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Video Premiere: "When I was a Writer" by Matt Wilson & his Orchestra

Matt Wilson
4 February 2020

Matt Wilson & his Orchestra – Photo Credit: Paul Irmiter

Former Trip Shakespeare leader Matt Wilson’s latest project is named Matt Wilson & his Orchestra and they are preparing to release their full-length debut, When I Was a Writer, on March 20th via Chicago’s Pravda Records.

The LP was recorded at Wilson’s home studio, produced by him, and mixed by John Fields (Soul Asylum, Miley Cyrus, Jonas Brothers, Switchfoot, Rooney, etc.) at Creation Audio.

Wilson explains the genesis of the new album: “I wrote the song ‘I Can’t Return’ in the Summer of 2015 and that was my return to songwriting after a few years away. After that there was just an outpouring of music and words that lasted for about three years. During that time I was definitely excited to feel this inspiration, but I also felt desperate. In a way the whole record is a reaction to death. I had this strong sense that I was running out of time. I was sincerely worried that I might lose my mind before I was able to show the world the way I wanted my music to sound.”

The arrangements on When I Was a Writer are built upon the orchestra’s organic but percussive instrumentation. Acoustic guitar, piano, harp, banjo and electric bass guitar produce a feather bed of circular rhythms, cascading arpeggios and reverberating sonic swells.

The Big Takeover is pleased to host the premiere of the video for the title track, a song that feints at being folk music, but unleashes verses filled with continually modulating chords and choruses resounding with vocal pyrotechnics.

The video itself is a trip through Wilson’s imagination, as a writer who needs the world to read his words. Yet all sorts of mishaps and adventures happen, in figurative scenes that show him being filmed with scattered pages around his feet, walking the city streets with a pal, and then scrambling after his windblown work in a snow-filled field.

Interspersed though Wilson’s travails is a dance troupe who are rehearsing on stage, in the same area where Wilson is sitting with his manuscript strewn all over the floor. Are they a distraction from his creativity – or actually part of it?

It seems like that latter as Wilson and his orchestra end up performing the song with those same dancers in the background – and with Wilson joining in the choreographed movements.

Wilson sheds some light on his song and video, explaining, ““When I was a Writer” is the first song our LP by the same name.It’s not hard to tell that the lyrics are about my own fall from cultural relevance and the life I’ve lead since my demise. Those odd and awesome dancers are members of a group called Black Label Movement, based in Minneapolis.”

Raised in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, Wilson became a fan of rockers like Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen and Devo. He and his high school friends formed a group called The Panic and spent much of their youth as under-aged performers in Minneapolis nightclubs, warming up for future luminaries such as Husker Du and The Replacements.

In the early 80s, Wilson followed his brother Dan to college in Boston where they formed a number of bands, including the Love Monsters, marking Wilson’s first turn as a lead singer. Returning to Minneapolis, the brothers joined forces with bass player John Munson to form Trip Shakespeare, writing, recording, and touring together for a decade. Wilson and Munson still perform in a rock band together called The Twilight Hours.