Matt Hobbs’ emotional new album is open to interpretation

Photo courtesy of Stacey Bode

It has become incredibly challenging to emerge as a musician, especially in a town as musically inclined as Atlanta. Sure, one can land a gig at a coffee shop performing a special rendition of The Fray’s “How to Save a Life” and be certain to gain a few admirers who only looked up from their coffee because they recognized a familiar chord. So while cover artists have a place in the music scene, they do not offer a fresh take on the art of expression through music — a fresh take that is severely lacking in recent productions. However, Matt Hobbs is no cover artist.

Matt Hobbs is a man who interprets music beyond its aesthetic appeal. His lyrics become a definitive statement of one’s past, while the accompanying notes offer the right amount of audible feedback to induce the respective emotions upon the listener.  Matt’s new album, “17th Street,” is several years’ worth of work that defines his principle that music, especially when written to an ambiguous “you.” “[‘You’] is the most intimate, direct way to talk about events” because this “you” can be interpreted however the listener desires. Thus, “17th Street” becomes an almost ad lib work in which one can present any character as the recipient of the progressive lyrics within each song.

Matt describes “17th Street” as a concept album that chronicles his adaptation to life in Atlanta after moving from a well-established social spectrum in Gainesville, Fla. The two acts of the album, divided by an instrumental “Interlude” at the middle of the track list that serves as a mental recess, depict his various responses to fluctuations in work, relationships and musical opportunities that culminate in his realization that Atlanta has become his home in “The Night This Town Got Beautiful.” Though Hobbs has his own personal interpretation of the album, he emphasizes that what makes his work special is that it appeals to that ambiguous “you” whose interpretation is left to the listener’s design.

What is most astonishing about Matt as an artist is that his choice of genre for the album, piano and acoustic rock, was simply based upon his belief that said genre was the most fitting means of telling his story.  “17th Street” could have been written just as easily to an indie rock or soul tune, and performed just as well because Matt is that good, but its meaning would have been altered from the emotional development that Matt masterfully wove into it.

With “17th Street,” Matt has broken through the confines of unoriginal, uninspiring music. Matt Hobbs is Atlanta’s next John Mayer. That statement holds a lot of weight, but it is true. No other artist of late has produced an album that chronicles such emotion while allowing for such open interpretation.

“17th Street” was released on Sept. 27 and will be available for free digital download on Gumroad as well as iTunes, Spotify and through limited physical distribution.