Writer of the Week: Delta Spirit’s Matt Vasquez

Photo by Sam Kweskin
Photo by Sam Kweskin

Matt Vazquez, the singer and guitarist for Delta Spirit, recently spoke with American Songwriter about the band’s fourth studio album, Into the Wide, which comes out on September 9th.

How would you describe Into the Wide?

Looking inward to get outward.

How would you compare it to your last album?

Our last last LP had a lot of reaching in it. It was rediscovering what we could do as band. Into the Wide is more entrenched in the center of our tastes. I wrote 45 songs, and we worked for over a year toiling over the music. Every song five out of five of us voted it on the record.

What was it like writing songs in a windowless room? Claustrophobic? Helpful?

For me it was a it was a place of solitude that I could create the characters of the record. It was also infested with rats, flooded by Hurricane Sandy, and then infest with rats again. It’s been affectionately called “The Rat Cave.” As a band we found it very difficult to get on the same page in such a closed in environment. Once we got to Atlanta everything just clicked. A little natural light goes a long way.

You’re an amazing live performer. Were you always comfortable on stage? Where did you get your stage moves?

OH THANK YOU! Comfortable is an interesting word. I’m not sure how to describe what I’m feeling on stage. This is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I don’t want to waste a second of it. I’m always just trying get everyone in the room connected. That connection is the whole point of music.

How often do you play for fun, just for yourself? What sort of stuff do you play when you do?

I play music everyday, all day. I write a lot, I jam a lot, and I help friends record. I play all sorts of music. The fun kind, the mad kind, the sad kind, the happy kind. It doesn’t matter so long as the voices in my head turn into songs.

How did you learn how to play guitar?

My Grandma was the sixth employee of Fender back in the 50’s. When I was eight my brother Travis and I got a G&L guitar. One of Travis’s friends taught us how to play “Come As You Are.” From that moment on I was obsessed with music. I learned Hendrix, Floyd, Beatles, Metallica, Nirvana, Pantera, Ozzy, etc.

Who are your songwriting heroes?

There are waaaaayyyyy too many to count.

Kurt, John, George, Paul, Leonard, Iggy, Ziggy, Johnny, Hank, Roy, Elvis, Chuck, both Bobs, all the Micks, Lou, Harry, Brian, Phil, Prince, Tom, Nick, and Neil Young (not the other one)

What was the first song you ever wrote? Tell us about it.

I was seven. I wrote it on a Fisher Price toy at my uncle Jeff’s house. I don’t remember the melody, but it was the moment I realized what I wanted to do.

What’s the last song you wrote or started?

It was on the subway today. It was an Irish toast type of song – 3rds and 7ths – “Forgotten Names on Gravestones.”

What’s the best song you ever wrote?

“People Turn Around” was something I wrote when I was 18 and I still like it. “Ballad Vitaly” and “War Machine” are up there, too.

How do you go about writing songs?

I listen for direction and it comes. A good song tells you what to do. It’s got a lot to do with getting out of the way of yourself.

What is your approach to writing lyrics?

Topic and vernacular are the most important to me. I mess with form a lot as well – pop music that is more meta and murder ballads set in the 21st century.

What sort of things inspire you to write?

Talking to strangers is almost always inspiring. Finding the commonality is a great starting point to any story.

What’s a song on Into the Wide you’re particularly proud of and why?

The opening track “Push It” lyrically personifies America as a character – comparing the idea of liberty with Christ and the abuse that we put our government through to further progress. “How much will be too much?” is the question the song asks.

What’s a lyric or verse from the album you’re a fan of?

The use of “promises out in the wilderness” in “Hold My End Up.” That line puts the gun in your hand. It’s the perfect line for the song.

Are there any words you love or hate?

I love the word mantra! I hate the word like.

What’s a song of yours that’s really touched people?

“Vivian” is a song about my late Grandmother. People continually tell me that that song helped get them through the same thing that I went through. Goodbye is also a word I hate.

Do you ever do any other kinds of writing?

I’m too dyslexic for prose. As a matter of fact, I’m having someone proof read this before you read it for grammar and punctuation. I have lots of ideas for novels, but that isn’t something that I’ll get around to. Songs and short movies for me.

If you could co-write with anyone living or dead, who would it be?

King David.

Who do you consider an underrated songwriter?

T. Hardy Morris is one of my favorite songwriters right now. His world of imagery is way more original than most of the stuff out there these days.

What do you consider to be the perfect song, and why?

Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” is 100% perfect. After each verse the chorus becomes more and more heavy. The verses have imagery like Hemingway. It’s so powerful and true. It will never stop touching people; It will never pass way.