Admit it. At the end of the day, “words that come right from the heart” are the ones you really wanted to hear—which could partly explain Matt Stern’s success. When it comes to matters of the ticker, he’s an artist who delivers. “You don’t believe in love/Except for some post-modern feeling of…” he sings in From the Heart, a thoughtful track from What You Wanted to Hear. In an age where irony and cynicism have become so deeply imbedded in the culture, Matt’s soulful sincerity seems almost radical. Yet, his warm, breathy vocals and seductive melodies prove that radical needn’t always be rough. Amidst the solicitous chatter of day-to-day living, his quiet, emotional honesty comes as…ahh…soft relief. While he hasn’t lost his boyish charm, Matt is no beginner to the music scene. Having toured extensively and released 5 albums/EPs, he continues to test new waters in and out of studio. With his latest, No Big Deal, he spent less time than usual in the production booth, and let his sonic stories flow au naturel. This is risky for an artist, as a song’s value is often measured by how well it holds up in various stages of undress. Yet Matt’s tunes remain pleasantly buoyant, even in skinny-dipping mode. Dressed up or down, they invite listeners on an introspective voyage, paddling gently through lullaby waves of longing and love. Somewhere along the way, you’ll get the sense that this singer/songwriter is, emotionally speaking, at least half-naked, too. This conjures up a privileged sense of intimacy. Oddly enough, it also suggests a rare type of strength. Matt’s power as an artist derives greatly from his willingness to expose his vulnerability, for, in doing so, he gives others permission to do the same. Listening to him sing, live or on recordings, you, too, might just get the idea that it’s time to take a risk, and speak words that are—yes—right from the heart.
- Kimberly Bourgeois