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Get to know Matt Hubbard with us. Matt really has some cool things to say. I have only recently come to know him. Whîch is weird because I like the guy and also we have been on the scene for much of the same time. I wonder how many times we crossed paths. One thing I have learned from him is that you don’t need to return used ear plugs after a gig… Thanks Matt for sharing words. Our team this time was Alexîs, Rockslide and me (transcribed by Alexis Mathews) Thank you for reading…

AustinDaze: How did music become a part of your life? What influenced you? 

Matt Hubbard: Well, my parents had a piano before any furniture. I was born in Ann Arbor in 1970 and my parents were broke students but they bought a piano.  My twin sister and I started plinking on the piano probably around one, or something like that.  We took piano lessons at five.  Never wanting to be a professional musician or anything, I was just having fun with my sister.  We were always in church choirs, and I was in high school and junior high jazz band on trombone, and had a lot of other experiences in school which helped me play music.  I was in tons of bands in high school, then went to Oberlin Conservatory and got a composition and electronic music degree.  The summer after I graduated I attended the P-Funk show at the second Lollapalooza in Detroit, Michigan.  I had this vision of all these golden streaming lights around Austin, Texas, so I moved here.

AustinDaze: WAIT! You had a vision in Detroit, at Lollapalooza, of lights in Austin, during George Clinton? That’s awesome.

MH: Well, I would say he was partly responsible for the vision, but it was about 4AM when we made it back to the campus of Michigan State University where my father was a professor of biomechanical engineering. Dad invented the HANS device that protects auto racers’ necks.  He worked for General Motors before that and developed the crash test dummy head you see all the time. The dummies are on the cover of George Harrison’s last record…it’s his face.

AustinDaze: That’s amazing!

MH: So I can say my father was on the cover of a Beatles record. His face… sorta.

AustinDaze: That is too cool!  So, can we go back to your vision? A vision of Austin, Texas?

MH: Well, I was just looking up in a clearing in the woods, me and some friends, ‘cause Michigan is full of woods so it’s hard not to wonder amongst the trees.  I just looked up and saw North and South America, and sort of a map, and all these golden streaming lights coming around Austin.  I also heard there was a lot of music here…

AustinDaze: I’ve seen you play the organ and trombone. What came first? Ummm….(“He’ll read anything on the teleprompter. ANY THING…”-ANCHORMAN)

MH: Well, obviously piano came first, and then you usually start trombone around sixth grade, because your arms have to reach a certain length to maneuver the slide.  I think most band programs start in fifth or sixth grade. I wanted something that had no keys because I was so angry about having to take piano lessons all the time.  I was pretty good as a kid, and I was fortunate that my piano teacher Deena Agree taught me classical and jazz theory starting in third grade. I still pretty much use that knowledge today. I haven’t really gotten must past that actually.  So trombone was later but I learned how to play harmonica literally around the campfire.  My mom taught me some guitar chords when I was in ninth grade, and I ended up playing bass.  I played bass in several bands, like Paul Nelson and Calvin Russell. So… I play a lot of instruments. I got a theremin in the mail yesterday so we’ll be adding that to Golden Dawn Arkestra right away.

AustinDaze: So do have a favorite band you are playing in right now? 

MH: Not really. Well I play sporadically in 7 Walkers with Bill Kreutzmann, The Dead drummer, George Porter Jr. and Papa Mali. I’ve often played with older guys and you learn from them. We played a gig this past August 1st, a private party in Connecticut and that was a lot of fun. Wally Ingram was on drums as well as Bill. Keller Williams played with us too, as well as Eric McFadden and Colonel Bruce Hampton. I’m also in Greezy Wheels, I just joined that classic Austin Band.  I’ve been playing with the Texas Mavericks along with Speedy Sparks, Alvin Crow, his son Jason Crow, John X Reed, and Hector Molina, all of whom played with Doug Sahm at some point except me.  I recently had the honor of joining Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians at a reunion show in Dallas and look forward to working more with them.  And of course I’m in the Matt Hubbard Trio which plays every Wednesday at the Continental Gallery 8:30-10PM… I brought you a poster!

AustinDaze: Cool!  

MH: I’m also in Lechuza with poet and wife Martha Fowler and Mario Matteoli from the Weary Boys and his wife Cayce from The Preservation.  We are finishing up our second record as we speak.  It’s a haunting sound that reminds me of the Velvet Underground and Mazzy Star.  I know I’m in some other bands, I probably forgot…oh, and the Golden Dawn Arkestra, duh!

AustinDaze: Oh yeah! Of course! 

MH: And that’s kind of a bizarre on-the-rise project.

AustinDaze: How did you get involved with the 7 Walkers? 

MH: Austin briefly had a Hard Rock Cafe on 6th street, do y’all remember that?

Austin Daze: I remember hearing of that briefly… 

MH: Yeah, nobody really went in there. It couldn’t compete with the local businesses so it closed.  I was playing there with Jane Bond and we were opening for Jerkuleez which was a short lived instrumental funk project with Scrappy Jud Newcomb, Papa Mali, and Bruce Hughes.  Papa Mali said, hey, I like your sound, let’s work together sometime so I think about a year later I played with him.  He met Bill a short time afterwards at Oregon County Fair, and Bill’s then girlfriend soon to be finance and now wife Amy said, “Hey you need to check out this guy Papa Mali.” So they jammed all night and had a blast and then Bill wanted to form a band and Papa Mali asked me to be a part of it.

AustinDaze: So you have the Matt Hubbard Trio, you have Golden Dawn, what do you like better? Do you like a big group or a small group? 

MH: Well, it’s just like different sports. I went to Interlochen music camp and music school in Northern Michigan. I was playing the end of summer honors concert or something with literally  200 people. I was just playing trombone in this huge orchestra, and I thought I could be playing ”Old Rugged Cross” and no one would know!  I prefer a smaller combo, like basketball where there’s five people on the court at one time.  That’s always fun because with less people there is more room for spontaneous deviations and improvisation.  Golden Dawn Arkestra is a very special project as well with an element of organized chaos. I don’t really have any preference. I still play solo, but I would say my limit is like, 200 people… {laughter}

AustinDaze: {laughs} Okay, so no more than 200 people. 

MH: When I play at the Continental Gallery with Brad Houser and Robb Kidd every week, you know I can pretty much play anything I want and go anywhere and they can follow me.  That’s also true in a band like Golden Dawn because there is basically a framework for a party, and the party can always take different directions, and you have a lot of leeway doing sound effects and jumping around and stuff. So, that’s fascinating. But then I was in a band Fastball, briefly, which has very tight structured pop songs. So you know, every different gig and size of gig has it’s challenges and there’s no one favorite, or least favorite.

AustinDaze: Okay, well speaking of challenges, in Golden Dawn you guys are costumed, so how do you guys play so well with your faces covered by a costume? 

MH: My new one, which I have in the car, is sort of a third-eye weird goggle thing that Echo the dancer made for me.  It doesn’t cover my mouth at all, just my eyes, with these weird sunglasses with a third eye reflective surface…

AustinDaze: So you can’t see? 

MH: I can see, so it doesn’t really effect my playing at all. Robb Kidd, the drummer, has his face completely covered in a sheet, so he looks like a weird wizard or something, but since he’s not singing or anything it’s not a problem. Obviously the horn players have to have their mouths open.  Josh Perdue who plays guitar has sort of a veil on but doesn’t have to use his mouth.

AustinDaze: But when you’re playing in a band with five or 10 people, is it important to see the other players for visual cues as to… 

MH: Well… you’re in sort of this telepathic field, where you don’t have to see necessarily. I mean, blind musicians play like Stevie Wonder who’s show I will be attending in late November!

AustinDaze: Well, give us some advice from what you’ve learned in the music scene over the years, and for other musicians who are giving this a try.

MH: You mean specifically the Austin scene?

AustinDaze: Yes and…..

MH: Or of music in general? Hmm… I guess try to do your own thing and don’t try and be like everyone else, you know what I mean?  There are so many singer/songwriters in town who just strum a guitar and try to be like Townes Van Zandt.  That’s cool but I think trying to be different is probably a good idea. ‘Cause, you know, no one is going to be Willie, no one is going to be Townes Van Zandt, but you can be yourself.  The same is true for a lot of institutionalized jazz players who are so hung up on studying Charlie Parker and Coltrane, which is great, but you also have to be yourself too, not just emulate others.  Having the courage to discover who you are is always a journey in any style of music and the arts.

AustinDaze: Well, I know Willie Nelson is in your family, how does that relationship help you grow as a musician? And what have you learned from that relationship? 

MH: Um, well what I’ve learned from him is a lot. I met him recording his daughter Paula Nelson because I’m also a recording producer and eventually was running his home studio in Luck, TX. We recorded two albums that were up for Country Album of the Year Grammy, “The Rainbow Connection” on Island and “Run that By Me One More Time” a duet record with Ray Price on Lost Highway.  I’ve recorded with him on dozens of album projects, voiceovers, and duets.   Willie’s the real deal, he’s not fake at all. It’s not an act and no one scripts his public statements. He just takes the responsibility of being a star very seriously. He always tells people if you’re a star and in the public you have to be honorable 100 percent of the time.  Always do the right thing, it’s a huge responsibility you know?  Look, most of his friends are dead, but he’s still going strong. Still trying more than anyone at his age.  He’s definitely family-oriented and you know I have a 14-year-old son with his granddaughter Martha.  Willie is definitely a genius and a role model, but also a real person.  There is no BS-ing him, he can read anyone.  He is also very forgiving and wants to have peace in the world.  He’s a great role model of how to handle success, because it drives most people crazy when you’re that level. I mean, look at Michael Jackson, or whoever else you want to look at… Willie went through that insanity and came out the other side stronger. The same challenges would  totally diminish some people.  Willie’s from a poor background and was taken care of by his grandparents.  They lived a hard life in the Depression era, and a hundred dollars is still a lot of money to him. He’s very generous of course, but he doesn’t take anything for granted. I mean I could go on and on about what he’s taught me.  His faith in my abilities has given me confidence, obviously, and I’ve played on so many huge stages, under a lot of pressure.  That’s where I thrive, where I function my best so I never really get stressed out. I’m never afraid on stage, never have been you know. Fear has no part of me as a musician. I know that no matter what I face I can handle it.  That’s a great feeling to bring onto stage and I know it helps other people feel confident on stage as well. It’s a unified organism. Especially in Golden Dawn. And that’s something in Golden Dawn I push.  I keep saying this band has a huge potential.

AustinDaze: And it does!

MH: Yeah, I’ve been in a lot of buzz bands you know, played on Black Joe’s first record, “Bitch I Love You,” that’s me playing piano… I’ve been here for 20 years as of October, I moved here in October of ’94.  I’ve recorded a lot of stuff with Willie Nelson, 7 Walkers, meeting everyone in the world, so, you know, I think Golden Dawn could be a good third act.  Along, with of course, my Matt Hubbard Trio {laughter} every Wednesday at the Continental Gallery!

AustinDaze: John {Branch} was saying that was his favorite gig to play, the Continental Gallery.

MH: Well, it’s great.  Sniz and friends, the guys from the Greyhounds, are on Wednesday’s after me and it’s a huge jam.  Gary Clark Jr. sat in with all of us the other day. Tons of musicians stop in and I’ve played up there in the past with Charlie Sexton and David Garza and like everyone, you know?  So now I’m doing my own thing and about to release my own album.

AustinDaze: When will that come out? 

MH: Well, this year, it better! I recorded it with John Bush who along with Brad Houser play with me in Greezy Wheels.  Brad Houser is in the Matt Hubbard Trio as well and and they’re both from Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians. John actually produced my album and played percussion and drums on it as well as Robb Kidd on drums and Brad on bass. They are awesome.

AustinDaze: I think that’s all I had… Is there anything you want to add? 

MH: You know, I wanted to say that one of the hugest influences on me musically is George Porter Jr. the bassist from the Meters and also 7 Walkers.  He’s the total professional, and a role model musically and personally.

It’s a really exciting time in Austin as a musician now. Music and art are sacred to me and I think it can bring world peace.  That’s my main philosophy.

AustinDaze: Well that’s a good note to end on, world peace. 

MH: {laughter} Alright!

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  1. Joyce Davis

    Matt Rocks! Thanks for this great article about this awesome musician and all around nice guy!