Arts & Life Editor Christina Oddo ’14 sat down with Matthew Scannell, lead vocalist and guitarist for Vertical Horizon, before the concert on Oct. 26 at Uptown.
How did you write the song “Everything You Want?”
“I was living in NYC and money was really, really tight, so it was like a time bomb ticking; when is this all going to crash and burn? One night at around 3:30 in the morning, I was asleep, but I heard this mantra. I thought, wow that’s really cool, I like that. I said I really should, being a ‘song writer,’ get up right now and write this down. But I thought, well it’s so good that I will easily remember it in the morning. I don’t have to get up now. And that never ever happens. You never ever remember anything in the morning. I roll over and I go back to sleep, like you do when you get a great idea. About an hour later, I heard the chords. I thought, I really should get up and write this, but I’m really tired. I’ll remember it in the morning. Then at about 5 o’clock in the morning, I heard the music, the mantra and the chorus all at once, and the lyric was there; everything was there. I said I have to get up now. I thought, this is cool. This is a good song and I need to get up and actually write it down. And it came out very quickly. Sometimes they’re easy like that, or really hard, like ‘Best I Ever Had.’ ‘Best I Ever Had,’ I probably worked on for about six months–coming back to it and going away from it. I knew it was a melody that felt right, but I didn’t know how to get there. And I was experimenting with it in third person. Ben Gross, who was working with us on the record, suggested that I use first person. And he was absolutely right. Instantly the song just came together, and created itself after that I guess.”
How do you prepare for a show?
“Unfortunately, I’m not a natural singer so I have to work at it, and I hate that. I have to rehearse and I have to do warm-up exercises. I take vocal lessons from a vocal coach in LA, and I keep the vocal lessons on my phone. I run down a vocal lesson before I go onstage, so usually about 25 minutes before we go on stage I’m singing and making all kinds of awful noises in the dressing room. And I definitely won’t let you record that!”
What is your favorite part of performing live?
“I love the interaction. I love it when people sing with us. I think that’s the biggest honor. I love the intimacy of that–even when it’s a big group of people. It feels like we’re unified. And the fact that it’s my music is a complete honor; that never fails to amaze me. I love that.”
What is your main inspiration for your music?
“Generally speaking, my experiences inspire me. They are things that I’ve gone through. Every once in a while I’ll write about something I imagine happens out there in the world, more of a story-style song. But most of my songs are first-person experiences, things that have happened to me, whether they are good experiences or bad experiences. They’re all the more real, and the lyrics feel all the more real, because they are things that have been lived. I am able to put a little bit more of my heart into it.”
What was your favorite album to create?
“‘Everything You Want’ was certainly one of the most important for us to create. It was the one that really raised the profile of the band, and made people around the world aware of our music. The latest record we are working on now, which will be out hopefully in the first quarter of 2013, is to me the most enjoyable thing we have ever done. It is the most laid back, the most natural we have felt in the studio. I think we are really comfortable with where we stand as a band. We are not forcing anything; we’re just letting it be. But at the same time, musically, we are reaching new places that are stylistically getting into some fresh territory for us: a little bit more influence from electronic music, dance music and a little more up tempo. Sometimes we tend to be in the mid-tempo songs. And I love quicker songs that really propel you, so this record has been a real thrill for me.”
What’s going to happen after this album comes out?
“We will certainly tour behind this record, and that probably means internationally as well. I know we are going to Asia in January, and maybe we will be able to play some of those new songs then. We will see how far we can take this record. I just plan for us to be able to keep doing this for as long as we can. In the music business it’s easy to make a plan and then realize, oh crap, we need to change the plan. I think for me, we agree to keep the goals very simple; the goal is to continue to play for our fans, and continue to be grateful because ultimately it’s the fans who enable us to play music, and it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do in my life. It’s a please-and-thank-you kind of thing continuously for us. I am getting more into working with other artists as well. I hope to over time become a producer. That’s a really fun thing for me to do. And it doesn’t necessitate me being on a tour bus or in a bunk somewhere. I can be in my own bed.”
What artist would you want to work with in the future?
“The artists I want to work with are probably artists I haven’t heard of yet–that sense of wonder at hearing something brand new and exciting. I’m on a huge Elbow kick. I love that band. I just got the new Miike Snow record. I think that’s very interesting. I love working with women, too, because I am so used to the things I do as a man, that it is really refreshing to hear a woman’s voice. I’ve done it in the past a little bit, but it would be nice to find someone fresh and exciting and see what we could do.”