Matt Simons is not your standard singer-songwriter. Unlike the standard Nashville act, he does not appeal to the audience with a guitar and cheery offerings. Instead, Simons taps into a maximalist melancholia with just vocals, keys and percussion.
Simons’ most recent performance in Nashville was at the historic Basement on 8th Avenue, an intimate location that is—as its name suggests—in a basement. It is a space that is easy for performers to make their own since the audience is small and the environment is wholly dedicated to the performance. For instance, Simons requested during a particular track that the audience be completely silent in order to give the song the focus required. This would have been impossible at a larger venue with a less intimate feel.
Currently, Simons is touring with his good friend Chris Ayers, who is as buoyant and plucky in his demeanor and subject matter as Simons is not. Ayers is still on the hunt for his first big single. The two artists provide a dramatic foil against one another, adding to the weightiness of each. The sorrowful nature of Simons hits that much harder after the contentment of Ayers. The celebration of love and discovery in an Ayers track gives credence to the heartbreak of a Simons track. The two artists have one remaining show left in the tour, in Portland on Nov. 27.
Simons’ inspiration and influences are clear: some of his tracks are straight from the soul revolution of the late ‘60s, others from the R&B he grew up listening to in the early 2000s. That is not to say that each and every track is homogenous and defined, but that the overall texture of Simons’ work is thoughtful and rooted in a serious treatment of his own emotion about himself, relationships and everyday life.
Throughout the show, Simons played songs from each of his three albums, bringing together the various work he has done and giving a feel for the progress he has made as an artist, from the hard-hitting vocal pieces of his early work to the more pop-oriented tracks of his later work.
Simons is producing a new album and has been working on the project for quite some time. By his own admission, he is not the type of artist that releases new music every year, preferring to offer new music to the public only when he believes it is ready, a process that can take years. Though he released his last full album, Catch & Release, in 2016, he has come out with a few new singles from the album-to-be: “Amy’s Song,” “Made It Out Alright” and “We Can Do Better.” In addition to the trademark melancholia, “Amy’s Song” in particular features chilling vocal harmonies and an organ, creating a spectral gospel vibe that’s worth a listen.
You can view a number of Matt Simons’ music videos here. His music is available on streaming sites such as Spotify and Apple Music.