With the release of “Girlfriend”, in 1991, Matthew Sweet was as responsible for nailing hair metal’s coffin shut as Nirvana was. The retro guitars, the catchy chorus and lyrics that had no trace of trashy women or too much booze jumped out of college radio and MTV (with Japanese animation) to jumpstart a musical era that ushered in earnest songwriting and less spandex and hairspray.
Here it goes:
Q. Now that your new record, “Sunshine Lies”, has been out for a while, what are your impressions of the reception you have received?
A. I’m really pleased that it has touched the people it was intended for, and how positive the feedback has been. Touring behind this record was great, because I’ve haven’t been out since the end of 2004. So I really didn’t know what to expect. We were thrilled about the first week sales for the record, and the fans were really receptive to the tour. Being nervous about a new record and fresh dates, we were so excited that the people were so dedicated.
Q. How important are sales to you at this stage in your career? I’ve read that you didn’t have to sell a ton to make your money back with this release.
A. That’s one of the great things about Shout Factory, they have a much more realistic outlook than the old major label days we experienced. The goal is to sell enough to put out another one.
Q. Since there isn’t the level of expectation from label heads, have you changed your outlook on the creative process?
A. Not really. What’s funny is that when I’m recording, I divorce myself from the business side of things. I feel as good as ever in terms of being inspired to write and record, and don’t feel any pressure. It’s kind of a free for all in the studio, and none of us know how we’re going to make money. On the other hand, there has never been a better time to create music on an independent level, and artists can concentrate on the art of making music. However, I feel lucky that I had success before the Internet took off.
Now that I have a fan base, I’ve found them and can build on that without worrying.
Q. You produced a record by the Bridges last year. Is producing something you’d like to pursue full time?
A. I love those guys. I would do anything, anytime with the Bridges. If I produced them ten, maybe twelve years ago, I couldn’t imagine them not being huge. They are so talented, and I don’t know if they want to branch out in a different direction, but I would love to do it again.
Q. Are you planning on doing any more records with Susanna Hoffs?
A. Yes, in fact, it is very much under way. If you got a kick out of the 60’s record, you’re going to love the 70’s one we’re doing. We were both in high school and college in the 70’s, and love those songs. There are some stuff we heard on the radio then, and also things that we’ve discovered since. We have over 40 songs, and it’s going to be hard to pick from the stuff we have, it’s all so good.
Q. Anything going on with a new Thorns record?
A. I’m not opposed to that at all. The hard part is getting us all together when we don’t have solo projects going on. They all know I would do it. It’s just a matter of time and money.
Q. Would it be just the three of you again?
A. I always wanted a girl in the group, kind of like the Mamas and the Papas. I don’t know if you could technically still call it The Thorns, but us with two girls would be great.
Q. What other areas are you interested in?
A. I do a lot of pottery. I fire and glaze it all at home. I put some pictures on my website, and now I have over a hundred requests for pottery. I’ve done it for over four years. It’s my biggest hobby, other than engineering, mixing and recording. With my solo stuff, working with the Bridges and Susanna, I’ve been really busy for the past few years.
Q. Tell me about “Girlfriend”.
A. When it first came out, everybody wanted to know if it was about a specific girl. The truth is that I write bout general topics. I had just broken up with first wife, and was starting to see Lisa, who is now my wife. I would say that most of the songs I wrote then were influenced by either of those two women.
Q. What are your plans for 2009?
A. Besides working on the 70’s record with Susannah, I’m working on a solo record. Then we’re also working on a solo record for Susannah. We plan to finish her record in 2009, it’s a really folky album.
Q. How hopeful are you for 2009?
A. I think things will get a lot worse before they begin to get better. Even though things are bad, I see that we’re only scratching the surface. But I do expect that after this, the world will be a better place. My hope is that, in a global sense, we start to help each other more. I believe the Internet will help with that. Although we have yet to figure out how to make money on music on the net, the bigger picture is that hopefully more people will get more help because of it.