When Matthew Francis Andersen won the 2012 American Songwriter Lyric Contest the prize of co-writing with Hayes Carll may have seemed – at least at the time – a dream come true. Now, closing in on a decade later, he is releasing his album Pine River – that features tracks with Gurf Morlix – and has been opening for folks like Jim Lauderdale, Kevin Gordon, and Lily Hiatt.
Videos by American Songwriter
The title track of the album follows much of the same pattern of Andersen tunes, in that it doesn’t have to mean something for him to write it.
“I didn’t write this song for any particular reason,” he said. “Things just come. I jot them down. Eventually I take all these scraps and it’s like playing with Legos; I see what fits together. Sooner or later the song reveals itself.
“I seldom write from some impetus, such as politics, or gun control, or ‘I still love my ex.’ Indeed, songs may end up being about those things, but there is seldom a Why. For this song Pine River, it started out with the first line. Then, for some reason Patterson Hood’s voice came to mind. In fact, today I can still hear him singing this song!
“So what began as a fun way to imitate Patterson, turned into a song with simple snapshots or images. I don’t know what the song means. But it seems perhaps a bittersweet homecoming song from someone left behind to the one returning home.”
‘Pine River’ will the third release for Andersen since winning the lyric contest. He has also put out ‘Blue Line’ and ‘Slow, The Summer Burned.
This album is a 10-track offering is one that Andersen said is more of effort to take the listener to a place that they recognize versus simply share an experience of the writer.
“It’s not very linear. There’s no right or wrong. There is a subtle indication that a relationship between two people once occurred. But maybe not,” he said. “Hopefully folks will take the images and then be led to their own feelings. What I know for sure is that the best songs don’t express the writer’s feelings to the listener. Rather, the listener’s feelings emerge because of the song. It’s the old “show, don’t tell” writing rule.”
What Andersen does do, is fill his songs with a “where-I’m-from” appeal that helps him bring both a Northern gruffness to his otherwise softer side.
He was born and raised in Chicago and worked as a walleye and musky fishing guide as far as northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
It is often those moments of isolation where Andersen’s writing takes you: from the local taverns and street lights, to the boat landings and rivers deep within the northwoods.
It is also a mental place that Andersen says helps him put his best ideas to paper.
“I write my best when I have filled up the tank with words and lyrics from writers such as Cormac McCarthy, Jim Harrison, Greg Brown, James Wright, and Chris Smither,” he said. “The whole input vs. output axiom is very true for me. I need to be moved by other works in order to write at my best.”