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April 18, 2003page 20 of 28

Matt Sharp brings a softer sound than days with Weezer

By Brian Basamanowicz
Senior Staff Writer
ATLANTA
April 18, 2003




Courtesy of Matt Sharp

Matt Sharp, previously of Weezer and the Rentals, will release his first solo effort next month. Sharp recently played in Atlanta at the Echo Lounge.

Maybe it was because he had long since tired of being in the midst of the chaotic Weezer glam, or maybe it was because he spent too much time in Spain nonchalantly passing days sipping wine with his friend, but whatever the case, Matt Sharp has acquired a taste for the soft-spoken, the soft-strummed and the soft-hearted.

Matt Sharp is surely best known for being the original bass player for Weezer and the front man and creator of the Rentals. The career path has been a long and winding one for Sharp.

Having left Weezer for interpersonal reasons shortly after the release of their second album, Pinkerton, and then deciding to lay the Rentals to rest in early 2000, Sharp is now re-emerging gently with a sound all his own.

His new endeavors in music feature an ambient acoustic sound composed of three acoustic guitarists, Sharp's falsetto-ready vocal talents, and the occasional implementation of some experimental sounds from the xylophone or other live music novelties.

The title of his Atlanta show was "An Intimate Evening with Matt Sharp." I had heard that at other stops along his tour route, the fans were allowed to sit up on the stage during the performance.

As I wandered around exploring the Echo Lounge-it was my first trip-I figured that this stage-sitting idea must have been some sort of occasional routine reserved for certain tour dates. But sure enough, as Matt and his two compatriots took the stage, they threw the backstage door open and told everyone who could fit to come on stage.

So I'm tucked away comfortably on the corner of the stage as Sharp steps off with the opening number. "Every Time in Blue" is the aptly named opener for the show. Like many of the songs to come, it's a slow-paced, slightly moody affair, indicative of his new solo musical style.

Matt's two musical counterparts are both obviously talented. Each of them during the set seems somewhat drawn to Matt's musical leadership-it's almost eerie.

The set continues with more new Sharp originals and a few calm and shadowy renditions of some Rentals favorites. A projection slide show complements the performance as the backdrop, changing once for every song. Among them is one depicting the old house in the Tennessee countryside where Sharp and his conglomerates spent several months together working on the new solo album.

The set was intimate and felt genuinely unpretentious. The aftermath was of comparable quality. The last song ended and the fans filed off the stage, some of whom paused to congratulate Sharp on the new sound as he began to pack up.

But not too much packing and putting away got done as Sharp was quickly down on the main floor behind his humble t-shirt stand peddling his likewise humble t-shirts while he enjoyed the finest three dollar brew of the Echo Lounge-Pabst Blue Ribbon. I managed to work through the crowd to remind him about our scheduled interview; we then agreed to meet in about 15 minutes.

Fitting in appropriately with his laid-back, hyper-relaxed disposition, it was about another 30 minutes before Matt and I left the empty floor and t-shirt stand to go up to the guest room to conduct the interview. Along the way, the Echo Lounge manager, thinking I was an overzealous fan, yelled something at me like I should be leaving. After Matt cleared my name, we finally made it to the guest room and the interview began.

He asked politely to borrow one of my cigarettes and of course I obliged, not knowing at the time that this would be one of several cigarettes I would lose that night to Mr. Sharp. I expressed to him the fact that Weezer was indeed a generational icon and that several people my age recall that if it wasn't their very first CD or cassette purchase, Weezer's debut was surely one of their first and subsequently one of their most memorable favorites.

Sharp can't claim to pinpoint exactly what it was that caused Weezer to explode so powerfully, and to speak to so many. He credits Spike Jonez, the producer of the first two videos, "Undone" and "Buddy Holly," for Weezer's major breakthrough.

As for beginnings, Sharp said that the early days of being played on college radio were responsible for setting the course towards success. Rivers Cuomo, Weezer's front man, and Sharp apparently shared at one time a very similar thought process and a compatible passion for music that helped forge the lasting success of Weezer.

Though Sharp no longer speaks with Rivers and is currently engaged in a lawsuit against Weezer regarding compensation and songwriting credit for songs such as "Undone (The Sweater Song)," "El Scorcho" and "The Good Life," he still prefers to generate favorable reflections on his history.

The future seems to offer a very different course for Sharp than what his past might suggest. His musical ambition, he said, is to "remove a lot of the barriers that separate the message of a musician from his audience." He is fully dedicated to music and his current solo pursuit is where he wishes to pay the most attention. Matt Sharp will be releasing his first solo album, titled "In Music We Trust," in May. Visit www.mattsharp.net for more information on Sharp and his current tour.


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