On Matt Monta's solo debut, American Rhymin', the singer-songwriter tended to cast an outward glance, penning tunes inspired by overlooked peoples and a global political situation he viewed as catastrophic.
On Matt Monta’s solo debut, American Rhymin’, the singer-songwriter tended to cast an outward glance, penning tunes inspired by overlooked peoples and a global political situation he viewed as catastrophic.
“This was back at the height of the Iraq invasion, and I just hated the war. That was gasoline for me when I started writing,” said Monta, 31, seated in a downtown coffee shop for an early April interview. “In my life I’ve always looked to those less fortunate and thought, ‘Why? Why are they in the position they’re in? And how is our society structured that’s causing things to be this way?’”
For his latest, Where You Find Love, Monta shifted his gaze inward, turning out deeply felt songs steeped in regret, heartache, loss and redemption. “I somehow made it through the first day,” he sings on “I Wish I Held You Longer,” buoyed by graceful notes of icicle-fragile piano.
Much of the material, which the musician laid to tape at Grandview’s Oranjudio Recording Studio and Sonic Lounge Studios in Grove City beginning in the winter of 2014, took shape over the last five years as Monta immersed himself in various religious texts, absorbing everything from Buddhist teachings to the Bible and the Quran.
“When you explore that, it forces you to explore yourself,” said the singer, who will be joined by his band the Haymakers (Jamie Molisee, lead guitar; Bryan Kossman, drums; David Butler, keys; Matt Paetsch, bass) for a record release show at Spacebar on Saturday, April 11.
Furthermore, as a political science junkie, Monta, who once considered a career in politics, noted he’s always been fascinated by global power structures and how different cultures interact — issues that still surface in his music — and after years spent analyzing these ties he started to question his own role in his environment.
“I started looking back, like, ‘I’ve described the rest of the world; now how do I fit into it?’” he said.
While this introspective tone lends itself to some fairly bruised tunes, Monta is never truly alone on Where You Find Love, and time and again he finds solace in the steady strum of his guitar, singing: “I’m tired of talking so I’m singing the blues”; “I’ve got enough breath to sing through the dawn”; “I could take comfort in my music.”
“[Music] has been a constant. Sometimes it’s there as a foundation, and other times it’s there as an escape,” said Monta, who was born and raised outside Dayton by attorney parents and started playing guitar at 10 years old because “it seemed like a cool thing to do.” “Everything I’ve done, there’s been that thread of music. It’s always been an integral part of who I am.”
Photo by Meghan Ralston