by Michele Zipkin
Matt Pond has been making music since 1998, and with every album he solidifies his belief in making artful and emotionally honest songs. He and the band he formed, Matt Pond PA, initially gained some notoriety when their first album, Deer Apartments, was entered into CDNow’s “Unheard?” competition for unsigned artists. They make a habit of teaming up with other musicians to attain diverse instrumentation in their songs. For their third album, The Green Fury, they collaborated with cellist Eve Miller, and combined orchestral arrangements with folk/rock sensibility to create exquisite soundscapes.
The band has had a variety of members over the course of their career, but the three constants (more or less) have been Pond, Chris Hansen, and Louie Lino. “Both Chris Hansen and Louie Lino have put their blood, sweat and tears into my albums,” says Pond. “I owe them everything.”
The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand is Pond’s 10th studio album, but the first he has put out under his own name, having dropped “PA” from the moniker. This slight shift in title stands to reason, as the album seems to represent a sense of renewal, a revitalized outlook on life. While this record may appear to be more of a solo effort, many collaborators have still lent their hands to the creation of the work. Pond and the band will play tunes from this album and from previous records on Saturday July 27th at Philadelphia’s Xponential Fest, running from July 26th to the 28th at Wiggins Park in Camden.
Pond had a musical upbringing that undoubtedly influenced the insightful and stylistically rich music he would come to make. He grew up in northern New Hampshire, and his first instruments were trumpet and French horn. “The tones of well-played french horn are mesmerizing. Like the first time I heard “For No One”. And my mind was blown,” he shares.
As far back as he can remember, Pond always wrote songs in his head. “At some point, they were destined to avalanche outward. It’s how I express and control my spinning mind. I don’t know what kind of animal I would have become without being able to write music.” Electric Light Orchestra proved to be a substantial influence on Pond’s songwriting. “The production was thrilling. The strings spoke to me.” Neil Young, Elvis Costello and John Lennon also played inspirational roles for him as a musician.
The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand all started when Pond broke his leg on tour. “Prior to that, I had allowed myself to be cynical,” he says. Playing shows in short pants and a cast allowed him to get past his darker thoughts by reducing him to nothing. He also fell in love, and that vulnerability and exhilaration wove its way into the album as well. “Of course, everything comically and tragically falls apart. For me, it’s like I finally felt rebuilt and realized.”
As for the most meaningful album he has written, Pond shares that they are all meaningful to him in some way. “Usually I’m connected to the most recent. In fact, I’m still living out a part of The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand.”
Over the course of fifteen years of making music, Pond’s conviction in what he has been doing has only gotten stronger with each song written. He is not fazed if other people around him do not devoutly follow what he does as an artist. “I appreciate it when they make their own music. For example, Tierney Tough, our keyboard player, she has an amazing band called The Pauses.” But as far as making music as an ensemble goes, Pond requires his band mates to invest fully in what they do. “They do have to believe in what we do together. They do have to work, both onstage and off. And they also have to love dancing until dawn. That’s really the only prerequisite.”
When asked what advice he would give to an aspiring musician, Pond responds by saying that he wholeheartedly believes in being tough and persistent. “If you believe in exposing yourself to an audience and playing your songs, you should do it until your heart stops beating.” That certainly seems to be what he has been doing thus far- making as much music as he can and continuing the forward momentum of playing for endless crowds. “For better or worse, that’s the plan I’ve adopted. It’s an amazing and terrifying plan to put in place.”