Story and Interview by Mike Enders
Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Matt Alber will be performing on June 3rd at the Hotel Utah in San Francisco with proceeds benefiting Larkin Street. “Seattle-based singer/songwriter Matt Alber has been writing about that same sliver of hope since he quit his day job and started making records at home. Alber’s first full-length album, Hide Nothing, does just that. He sings openly about a boyhood crush on a Field-trip Buddy. In Beotia, he sings both parts of a duet (one in coloratura soprano) between male lovers in an ancient army. He even plays a 1960’s crooner in the music video for End Of The World finding love in a barbershop with a gentleman getting his shoes shined. Sonically he culls everything from chopped-up beats to children’s choirs– and did I hear a real bassoon? But Alber’s songs, while keeping the pronouns honest, seep deeply into the heart of any listener who’s ever wondered if things were going to work out.”
My discussion with Matt was relaxed, like two old chums catching up. We broke the ice by sympathizing with each other about putting on a few extra pounds and chitter-chatter about our love of SF. Matt confesses he also may be on the road to becoming an Accidental Bear as well (good news guys). Above all, Matt’s passion for making this world a better, more accepting and safer place for GLBT youth is our hot topic. We both are personally invested in the cause and are optimistic about the energy brewing behind campaigns such as It Gets Better.
Matt will be starting his set at 6:30PM sharp, so get there early!
Accidental Bear: Where are you right now Matt?
Matt Alber: I am in Chicago.
A B: I had a Matt Alber morning preparing for our talk. My two cats and me listened to your music and watched you videos.
Matt: Wow, hope it was good. Hope you have some good coffee at least.
A B: Yes, Peets!
Matt: Ah, I love it. I used to live right above it on Market Street.
Matt: It must have been ‘08
A B: We were just kids! You are now in the middle of your tour. Are you touring with anybody?
Matt: No, just my guitar and me.
A B: That’s all we need Matt! I like the variety of places that you play. Are there certain reasons you choose some places over others?
Matt: I work with an amazing agency and I am educating them on the fact that I need to play near gay neighborhoods.
A B: Do you think it’s important when touring across country to pick small towns to play in as well and not just large city where there is already more acceptance? Kind of like spreading the gay around. (laughs)
Matt: Yeah, well I just played a show in Marysville Kansas, and people who live in Kansas don’t even know where Marysville is. Honestly I go to things where I am invited. Big city, great, if not, that’s okay too. In Marysville, KS I worked all day with all of the junior high students and the next night a concert for the town and it’s the first time an openly gay artist has ever played in Marysville. I have to tell you, I was a little nervous because there were fundamentalist preachers in the audience and all these kids running around and families. But I thought that there was no reason for me not to be myself and I was. Afterward they said they had never heard anyone publicly talk about being gay on stage and were very pleased.
A B: It’s nice to show people that all gays aren’t perverted, sex deviants that grind their guitars on stage.
Matt: How do you know what I did? (Laughs)
A B: That must have been some show (laughing)
Matt: No, I didn’t do that! It was a great learning experience for me as well.
A B: I imagine when you play smaller areas you may have fans via the internet where you are looked at as a role model.
Matt: Funny thing is, I met this cool kid named Nick who is 22 and after the show we talked and he said “he brought his family to the concert and that he came out to them after the show and I really wanted to thank me for coming and being public.
A B: You gave him a platform to come out to his family. That just gave me goose bumps! You seem like a sweet role model.
Matt: I don’t know about that, I don’t like that word. If I am to some people, then I hope it helps them.
A B: Does your boyfriend get to travel around with you?
Matt: Sometimes. Not this time though. He traveled with me to Florida and I am trying to get booked in Hawaii because he has never been.
A B: I really enjoy your Youtube video you did with Tom Goss, the anti-DADT anthem called, “This is Who we Are.” How did that all come about?
Matt: Tom is a really good friend and we were doing a little tour and I flew to DC. It was during the fire storm of the movement of the appeal of DADT and during a 5 minute drive around tour, we heard over the radio a news program about he movement and then Tom and I spent the evening putting ourselves in the shoes of those in the service and what it would be like to be fired. I got a really cool chance to meet some people and services members like Mike Almy (a gay soldier discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell”), who ended up being the poster child for the movement. So we made the Youtube video in from of the capital.
A B: So the song you both performed in video was an original?
Matt: Yeah, we wanted to do a duet. I mean, people write loves songs that aren’t together so we decided to do a protest love song. It was a really cool day.
A B: So, June 3rd you will be in San Francisco performing to benefit the Larkin Street Youth Services. Tell me a little about that and how that came to be.
Matt: So, this will be the first tour and most likely everyone after this… I feel very lucky that I get to write songs and play guitar for a living and the thing I care about most in the world is making the world a better place for gay and lesbian youth. I think all the problems we are fighting with inequality, legislation and all of the rights we are fighting for, I feel like so many of them would fall into place if we just set up and donate our time and resources to make the better place for gay teens. I looked at tour and every place that I am going to be and I wanted to find organizations that help gay youth and especially homeless youth. Larkin Street Youth Services is an incredible organization that has been around forever and they meet the daily needs of homeless LGBT youth.
A B: I have a personal connection with Larkin Street Youth services from my wild teen years and totally agree with you about the desperate need for such services.
Matt: I have a lot of respect for the It Gets Better project and the focus being but on the youth and I want to make my tours an extension of that. Ultimately we have a responsibility to advance human rights but if we don’t start thinking about these kids as OUR kids, then I don’t think a lot is going to change.
A B: Matt, I will send out the troops and see you on June 3rd.
Matt: Let everyone know to come early. I want to play as many songs as possible and will start playing as soon as doors open at 6:30 and done by 8. Afterward we can all go to the Castro and have a Manhattan.
A B: It’s a date!
June 3, 2011
Hotel Utah 500 4th Street
For Tickets visit: www.thehotelutahsaloon.com
Listen to Matt’s music at www.facebook.com/mattalber