Szlachetka discusses new album, relocating, future work

Photo courtesy of Joe Lopez

Americana musician Matt Szlachetka was named one of the “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know” by Rolling Stone magazine last year, and he just released his second album. The Technique recently got the chance to interview Szlachetka.

Technique: You spent much of your early career fronting The Northstar Session. What made you leave the group to pursue a solo career?

Matt Szlachetka: I think it came down to the fact that I was writing a ton of material and a lot of it didn’t necessarily fit the style of my previous band. I was getting pulled in a more rootsy, stripped down musical direction, and I really wanted to exercise a lot of influences of my upbringing.

Technique: How does writing and recording as a solo artist compare to working in the band?

Szlachetka: I’ve always been used to lots of collaboration. I wrote a majority of the songs with the drummer from my previous band. Even while I was in that band I was collaborating with other artists. The transition to my solo career was pretty easy because, aside from writing significantly more songs on my own, I still had my core group of writing partners.

I love co-writing songs because you’re able to have ideas pulled out of you that you didn’t know were there. It’s nice to have a different perspective to bounce your ideas off of as well. I would say the main difference between my solo career and previously being in a band is that my writing is more focused now on music that is more roots based instead of adding a lot of pop sensibilities.

Technique: You’ve just released a new album, “Heart of My Hometown.” Is there a particular song on the new album which you are most proud of, and why?

Szlachetka: Man, this is a tough question. If I had to choose one song I would probably choose “Heart Of My Hometown” because of what it means to me and what it means to my audiences and fans. I think we always have to keep looking ahead and thinking about the future, but I think it’s really important to always remember the past and where you are from. Never forgetting where you come from grounds you and makes you who we are.

For me, I’m from a small town in Western Massachusetts, the kind that has that ever familiar “Main Street” and I had the same kind of best friends growing up that a lot of people had. I found through all my touring across the U.S. that I would play all these other small, great towns that reminded me of where I grew up. These towns and people start to become my family and home while I’m on the road, which is a really nice sentiment to have in your heart when you’re by yourself a lot of the time.

This sentiment is always a reminder to me that we all need to keep open minds, open hearts and listen to each other because we are a lot more similar than we think. We are not as divided a country as we are led to believe right now, and it’s important for people to experience other small towns and cities in different states so that way they can witness the similarities and the uniqueness that makes each part of this country great.

Technique: You’ve recently moved from southern California to Nashville, right? What inspired that move?

Szlachetka: I was traveling to Nashville frequently over the past three to four years and built up a wonderful network of friends and colleagues. I feel incredibly fortunate for that because it made the moving transition much easier.

What really resonates with me in Nashville is the insanely talented and supportive community. It’s inspiring to live here and be a part of this community which has deep, rich music roots and such an iconic musical heritage. I’ve always been a “song hound” and Nashville is ruled by “the song.” That’s a direct result of a city and area that has been steeped in the country/Americana genre and culture. It continuously pushes me. It’s made me a better songwriter and I feel honored to live in
this city.

Technique: What does your songwriting process look like? Would you consider your music more lyric-centric, or do you tend to build lyrics around a melody?

Szlachetka: It’s a little bit of everything — especially with a rigorous tour schedule where you’re always on the go. I’ve developed a method of cataloging ideas, and I document them as soon as they come. While I’m in the car I’m always coming up with melodies, lyrics and titles that (with the help of voice activation and voice memos) I’m able to save and revisit when I’m in writing sessions. I do the same anytime I have a guitar in my hands. I find that a lot of guitar riffs, chord progressions and melodies come to me when I’m warming up and just noodling on my instrument.

Technique: What’s next for you musically? Some artists will release three albums a year, and some may only produce one a decade. Where do you think want to fall on that spectrum?

Szlachetka: A lot of heavy touring to promote this album! I’ve got a great blend of solo acoustic shows and full band shows throughout the U.S. and I can’t wait to get back to some of my regular tour stops along with breaking into some new markets. I’ve got a great team in place now, so it will be amazing to have that support going into this album cycle and the next one as well. I’m hoping by the end of the year, I’ll start thinking about the next album. Strategy is always crucial to launching an album — if it makes sense to release my next album in 2019 that would be amazing because I have a ton of songs that I’m itching to record.

Technique: You’re playing Smith’s Olde Bar in about two weeks. Have you played in Atlanta before? How was it?

Szlachetka: I’ve never played, nor have I been to Atlanta! It’s always been a city that has been on my high priority list. I couldn’t be more excited to finally get down to Atlanta, especially to play Smith’s Olde Bar, which is such an iconic venue. It will be such a treat to take in all the history and great vibes from that club.