Los Angeles Magazine recently sat down with The Dirt Drifters lead singer, Matt Fleener, for a Q & A in preperation for the bands big show at the House of Blues in West Hollywood on October 20th. Check it out below or read the original article by Marissa Moss here!
Let’s be honest: To a non-fan, country music means beer and pickup trucks and Carrie Underwood, a saccharine-on-the-ranch experience that’s a twang away from pop. But to the fans who grew up listening to Merle Haggard and Hank Sr., the genre is about soulfully crafted songs and Americana sensibilities. Acts like Justin Townes Earle, Jessica Lee Mayfield, The Civil Wars and my recent favorite, the up-and-coming Robert Ellis, are keeping that tradition alive today.
Then there’s The Dirt Drifters, one of the few acts in the genre on a non-country label (Warner Bros.) bringing a louder southern sound to a wider audience. Their music, which is full of honky-tonk attitude and tunes to stomp a boot too, tackles love and loss, workingman struggles, and political disappointment in songs infused with American history.
On the morning of their gig at the House of Blues, we talk to lead singer and guitarist Matt Fleener about songwriting, Nashville, the future of country music, and the moment with Willie Nelson that made him grin like a kid.
You released your album, This is My Blood, in an unconventional method, giving away 30,000 extra copies with a purchase of the CD, in hopes that fans would give the second album to their friends. How did that idea come about?
We had a big meeting at the label. And they asked us, How do we get you out there? We said let’s give a couple copies away. We just played with Dwight Yoakam in Tucson and gave away three or four thousand copies away.
It also encourages people to hear the album as a whole, rather than just streaming it online.
Totally. We live in a singles world, and we are very proud of the whole thing we made. We started with god knows how many songs, maybe 150, and narrowed it down to these eleven. Since we are a country band on a commercial record label, it’s a little more difficult for us than it would be for an indie band in an indie market. We wanted to make sure to say what we wanted to say but at the same time didn’t want to be turned away by someone in the country radio world. You make a decision when you go in and push the record button that you want to be yourself, and sometimes you have to deal with the back end. It’s a give and take, and I can sleep good at night because we got to make the music that we wanted.
Do you feel a part of the community in Nashville?
Oh yeah. I moved to Nashville to be a songwriter with my brother 11 years ago, and I do love that side of the genre. I love the craft, I love the songwriting. Some of the most talented songwriters on the planet are in Nashville, and they are writing songs every day.
How is the city changing? Rolling Stone recently named its music scene tops in the country, and lots of bands—not just Jack White—have moved there, like the Black Keys.
I think its great, man. The rock ‘n roll scene in Nashville is great. I love getting out and going to shows and seeing different music. There is so much good music coming out of Nashville, I don’t think it should be just about country.
You are a big fan of Steve Earle. What do you think of someone like his son, Justin, having a degree of crossover success into the indie world?
I think its great. I’ve heard his music and it sounds awesome. There is a big awakening of folk music and it’s attracting all kinds of people who normally don’t turn their radio to country music. It happened before when Steve came, and Mary Chapin Carpenter, and of course with Willie Nelson.
And you worked with Nelson on “I’ll Shut up Now.”
When I was four or five-years-old and my brother was seven or eight, my folks, would take me to my grandma’s house when they went to work. She was a full-on Texas girl, and she played a lot of records. I can still see her popping in Redheaded Stranger and Stardust, and it’s kind of weird that on our first record we collaborated with Willie. My first guitar ever was signed by Willie, behind a bar in Oklahoma City when I was 20.
We took a picture with him and it’s so embarrassing I don’t even want to show it to anyone. We are grinning so big. It looks like everyone got what they wanted for Christmas.