Music, // December 2, 2016
Matt Vucic — MUSICIAN
Interview with musician and songwriter Matt Vucic —
1. Who are you and what do you do?
I would consider myself a songwriter first. I also am a drummer, composer, and producer. Below is an excerpt from my bio.
“Matt Vucic’s musical roots are steeped in Pittsburgh Brass Soul, World Afro Pop and Americana. He has performed in bare-knuckle dives and sun-baked amphitheaters. He has survived and my lyrics tell that story. Along the way, he’s forged connections throughout the industry, which led to several recording sessions at the popular Mr. Small’s Recording studios, in Pittsburgh PA. He can be heard playing drums on studio albums including Liz Berlin’s (band – Rusted Root) “AudioBioGraphical,” also Yves Jean – “Been Many Days Empty” and “Rise Above Your Surroundings” as well as writing and producing on his own. It was there where he forged long lasting relationships with top, musicians, writers, and engineers, and his songwriting took off. The song, “The Card I Play,” is from his debut album “The Bull and I,” and is featured on a web video starring pro skateboarders. He wrote and produced “The Bull and I,” as a soulful blend of rock, pop and fusion in 2005. Now calling Philadelphia home, more recently he has been composing and producing music for film. Most notably to date “Samca” (2015, 4 Leagues Media production) and “The Time Will Come” (2016, 4 Leagues Media production) both of which can be heard at mattvucic.com/filmography.”
2. Why music?
I honestly don’t believe I’ve ever had a choice in the matter. Music has always been a huge part of my life in one way or another. It tends to kick me down the street like a tin can sometimes. But I always come back for more.
3. What is your earliest memory of wanting to be involved in music?
Playing drums along to Steve Winwood’s – “Higher Love” in my bedroom loft. Even before that I remember a lot of what my parents were listening to, Bob Dylan, Crosby Stills & Nash, other great songwriters. My love of a well crafted song was instilled in me very early although I didn’t start writing songs until later in life. Of course I was banging on posts and pans before all of that.
4. What are your favorite subject(s) and style(s)?
I love all styles of music. Pop, rock, jazz, world, classical, etc. I love hearing a songwriter, musician, or composer who has mastered their craft.
5. How do you work and approach a new piece that you are working on?
There is no doubt that because of my background as a drummer, I am deeply moved by rhythm. However I also love lyrics and melody. I tend to start the songwriting process with a single word or phrase and let it grow from there. For me its more about the sound of a word then its actual meaning. I keep note books full of phrases and single words that I think could turn into good songs. From there I will cut a demo in my home studio. If the song is good enough I will hire musicians and have it recorded in a pro studio. One of the challenges for a songwriter who doesn’t sing, is finding the perfect artist.
Lately I have been scoring music for film. I absolutely love the process. I usually start by reading a treatment and maybe character bios. I come up with some musical themes and cues then I wont do anything until I have picture lock. From there I piece it together bit by bit. This usually entails several mock ups, changes, and rewrites until a final is approved. I work in my home studio with Logic Pro X and use a mix of virtual and live instruments. If the budget allows, I will have it recorded, mixed, and mastered in a pro studio.
6. What are your favorite musician(s), singer(s)?
There are to many to list and inevitably I would read back over the article and say “I forgot to mention this songwriter or that musician” I have favorites and influences from Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Randy Newman, Leonard Cohen, John Prine, and Tom Waits. I love songs that paint a vivid picture and for me, it comes down to that perfect single line. One of my most favorite lines in any song is from Paul Simon’s – “Graceland.” “She comes back to tell me she’s gone…” I get emotional every time I hear it. Another great line is from the Tom Waits song “Come On Up to the House.” “All your crying don’t do no good, Come on up to the house, Come down off the cross we can use the wood, You gotta come on up to the house.” Brilliant!
In terms of film scores I tend to be influenced by the large cinematic scores. James Horner’s – “Braveheart” left a huge impact on me. John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Alan Silvestri, Hans Zimmer to name a few. One of my favorite tracks is from Hans Zimmer, “Woad to Ruin.” Another is the score to “The Power of One,” Zimmer again.
7. What are the best responses you have had to your work?
I’ve had a lot of positive response to my songs and compositions. Recently I singed with Billy Penn Music, a music licensing company here in Philadelphia. They work with quality songwriters, artists, and composers. They keep their roster pretty small so I’m honored that they decided to work with me. As any up and coming musician or songwriter reading this knows, it can be really hard to get a solid idea of how good something you write really is. Most likely family and friends will like it because they support you. The true test comes with the music industry professionals. If they like it you will know immediately. If they say “it’s a good song but…” keep working on your craft.
8. What do you like about your work?
There is a satisfaction to what I do that is hard to describe. I love the craft. I love being a producer and managing all the working parts in a project. From writing an idea, fine tuning it, recording it, and seeing the final product. I also like handling the budget, working with musicians, engineers, and industry people. I guess I’m a bit of a control freak.
9. What advice would you give to other musicians?
It really just depends on what their goals are. Lets assume that my 40 year old self is talking to my 23 year old self.
• First and foremost. Really know and understand the music business. I mean really.
• Don’t waste time and money going to music conferences. Music Industry panelists are on guard and will rarely let you in.
• If you are a live act trying to get recognized, put everything you have into every performance and treat your fans, your crew, and all the people working at the venue right. They are working as hard as you are. Be grateful. Be humble.
• The people who can really move your career forward? They will be in their office Monday through Friday 9am – 5pm, not at the bar you are playing Friday or Saturday night. The sooner you understand this the better off you will be.
• Talent is not enough. Be a business person. A Jack of all trades.
• Be prepared to spend a large amount of time doing anything but creating music. But always have an eye on the prize.
• Be prepared to scratch and claw (My wife hates this one but its true).
• Old music documentaries are fun to watch, but they are not a road map. Its just not how the music business works any more. Understand that.
• Recognize and be proud of your small victories. The older you get the harder it is to do. Let them define you.
• I once heard the creator of the show “Mad Men” Matthew Weiner say in an interview… “Its ok to have a day job… Just don’t get to good at it.”