I had the chance to chat to Kristian Matsson, alias The Tallest Man on Earth, on the phone, over my morning coffee. Ahead of his gig at The Sage, we talked about his new album, ‘I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream’, New York vs Sweden and the many sources of his inspiration.
So there was a 4-year gap in between ‘Dark Bird is Home’ and ‘I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream’. Was this your intention? Do you think it was necessary?
To explain the four years, there were two years after ‘Dark Bird’ (2015/2016) where I just toured like crazy; I toured all of the time. We played so many, so there was not really any time to do anything else. So those were half of the four years, but then I was very tired after all of that touring and I was done with my record deal, so it was actually 2017 that I decided to take a little break, a breather. I didn’t rest that much though because I did an EP with some classical musicians that arranged music for some of my songs, called Music, so I did that and I did some concerts and then I started my video projects. Coming up with songs, writing songs, a demo and then recording them the same day on video, you can see that on YouTube. And then coming into 2018 I continued to do that and… yeah, it felt like I didn’t have any time off.
I started touring again in 2018 and then in between two legs, I recorded this album. So, here I am.
Do you find it difficult to be creative on tour?
It has been, but now it’s getting a little easier, maybe I’m getting a little older and don’t feel as sorry for myself anymore.
I’m not touring as crazily as I did in the past because I’m trying to build some air into there, to actually be creative because playing show after show, you get very tired, your sleep quality is not great on a bus, so the energy I have is for the show. I wake up and I have the best time of the day and then I go into kinda zombie-mode when you’re on show 163.
Do you have a favourite song on the new album?
I do… I do. I think ‘Running Styles of New York’ is my favourite.
Any particular reason for this?
It just came about in a really strange way, yeah (laughs). I had been struggling for a couple of days, working on some songs that didn’t want to be written, and then my neighbour, my upstairs neighbour, came home and greeted his wife, he did that so lovingly, and something just clicked in my head, I grabbed my guitar and wrote that whole song. But then, I think that evening I had to leave, I went on a short trip for another project. I had two really long flights and, I don’t get sick often, I got this fever and I was like “I don’t have time to have a fever”, I didn’t know how to deal with being sick, so I kept on going and I recorded the song and I was like sweating, in my underwear, playing Bass Synthesisers, like super distorted. And it had nothing to do with the title, well the ‘fever dream’ part, cause it was like a fever dream, and then all of a sudden the song was staring like ‘what just happened?’.
It is a song about trying to, you know, no need for religion in my life, but that feeling that we are all one, and we need to start to act like one, take care of each other and love each other, even though it’s like super hard. So, I get reminded of that playing the song.
So, we’re obviously living in quite a chaotic and even, sometimes, scary world. Does this influence your music at all? Do you feel a need to address it?
(laughs) I feel that from the start my songs have never explained anything, or given any answers to anything. They’ve been questions of me trying to figure out the world, and I guess for most of my career I’ve been trying to figure out relationships and how to make those work- and where that is. But, recently we need to kind of figure out what’s going on and how to make it better and how to be nicer to each other. So that’s, basically, the big part, or the biggest part, of what I’m doing right now.
So you live in New York now, what was it that motivated you to make this move? It’s quite a stark contrast to living in Sweden.
Yeah. I was going there lots, but then I met a woman (laughs) that had to be there for work so, but then… for it being a chaotic place and a place that I’d say that I don’t like once in a while all because it’s just… it’s a beast. But then, I’d love it too and I… I kind of stayed. I’m in Sweden now, in my kitchen, I have a little farmhouse here that I’m not getting rid of, and it’s probably here I’ll grow old. It’s especially good for me, as we’ve just talked about because in these crazy days, New York’s been really good for me: where I can, every day, be reminded that I’m grateful for this and it’s a luxury, I can be reminded that we all have to figure out how to live together because, in New York, it’s from the poorest to the richest and people from all across the world on this pretty, tiny island- there’s the same amount of people in New York as the entirety of Sweden. So, I get reminded not to lose track cos I love it out here, it’s beautiful and I have the mountains and the rivers, but it’s easy to get stuck in a bubble and just get your inputs from, you know, your computer and your phone, and that’s deeply problematic. So I get that from New York, but then I come here and get reminded of the other pressing issues that we have to figure out, which is the environment because here I spend a lot of time in nature and get reminded of all these types of species: animals, plants and trees and seeing how vulnerable they are. It’s a life of reminders and frustration. It’s not about seeing the negative and the problems, to me, all of these people in New York inspires me, they give me so much, just as nature here inspires me so much and I’m extremely grateful, I’m trying to walk through life with gratitude because that empowers me. Then I feel like I do good things, it inspires me to do good things.
Do you feel apart of the music ‘scene’ in New York?
I’m (laughs) not sure what the music scene is over there anymore. But since it’s such a hub of touring bands, I’ve been touring for most of my grown-up life, so I would say most of my friends are musicians, and they’re touring musicians which is kind of weird because then you don’t see each other that often. But then, if you just position yourself in this spot, where you know they’re going to pass through, then New York is great because there are bands coming through all the time. It is very inspiring, I have a lot of thanks to give to friends, cos friends are coming through and they play and I’m inspired, I run home and I play my guitar all night from seeing them. They give me musical life for sure.
This interview is for a student newspaper, so I was wondering if you had any advice, or words of wisdom, for young, aspiring musicians?
Well, I… actually I do. I… oh god I’m going to sound like a dad… but just remember to have fun. I know that sounds really vague. To remember to have fun and remember what drives you from the beginning, why you wanna make music because there is so much today of this ‘career-making’ that had nothing to do with the music, of just ‘oh, this will look great on Instagram!’ It gets really far away sometimes. All of a sudden it’s not fun and we measure things in fame. In those moments that I’ve stopped thinking about that and go back, which I’ve been doing a lot lately because I’ve been so inspired meeting and playing with a lot of great musicians, that I’ve been playing instruments a lot. You should really get good at what you’re doing, spend hours and hours doing it and have fun and don’t think too much about the outcome or product or concept. Just do a lot, and then it kind of works out in the end, then you already have success. For me, success is defined as something in life that is meaningful to do and something that creates a positive outcome into the world. Success is not the end product because I’ve played a lot of cool places; I’ve played the Royal Albert Hall and the Sydney Opera House but I don’t think that’s what I’m going to remember in the end, it’s the joy of figuring out a new song or getting better at your guitar or meeting someone through your music. That’s what I’m going to remember.
Super vague! But I can play the guitar, I’m just learning how to speak.
Last modified: 8th November 2019