Artist Interview and Spotlight: Matthew Logan Vasquez of Delta Spirit (Gone Solo)
If you’re a reader of EarToTheGround, then Delta Spirit is not a new name to you. In fact, their frontman Matthew Logan Vasquez is probably on the shortlist of names you know from today’s indie rock music scene. What you might not know is that he recently released an album called Solicitor Returns. I was glad to get a chance to catch up with him at the Goodyear Theater in Akron, Ohio to learn a bit more about his music, songwriting, and career trajectory.
From the outset it became clear that Vasquez is a free spirit, wheeling around the evening with his band mates as if the “rock life” is his first nature. His comments, language, and demeanor all portrayed the confidence of a man who’s spent many years, not just days, on the road. We were in for a treat getting to hear Vasquez present some of his songs as the opener for the iconic Goldsmith brothers and their band Dawes. It was, in Vasquez’s words, a “nice practice for the Newport Folk Fest.”
Before the show, I ran a few questions by Vasquez, who answered them all with quick wit and a bit of wry humor. It clearly wasn’t his first interview or first time hearing anything I asked him. He explained that his latest album, Solicitor Returns, is a kind of “mom and pop” operation, handling much of the day to day work with his wife. They’re working so hard that they are putting out another solo album soon, putting off any further Delta Spirit work for the time being. Later in the show Vasquez made a crack about insurance underwriting, so perhaps the “rock n’ roll” life and the mom and pop pragmatics are colliding.
Vasquez didn’t have time to get into the details of his songwriting process, but it sounds like he is prolific; he explained that he has numerous songs written and it’s just a matter of choosing which songs fit together for an album. He explained that the new record will have more “big” songs and will include greater variety. I look forward to hearing that because Solicitor Returns provides a few different “types” of rock from iconic throwbacks (that honestly made me think of Elvis) to contemporary near-grunge jams. To think of him writing with more breadth intrigues and terrifies me.
I asked about his influences and he mentioned a few of his own band mates as talented influences. For example, Dustin Loveliss recently finished an album and Vasquez is impressed with his music. He also mentioned young up-and-comer Spencer Garland, who performed on both keys and guitar during the show with amazing proficiency. Then, with a flair for the unexpected, Vasquez explained his recent love for Mozart and although he wouldn’t connect it as a direct influence he certainly did not seem to be talking about it ironically.
I had to ask about his popular track “Personal” to get the inside scoop on it. Interestingly enough, he wrote the song when he was 19 years old; it’s about having to leave his first band when he signed with Interscope records. He explained a dramatic moment drinking with a homeless guy in a baseball field, a man who will forever be immortalized with the line “drinking with a prophet.” It was obvious that Vasquez could unpack all of his songs with this kind of thoughtful introspection and I’d honestly love the opportunity to learn about their stories; he is a gifted songwriter and beneath his polished rock persona seems to be a well-traveled, but thoughtful and reflective creative.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Vasquez’s performance, though. He was, in a word, energetic. Obviously aware of his role as an opener, Vasquez was self deprecating as he “warmed up” the crowd for Dawes. He mixed in a few “oldies” with his own originals, fusing a sound that was both new and exciting, as well as old and nostalgic. For the generationally mixed crowd sitting around me, there were lots of folks singing along and joining in on his act. It was his comfort on stage that really helped me realize just how seasoned Vasquez really is. From manipulating the crowd to calling out his buddies from Dawes, we were all just there for the Matthew Logan Vasquez show. Making references to the King himself, Elvis Presley, as well as a similar rock-influenced country artist Dwight Yoakam ingratiated Vasquez to his audience. From a musical performance perspective, though, it was Vasquez’s ability to nail dynamics that impressed me most. He wasn’t just a full throttle rock band or a slowed down singer songwriter; he could do both of them well, and often within the same song. His style is one that had me literally “leaning in” to focus on his meaningful lyrics and thought-provoking songs.
To give a good indication of Vasquez the man, he ended our interview with a great comment. He said that he is “thankful for anyone who knows who I am.” He appreciates the support for what he’s doing as a creative. He wants to keep being “creative and interested” in his work. It’s safe to say he succeeds in that. If you haven’t had a chance to check out Solicitor Returns yet, it’s a fantastic introduction to Vasquez. He has us all champing at the bit for the next entry in his ever-growing, expert rock and roll discography.