the completed album ready by the fall and in the meantime he continues to play gigs as often as he can. He's had a handful of shows at Reservoir and has upcoming performances at Karma Lounge and Googie's Lounge, which is upstairs from The Living Room where Norah Jones was discovered.
But for now, he's gearing up for his second homecoming show in as many years, taking place at Mid City Grill on April 3rd. The Matthew Sturm Band will once again be playing well into the night with plenty of surprise guests and maybe even a new song or two.