Matt Nathanson: "Show Me Your Fangs"
Matt Nathanson: "Show Me Your Fangs"
Courtesy of Matt Nathanson, used with permission.

“I don’t want to create a handle so people can grab onto me and then discard me.”

On October 2, the gifted and prolific Matt Nathanson will be releasing his tenth studio album, Show Me Your Fangs (Vanguard). Each track on this collection offers the listener a different sparkling glimpse into the visionary mind and compassionate soul of a writer who truly embraces the fearless nature of art. Whether he’s strutting down the city street feeling absolutely golden or revealing bits of a quiet, poignant dream that carries all the gentle power of a prayer, Show Me Your Fangs is strikingly brilliant in both its architecture and poetry.

“I was listening to Lucius this morning and that’s an example of an album where you get these moments when there’s a car chase or there’s a hilarious dinner scene and then somebody dies,” Matt Nathanson told AXS in a recent interview. “To me, that kind of topography of a record, where sometimes it goes way up and then sometimes it goes way down, that’s the thing that is the most enjoyable. An R.E.M. record will go from a big rock song to a real small mandolin ballad. Those are the kinds of full album experiences that have always moved me, so I try to get that to happen on my records.”

And he succeeds. Show Me Your Fangs is a wild road trip through the mountains, careening around tight curves, creeping up to summits, and then racing perilously down to the deepest valleys. The exhilarating range of emotions is invigorating. A great deal of the magic on Nathanson’s latest offering can be attributed to the masterful sequencing of the overall album.

“It’s maddening!” he expressed, when asked about figuring out the song order on a record. “Very few people even care about albums anymore, but that’s a part I love doing. I get it, I’m down with the way listening has changed. I admit, I do listen to Spotify and I listened to just songs, too, but I love the experience of a record! It can actually carry you someplace, that’s the job of the whole album.”

On track four, Matt sings a beautiful song called “Bill Murray” that is drenched in honesty and wisdom. “That’s the linchpin song for the whole record,” he admitted. “I feel like it’s my favorite song that I’ve ever written. ‘Bill Murray’ is the patron saint of the entire album -- just the idea of him and the way he has modeled his career.”

Matt referenced the fact that Bill doesn’t have an agent, instead there is a legendary 1-800 number to call and leave a message directly for the quirky genius. “If he likes your pitch, he’ll call you back,” Nathanson related. “Bill Murray exemplifies a person navigating his fame. You’re always reading about him randomly showing up at a wedding and taking pictures of everybody. I like the roles he has chosen, everything from ‘Meatballs’ to ‘Lost in Translation.’ So, when I was thinking about writing about the person I would most like to hang out with in a song, someone I would want advice from, the answer was Bill Murray, of course!”

Then, all of a sudden, it branched off and Bill Murray became kind of my North Star,” he added. “On my career trajectory, I want Bill Murray to be my true north.”

In August, Matt released a video to “Gold in the Summertime,” a swelteringly blissful track, which happens to precede “Bill Murray” on his album. The star of the video is an adorably idiosyncratic golden man, who almost seems inspired by Nathanson’s version of Murray. “Actually, we were just sort of knocking ideas around and the director, who is just the greatest creative person to get ideas off of, he came up with the concept. Basically, it’s about this guy whom everyone kind of shuns and he gets kicked around a little bit. But he doesn’t take it too seriously because, when he goes home, we find that everything is gold in the world he lives in. So he’s happy.”

Around the time of the interview, Matt posted the following quote from Willa Cather on his Instagram: “Artistic growth is, more than it is anything else, a refining of the sense of truthfulness.” When AXS asked about the importance of the quote, Matt responded, “I want to end my life way stronger and way more realized and actualized than when I started. As a kid, you are sort of wide open and fearless, but as you get older, almost immediately, the world tries to block you off, to confine you. So, my goal is to continually work as hard as I can to move outside, to push myself to go further and move past where I went on my last record. What I’m realizing is in order to move closer and closer to the idea of what I believe the truth is and what I think is important, the more I have to shed the layers of bullsh** that have accumulated over my first 40 years of life.”

“And, this record feels like it’s getting closer to what I want. It’s getting closer to touching the core of what makes me tick. That’s what’s nice about being an artist, you get to chart your progress as a human being. When you go back and you look at what you did five years ago, hopefully, you can see the evolution, the shedding of the layers. Hopefully, you can see that you’re moving in the right direction and getting closer to the truth.”

To herald his upcoming album, Show Me Your Fangs, due out October 2 on Vanguard, Matt will be heading out for a month-long tour starting at the end of September. “I haven’t done a small acoustic tour in a really long time, so to be able to go out and play a new record in an acoustic setting and tell stories and take requests from the audience... I’m psyched!”

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Current list of upcoming dates (Note: check with your local venue for ticket availability as many rooms sold out immediately):

Sept. 28 – Boston, Mass. – Brighton Music Hall
Sept. 30 – Philadelphia, Pa. – World Cafe Live
Oct. 1 – New York, N.Y. – Bowery Ballroom
Oct. 2 – Pawling, N.Y. – Darryl’s House
Oct. 3 – Toronto, Ontario – The Great Hall on Queen Street
Oct. 4 – Ferndale, Mich. – Magic Bag
Oct. 6 – Brooklyn, N.Y. – Rough Trade
Oct. 7 – Alexandria, Va. – Birchmere Music Hall
Oct. 9 – Carrboro, N.C. – Cat’s Cradle
Oct. 10 – Nashville, Tenn. – The Basement
Oct. 11 – Decatur, Ga. – Eddie’s Attic (5 p.m. show)
Oct. 11 – Decatur, Ga. – Eddie’s Attic (8 p.m. show)
Oct. 13 – Austin, Texas – The Parish
Oct. 14 – Dallas, Texas – The Kessler Theater
Oct. 16 – Minneapolis, Minn. – Triple Rock
Oct. 17 – Des Moines, Iowa – Wooly’s
Oct. 18 – Evanston, Ill. – SPACE (Society for the Preservation of Arts & Culture)
Oct. 19 – Madison, Wis. – Majestic Theater
Oct. 20 – Kansas City, Mo. – The Record Bar
Oct. 22 – Denver, Colo. – Larimer Lounge
Oct. 23 – Salt Lake City, Utah – The State Room
Oct. 25 – Seattle, Wash. – Columbia City Theater
Oct. 26 – Portland, Ore. – Star Theater
Oct. 28 – San Francisco, Calif. – Great American Music Hall
Oct. 29 – West Hollywood, Calif. – Troubadour
Oct. 30 – San Diego, Calif. – Casbah