Matt Keating is one of those guys who rarely makes the trek from New York City over to the Jersey side unless he's got something new to support; so it probably won't come as a surprise to find out that he will indeed be bringing copies of his upcoming disc to his show at the Saint in Asbury Park on April 12th.
Keating has been steadily releasing great alternative rock / Americana based records for over a decade now. Songs like "McHappiness" and "Sanity In The Asylum" were minor hits that received major airplay in the area back at the old 106.3 radion station. He is currently in between record labels but has been talking with several companies about the new record.
According to Keating, the upcoming CD is similar to Tilt-A-Whirl (his last release) but veers even farther towards the Americana / alt-country genre. Although he wasn't purposely trying for any one particular sound, while he was setting up the sequence of tracks he noticed an abundance of country-flavored songs.
"With this new album I went in and recorded 24 songs," explained Matt Keating. "Normally what I do is pick the best songs, but I liked all of these so what I decided to do was take the songs that were the most unified themactically. It turned out that there were a lot of country influenced songs, so the record is sort of like a country record. We left a lot of the more rock songs off of it and that will be a follow up record that we'll put out sometime next year."
Keating spends a lot of time setting up the sequence of tracks for his records, which is something he really believes in.
"I see a record sort of like a movie," said Keating. "Each bit of a different scene needs to be edited in the right sequence to create the desired effect. You can't just mix them up. Yet I think it's really a shame that the modern CD has made it so sequencing is kind of irrelevant to a lot of people because they just put them on their IPODS and click on right through. But I know that there's still people who care. When Radiohead put out OK Computer, so many people were relieved that they made an album that worked so well as an album."
Keating seems comfortable with the way his career has traveled through the years. Early on he met Graham Parker and told him he was a big fan of hismusic. Graham replied wryly, "If you like my music you'll be forever doomed to obscurity." That's a line he'll never forget but one that goes along with the standard line of calling him a musician with a "cult following" or one for the obscure music fan.
"It's just a catch phrase people use if you haven't been mega successful or something," said Keating. "I've seen a lot of people I like with that moniker. It doesn't really mean much to me because the levels of success in the music industry are so astronomically different. You could wind up like Michael Jackson and look what's happened to him! In some cases, obscurity is a good thing."
The fact that Matt Keating is obsure after all these years is somewhat strange considering he got his start playing piano for a Mafia club in Boston. It was an Italian mafia club - the same sort that launched careers for many singers in the 50s and 60s. The club was located right next to a dogtrack and owned by a cigar smoking guy named Rocky. Keating had just moved to the Boston area and was looking for work. Matt remembers that the job was a little different than most gis. "He would decide what songs we could do. It was really ridiculous! Maybe I shouldn't say this stuff anymore. I could wind up at the bottom of a lake wearing cement shoes."
Matt Keating will be coming to the Saint on October 12th for a return show as part of their Asbury Cafe series. During the Asbury Cafe nights, the Saint transforms itself into a "listening room". People are asked to be quiet and really pay attention to the music; there's no smoking and the club probably serves as much coffee as it does alcohol. It's a great way to see artists like Keating who have a strong singer-songwriter background with their songs.
"I always like acoustic shows," explained Keating. "I think that a lot of artists like me put a lot of work into the lyrics and the song structure. A lot of times I think people go out to hear the beat and they don't really seem to hear the artistry behind the songs. So I think it's cool when people can recognize that. Although don't confuse it with folk...
"I don't actually mind the word folk. It's kind of funny because I have a quote on my desk by Louis Armstrong that says, 'All music is folk music, I ain't never heard no horse sing a song.' And I think that all music really is folk based. The problem with the word folk is that most people associate it with James Taylor, Kumbaya, and 'A Mighty Wind'. But really if you think about it, it's more like Woody Guthrie or Leadbelly or Bob Dylan. I guess what's the new phrase? Americana? Or Alt-country? It's all folk to me. These people are just afraid of the word folk."
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.