Interview with Matt Nappo – Writers’ Block doesn’t Exist
Listening to Matt Nappo‘s music you might think his guitar technique and songwriting style is not something you hear every day. That might come from him approaching the guitar after spending years of playing tenor banjo and transferring everything he learn about it to the six strings. Matt Nappo’s a versatile artist with background in anything from rock and heavy metal to jazz and folk. Giving his heart and soul to the audience in front of him, no matter foreign or local, the musician has packed quite a few cool stories in this brief but exciting Drooble interview. Read about his favorite record, writing process and surviving a Pagan party in 1988.
Hello! Tell the world about yourself. How did you grow up to become the musician you are today?
I started playing tenor banjo when I was 7 years old. Tenor banjo is kind of an obscure instrument and not many people play it or teach it. The 5 string bluegrass banjo is much more common. A tenor banjo has 4 strings and is tuned like a violin and is meant to be strummed. It’s the sound of ragtime jazz. Since there were no true tenor banjo players or teachers where I lived I took lessons from a jazz guitarist. He taught me to play chord melody style classics which was definitely a unique sound.
I started writing songs very young, around 8 or 9 years old. I got my first guitar when I was about 12 and taught myself adapting a lot of the tenor banjo technique I had learned.
I had a wide variety of influence and tried to play anything that appealed to me. I played hard rock and heavy metal, country, jazz, pop and folk.
As a writer I tried to be as diverse as I could, not wanting to get “type cast” or pinned down to one style.
Introduce your current musical projects and tell us what makes each one special for you!
I am producing a documentary titled “Rockin’ The Dream”. It’s something that anyone should be able to relate to. It started with a comment from a very wealthy guy who was selling me an amp. After he asked what I did and I told him I was a musician he said “Oh, you’re living the dream.” My response was a robust laugh. I started to explain to him the reality of my level of the music business. I’m not rich and famous. He cut me off and told me that it was always his dream to play in a band and now that he’s retired he feels like he wasted his life chasing the almighty dollar, rather than living the life he was meant to live.
The film follows my band theRockin45s and shows the reality of what living a dream really looks like with all the warts and sacrifices. It’s not just about playing in a band though. The message applies to anyone with any dream.
I also continue gigging as much as humanly possible with the 45’s , solo and with a couple of different duo arrangements, as well an occasional sub with other bands.
You have been playing music for a long while! How do you find the drive and inspiration to keep going all this time?
Well that’s an understatement. I’ve been doing it more than a half a century. At some point it becomes your life and questions about why or if you should keep doing it fade to silence. What’s your inspiration to keep breathing?
How is your local music scene in your perspective? Do you feel like you belong there?
I never gave a crap about any local scene. I play music for the audience that’s in front of me. I never have time to think about what’s going on locally with anyone outside of the people I’m playing with in that moment and the people I’m playing for in that moment. I suppose I would prefer playing in a tropical paradise if I could.
What is your all-time favorite record and how did it change you as an artist?
My favorite record changes so often I can’t keep track. I can tell you instantly what my favorite film is, The Godfather. Records though there are so many that have been THE record at an given point in my life that I couldn’t even give a top 500. I think “Like A Rolling Stone” by Dylan was the single that changed things the most for anybody in any genre. It changed what was possible for a single release in many ways, subject matter, song length, production genre labeling. You name it. That record changed the music business in ways that many people aren’t aware.
What are your favorite software and hardware tools for music production?
Logic Pro is my main hammer. I like to keep things simple but use any tool achieve the result I’m after.
What is your songwriting process like?
Constant, never-ending and fluid. I write in my dreams, I write in the car, I write when I’m walking down the street. I write when I’m mowing the lawn. Sometimes I’ll sit down and just start playing, mostly acoustic guitar or piano. Sometimes I’ll just get a lyrical idea and play with it in my head. Sometimes I’ll just start putting together a simple song framework on the computer and then expand upon it.
I don’t believe in writers block. I think you have to be willing to write even when you feel like you’re creating crap. Sometimes you look back later and decide it wasn’t as bad as you originally thought and can tweak it into something good.
Out of all the live shows you played, which one was the most memorable, and why?
A Pagan party in 1988. It’s memorable for the worst of reasons. I was assaulted and had to fight about ten guys after I turned my video camera at a guy in the audience who turned out to be a big shot and major criminal who didn’t want to be filmed. Fortunately for me the President of the Pagan’s at the time liked me and intervened. I probably would have been killed and buried there.
What is your biggest musical goal?
To die on stage. That’s not really a joke. This is my life. I’m happiest when I’m performing. I mark my life in hours between gigs. It seems the best way for me to leave this life – by doing what I’ve lived my life for.
How has being on Drooble helped you as a musician?
It hasn’t yet. I’ve been on there a couple of months. I listened to several artists. Some are more interesting than others of course. I like having a social network that is for musicians but I haven’t seen any tangible change in anything I do because of it. Maybe in time I will I suppose.