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article imageMatt Scannell talks 'Echoes From The Underground' Special

By Kristal Cooper     Oct 7, 2013 in Entertainment
Matt Scannell, lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for Vertical Horizon, is at the mercy of the universe when it comes to how an album comes together. He insists it’s a process that’s largely out of his hands.
“When I sit down with the guitar I am plan-less. I am task-less.” he explains over the phone from Los Angeles. “I just let the guitar play and I let myself fall into it and I just let whatever comes forth resonate with me and in me and try to see what it’s saying to me or what direction it’s taking me in.”
In the case of the band’s new album, Echoes From The Underground, that direction led Scannell to explore a new, less guitar-heavy sound for the band that he largely credits to the freedom that came from asking fans to help fund the project through PledgeMusic. “Our fans said, ‘make the record you want to make, we’re on board, we want you to be inspired, we want you to chase the muse wherever it takes you.’ I actually found that it was complete liberation and a sense of, we’re gonna make the record that we want to make. As a result I do think the record has a different spirit.”
The album, which boasts themes that run the gamut from self-sabotage to the idea of emotional and physical distance, to the more traditional exploration of the hidden facets of relationships, is also the result of Scannell looking to some of his own favourite musical artists for inspiration. “It goes back to my two favourite bands: Rush and Peter Gabriel. For a lot of my career I’ve focused on the rock side of what I do but for this record I nurtured the Peter Gabriel side a bit more. Also, a really big impact was made for me by my discovery of the band Elbow.” he reveals (and for the record, he insists that every music fan needs to own copies of Elbow’s The Seldom Seen Kid and Build a Rocket Boys!).
“I went back to my New Order and Joy Division and Depeche Mode albums and more keyboard-oriented music as well. As much as I love the guitar and I write the songs on the guitar there’s this vast landscape that you can paint with keyboard textures and synths and samplers that are just really inviting.”
Also providing inspiration and encouragement is Scannell’s friend and collaborator Richard Marx who co-wrote the album’s opening track ‘You Never Let Me Down’ as well as lending a hand in producing the vocal on two songs (‘You Never Let Me Down’ and ‘Half Light’).
The two met in 2004 when Marx and Vertical Horizon were each playing shows in Tampa as a part of Super Bowl weekend. Scannell, a long-time fan of Marx’s, introduced himself and was surprised to discover that Marx was an admirer of Vertical Horizon. The rest, as they say, is history: the musicians have become close and even occasionally tour together with an acoustic show. “It’s completely selfish on our part. We do it because we want to hang out and see each other and go to fun restaurants. It has nothing to do with work. What happens as a by-product is that we hang out and we jam a bunch of these songs and there happens to be a bunch of people in the living room with us. The only challenging thing is that when you’re going to go on stage with someone of his caliber, you’d better bring your ‘A’ game.”
Scannell is almost overwhelmed when asked about how Marx has enriched his life, but he’s eager to share one of the many things he’s learned from a man with multiple decades of music industry experience under his belt. “I think he’s a real believer in saying what you mean and meaning what you say and from a writer’s perspective not accepting bullshit. When you sit down to write something, make sure it’s pretty bulletproof both in intent and execution.”
He continues, “He’s a world class songwriter. He’s also a tremendous singer. I’ve learned a lot from him from a vocal perspective because not only can he talk the talk but he can walk the walk.”
The singer gets equally excited when talking about his favourite song on Echoes From The Underground, although he makes sure to point out that his “favourite” changes on a daily basis. “Today, my favourite is ‘Frost’. I think it’s a very different song for us. It has a slow pace for most of it but then it gets up and exciting and powerful. There’s a real dynamic arc to it.”
‘Frost’ is just one of over 50 songs that Scannell had banked as a result of his habit of sitting down with his guitar every single day which is the part of the music-making process that he finds most satisfying. “I personally like the writing and recording best. I like the process of creation. I like that intoxicating feeling of newness and possibility. That is really what gets my blood flowing.”
But he’s also fond of taking his songs out on the road and seeing first-hand the impact that they have on the fans. “That connection you feel when you go out and play a concert, when you see a fan smiling and singing along with you, it’s probably the greatest honour and the greatest feeling.”
In fact, Scannell is genuinely thankful for all of the success that he and Vertical Horizon have received since their song ‘Everything You Want’ debuted on the Billboard charts in 2000. He’s managed to stay pretty down-to-earth and humble about all of the accolades though. The most valuable lesson he’s learned from his numerous years in the music biz?
“Always say please and thank you.”
Echoes From The Underground is available on Tuesday, October 8, 2013.
Download the first single, ‘Broken Over You’, for free at verticalhorizon.com now.
More about Matt Scannell, Vertical Horizon, Echoes From The Underground, PledgeMusic, Richard Marx
 
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