So Called Star’s front man Matt Clyburn has just put out his debut solo album! The album saw Matt do most of the writing, performing, and mastering himself, while he worked out the track list in a cabin in the mountains. Tomatrax caught up with Matt to talk about his latest music.

It has been a few years since you were last featured on Tomatrax, what has changed since then?

Well I have stayed pretty active in music. So Called Star has been on an extended hiatus, but I have continued to write and record over the last few years. I released three albums with my band Garland that consists completely of members of my family. Early this year, I decided to focus primarily on my solo music.

You’ve just put out your latest album, what made you decide to release a solo album?

Well for one, I enjoy the freedom of doing all of the writing and performing on my own. Nothing against bands–I enjoy writing with other musicians just as much, but I have always wanted to make a solo album that incorporates all of the different musical styles that have inspired me the most. Well, within some limits… It wouldn’t make sense to have a jazz song next to a hard rock song. The album spans three or four different genres and still maintains stylistic continuity, I think.

How does performing solo compare with being in a band?

Performing solo is definitely more vulnerable. There is no room for error. Every “brown note” is noticed (laughs), but it’s very gratifying. There’s that sense of a personal connection with the audience when it’s just me and a guitar.

You did most of the writing, performing, and mastering yourself, was this hard to do?

The actual sound engineering/mastering part wasn’t all that hard, but I’m still learning with every song I record. However, I couldn’t have made the album without my lovely wife, who happens to be a great producer, Mandy Clyburn. It’s a major bonus to have married a musician with a gift for knowing what sounds right and what doesn’t. She also plays bass and backing vocals on several songs from the album.

What made you pick ‘Advanced State’ as the album’s title track?

As I mentioned earlier about incorporating the musical styles that have inspired me the most, I wanted to come up with a name or phrase that somehow exemplified that. I felt that my songwriting had reached a more advanced state by establishing that goal… Plus, I thought the name sounded pretty cool… That’s always the most important thing (laughs.)

You worked out the order of the tracks while staying in a cabin in the mountains, what inspired this location?

My wife and I had just gone through a stressful couple of weeks, so we needed a mountain getaway. We also saw it as a good opportunity to work out the track order in a quiet, relaxed environment. The location was pretty remote so cell service was nonexistent. In fact, I had drive 20 miles to a bar to download the album over their Wi-Fi so we could listen to it.

What was the inspiration behind the album’s front cover?

My wife is a graphic artist, so I hired her for the job. I knew I wanted something colorful but also somehow slightly unsettling to characterize the mood of the album. She created the cover by snapping a photo of a vehicle air conditioning vent, and then re-shaped it into this strange and beautiful work of art.

You recently posted a Guided by Voices cover version, what was the inspiration behind doing this cover?

Well I went through a phase where I was completely obsessed with GBV. It was one of those where-have-you-been-all-my life moments. I always knew of the band and Robert Pollard as one of the fathers of indie rock, but I never gave them much of a listen. I picked up their album, Bee Thousand and I was completely hooked. During my obsession, I recorded the video or “closet session” cover of one of my favorite songs from the album. I plan to do more closet sessions in the future, so stay tuned, as they say…

When writing what comes first, the word or the music?

It depends on the song actually. There are some songs that are based around a lyric idea. Others I have written the entire song with music and a vocal melody only, and the lyrics are filled in last. For example, the song, “Stay Awake” was written completely around the opening guitar riff. Waking up one morning, I was in that state of mind where you aren’t quite asleep or awake. The guitar riff was playing over and over in my head, so I grabbed my phone voice recorder and put it on demo.

Now that your solo album is out what do you plan on doing next?

I plan to keep my solo music my primary focus, but also working with Garland and possibly another project with former members of So Called Star. While my solo album is making the rounds and hopefully gaining exposure, I will keep writing for the next one. Garland is also planning a new album for next year. And finally, some live shows are in the works. In other words, I’ll be staying pretty busy.

Check out Matt Clyburn’s website to find out more!

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