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Q&A: Matthew Curry

| July 17, 2015


Though he’s only 19 years old, Matthew Curry can’t be pigeonholed as a mere “child prodigy” or guitar wizard “phenomenon” like some, say, freak in a carnival sideshow. No sirree. Rather, the otherwise unassuming Normal, IL native is a seasoned musician, with two CDs under his belt and, fronting his three-piece backing band The Fury, he’s not only opened for the likes of Grand Funk Railroad and Steve Miller, but also headlined New York’s Iridium club, where legendary guitarist Les Paul once reigned supreme. Currently, Matthew is one of ten artists chosen to be part of The Fender Accelerator Tour, when IE caught up with him.

IE: So how old were you when you started playing guitar?

MC: I was 4 years old. I would sit around and listen to my dad play his acoustic–he had a nice Martin D28 – and it really caught my attention. He’d play, like, the old ZZ Top, some Beatles and Hendrix and stuff. So I think he noticed that I was interested in trying to play guitar. So he and my mom went out and got me a little cheapo (laughs) WalMart guitar. And he handed it to me like for Christmas or my birthday or something–I can’t remember. And the first thing I did was turn it upside down being left-handed. And he went ‘No no no. You’ve to play it right-handed.’ But it just didn’t feel right playing it right-handed. And so I learned off of him for a while. And I took lessons for few years when I was younger. Then self taught from there, and enjoying every minute of getting to play music since.

IE:Your playing and your own originals definitely leans more toward the blues and blues influences. Where did that come from?

MC: From a very early age my dad showed me the old blues guys and stuff and it was really easy for me to connect with that kind of stuff, real easy to feel. You know, when Albert King or somebody just bends this ‘face-melt-you’ riff or something, and you’re just like ‘Awww….’ you know? It’s kind of…my first love was blues. And I’d say our music [as a band] is definitely blues based even though, um, it’s definitely got some flavors of rock’n’roll and some other things in there as well.

IE: So what age were you when you started performing?

MC: I played live for the first time, you know, in front of live audience when I was nine–just sitting in with a local rock band. My dad took me out and it was ‘Hey can you sit in like a ZZ Top tune’ or something like that. And I did that for a while – my dad would take me out to open mic nights and whatever else and I’d just sit in with people. I was 11 or 12 when we were like ‘Well alright, let’s try to form our own band here.’ By that point I had made some friends in the local music community and started playing music with them and doing local and regional shows and stuff.

IE: So that morphed into you and your band The Fury and the release of your first CD, If I Don’t Got You. How old were you then, 15? 16?

MC: 16, I think…Yeah, we started kind of gigging around wherever we could. I was still in high school so you know – I had to finish that. But yeah it was a lot of fun getting to work with those guys and make that album. Obviously I feel the band and myself has grown musically since then, but it’s always kind of fun to go back and listen to it. Sometimes you go back and listen to it and you go ‘I wish I had done that different, but…’

IE: Speaking of school, it must have been hard to balance with the music because you’ve pretty much since left it behind.

MC: Yeah, I wasn’t big into school. I didn’t like school. I just never really took interest in trying to be some sort of genius in school. I just wanted to play music. And I probably would have left school if I had the option. But I was really happy that my parents did make me finish high school and get my diploma. Just to say you did it, you know?

IE: Back to you saying you immediately turned your first guitar upside down to play because you’re left handed. On your second CD Electric Religion there’s one cut titled “JMH,” where the references to that other left-handed guitar genius Jimi Hendrix become even more obvious since you name check some of his lyrics. Clearly he was an inspiration to you.

MC: Oh hugely, yeah. “JMH” is kind of a tribute to him. I can still remember the first time I first heard Hendrix. He just opened a whole new world of guitar playing, songwriting, arrangements and stuff. There was nobody doing that at the time and still there will never be another one like him. I’ve heard all his songs a billion times but never get sick of them. I can always go back to them, I never get sick of them.

IE: Besides the influences on your guitar playing, there’s your singing—with a voice that strikes me as somewhere at the intersection of Stevie Ray Vaughn and Greg Allman – which is rather unexpected in a 19-year-old from the Midwest “heartland.” Where did that come from?

MC: I appreciate that man. That’s the first time I’ve heard a Greg Allman reference, so that means a lot, man. But I don’t know, you know? I started trying to sing when I was about 12. And the guys that I was playing with at the time, the key board player, was trying to give me these breathing techniques, you know, trying to push the air through your diaphragm… And actually I did take some lessons for awhile, when I was 16 until I was 17, 18 maybe. And that really helps a lot. It was kind of weird going into it–getting a voice coach and all, because I’d never done anything like that before. But it REALLY helps a lot. And you I really enjoy singing and playing.

IE: Well it does really pay off—think of how so many artists develop polyps and nodes and worse. How many careers get stopped?

MC: Yeah, right. That was actually part of the problem. I was straining too much, I was starting to get headaches-sometimes even during shows – and I was like, ‘what’s going on here?’ And so I got some coaching for a while and you know it’s smooth sailing now.

IE: For all that you’re in the spotlight as a gifted young guitarist and being the frontman, you and the band are really tight. It’s not solely the Matthew Curry show…

MC: I appreciate that, man. We like to make sure that people get what it’s worth. Because if you just show up and you’re not tight [as a band] that’s not very fair to the audience, I don’t think. From early on we decided, ‘Look we’re not going to just play just basic blues covers, we’re going to write music and try to have cool tight arrangements.’ I like to think that we’ve done an okay job at that. I think…(laughs) We’re still trying to get it all figured out here.

IE: You’re currently on the road as part of The Fender Accelerator Tour. What’s that all about?

MC: The Fender Accelerator Tour is where Fender chose ten bands out of thousands, I think,to give a van to, to give tour support to and give gear to…. At the stage that we’re at right now, for touring, it’s pretty rough. We’re still in the van, we’re still with the trailer, we’re still loading all our own gear, we’re still staying in Super 8s and so on most of the time. So they understand that and they were nice enough to say, ‘Hey let’s work with these guys and give them a van and tour support money.’ And it’s actually really great for us because I’ve dreamt of working with Fender for a long time. I’ve always been a Fen Strat guy and it’s quite an honor for me to be able to be working with those guys.

IE: You’re set to do some [more] gigs with Steve Miller. As still relatively unknown, it must be tough opening up for him.

MC: It’s quite an honor. We went out with Steve Miller last April and did a Canadian tour. And actually, Steve took a real liking to us. And he and I have kind of developed a friendship. So he was kind enough to bring us back out this year.

But, you know, it is tough [opening for him.] You start and there’s people still trickling in a little bit… But we’ve been really lucky on this tour–they gave us a really good time slot. Steve’s been pulling me up to jam on a couple songs every night and that really helps. You know he’s such a kind hearted person and just a genuine down to earth guy.

– David C. Eldredge

Appearing August 22: at Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, Bloomington,IL.

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