Four years ago when I started blogging I wanted to make sure that even though I had my hopes set on interviewing legends in the music industry (something that came to fruition a year or two into it) I also wanted to interview local talent as many Long Island natives have gone from being obscure to some of the biggest people the industry has ever seen (Billy Joel, Mariah Carey, LL Cool J to name a few). One artist in particular who has the ability to become the next big thing is Long Island native Matthew Zeiss, an up and coming singer/songwriter who hit me up a couple of months ago about working together on a piece or two. I listened to some of his music and it drew inspiration from my point of view on so many different musical directions that I had to meet this guy and see what he was all about.
Driving from so many musical phases such as the beginning of Rock N Roll with Elvis Presley to the 90’s Ska movement with No Doubt and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Matthew Zeiss truly has set his heart on making music something he wants to do the rest of his life and holds no apologies for it. Recently being featured in the Long Island Newsday, and with an album coming out very soon, Matthew sat down with Manhattan Digest recently to discuss his music life growing up, who inspires him and what he is ultimately looking forward to in the future (besides his dream duet with Billy Joel). Take a look.
So tell me how you got into music in the first place?
Since I was about five years old actually. My dad would play a lot of Elvis Presley music & his videos as well, and I would try to act like that in a way to impress my parents because when you are at that age it tends to be what you try to do. Not to mention my dad was a singer/songwriter, not publicly but to himself so I would always hear him playing guitar and the music that he recorded on his cassette player in the 80’s. I grew up on that type of vibe. I also got into poetry a lot around the 3rd grade and started writing quite a bit of it around that time. Then in middle and high school I started taking these very long poems and turned them into songs, figuring out the structure of the songs and that I could actually sing. When puberty came in and smacked me in the face I would practice two hours a day, everyday for about four years. I would practice until I could sing really good. I would emulate legends like Tom Jones, Billy Joel and Elvis to name a few and in that process I developed a voice of my own. In doing so that had powers including the ability to sustain and it just went from there. Over twenty years ago all I wanted in this world was to be a singer and that still rings true to this day.
Who would you say are some of your biggest musical inspirations?
Aside from Elvis and Billy Joel, I don’t really know. I would say they are my two biggest ones, however if I were to trickle off from there I would say people like Lenny Kravitz, Luciano Pavarotti, Ray Charles, Muddy Waters, Chuck Barry, Little Richard… the list goes on. I would say Paolo Nutini, a bit of a left field choice but I like what he does style wise. My father too of course, I sound just like him. We are both inspired by Elvis and come from the same gene pool so my vocal chords developed the exact same way, so we have that on top of many other things in common and is someone who I truly look up to.
As someone who knows your music but some of my readers don’t, how would you describe the sound and style of it?
I use the word “alternative” just because it fits a large genre, but honestly I would say Rock N Roll. Billy Joel’s music for instance is considered Rock N Roll but it is more songwriter based. My previous album was more aggressive but my new album is going to be more in line with how artists like Billy & Bruno Mars are doing. Just much more organized, more orchestrated, a lot of different instrumentations. I don’t even know how you would classify it but I would consider it as singer/songwriter/Rock N Roll.
It seems as if since the new millennium that pop and hip-hop has dominated the music industry. How does an artist like you who is a bit more obscure make your name in this type of a music world?
I think I would do it with flair, the same way how Bruno Mars does it. He’s a good looking dude, he has his own style, he can move, younger girls love that kinds of stuff. Billy Joel happens to draw an older crowd, 25 and up I would say. I feel I could blend in with both the younger crowds and make my name because every album is going to have its pop tunes and steer in a direction that could go younger. Sure I have that, but I also have songs that whether it be something you are listening to on a pair of headphones or at a live concert it will draw a crowd that any age can really like. So I think I can make my mark as my music doesn’t have a particular generation geared towards it, it is timeless.
Couple of random questions I want to ask you. Dead or alive, what two artists would you love to see perform together that never would in a millions years?
Oh man, that’s a good one. I think Tom Jones and Elvis would be the two. I feel people underrate Tom Jones because the first thing that pops into your head when you think of him is the song “It’s Not Unusual”, which is somewhat of a novelty song. His vocals are fantastic and is an opera singer which is surprising to most people. He can hit notes on songs of his like one called “Till” that is just phenomenal. I feel the both of them would be an insanely dope concert.
What is your favorite album of all time?
“The Stranger” by Billy Joel. That was his breakthrough album and had so many hits come off of that such as “Moving Out”, “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” and so much more. That is an album I could listen to endlessly.
Do you have a favorite song as well?
All time favorite song would be “Burning Love” by Elvis but now I would actually say “Fragments Of Time” by Daft Punk. “Random Access Memories” is a fantastic album and that song is just incredible.
So you are in stage, your doing a set. All of a sudden one of your crew members comes on with an additional microphone set and says “Someone wants to join you on stage”. Who do you want that someone to be?
Billy Joel. Duh. However, I probably wouldn’t have the ability to perform as I would be doing a combination of throwing up and crying all at the same time.
What are you really hopeful for going forward now?
Success. That’s it. By success I don’t just mean fame or stuff. I would love that of course, I’m a public dude. Success means that I can sustain a family life doing what I love. I do want a family in the future with kids and the whole deal, but I want to provide for them doing all of this and not struggle day in and day out at a job that I hate. This is a job that I genuinely love doing and never get tired of, so from here forward I am looking to write music that people can love and connect to. I’m looking for that one moment that I am on stage and there is 100,000 people singing the songs that I wrote. That is success for me.