When Matt Nathanson plays Philadelphia’s Mann Center for the Performing Arts tonight, Aug. 15, it will be the third time in nine months the singer-songwriter has played in Philadelphia.
Nathanson stopped at The Electric Factory in November to promote his then-new latest album “Last of the Great Pretenders.” He returned to World Cafe Live in February to play a radio station WXPN-FM benefit for Musicians on Call, a group that has musicians play at hospital patients’ bedsides.
Matt Nathanson at Philadelphia's Electric Factory in November
Photo by Brian Hineline/Special to The Morning Call
And now he returns as part of his co-headlining tour with Gavin DeGraw.
If that seems like a lot for one artist, Nathanson says it’s not happenstance. He says the City of Brotherly Love has always welcomed him, and from the start has supported a successful career that includes the platinum 2008 single “Come On Get Higher” and the Top 10 Adult Chart hit “Faster” in 2011.
In a recent telephone interview, Nathanson spoke about his experiences in the City of Brotherly Love and his career.
Here’s an edited transcript of the call:
LEHIGH VALLEY MUSIC: You just played the Musician on Call benefit at World Café Live in February for radio station WXPN-FM, and you played The Electric Factory in Philadelphia on Nov. 2. That’s a lot for the same city.
MATT NATHANSON: “WXPN was the first radio station in America, or anywhere, to ever play my songs, way back – they played a song off an independent record in like 1998 or something, so I’ve had a relationship with them for a really long time. I mean, they’re my favorite – they’re the bomb, you know?
“And so they reached out and said, ‘Would you be down with headlining this Musicians on call thing, and I said, ‘Of course.’ I sort of would do anything for them, because they’ve always been so super supportive.”
“And then, when it was the Musicians on Call thing, of course, I can’t really say no to it because it’s a fantastic organization. I’ve done a lot of work with them and I’ve done a lot of work separately with St. Jude’s Hospital and playing. A lot of times music is sort of a healing thing. I’ve done a lot at, like, nursing homes … women in a shelter, that kind of stuff. So it’s sort of like everything about it was, ‘Of course, let’s do this.”
I saw your show at The Electric Factory in November and you went on and on there about the affinity that you have for Philadelphia. Talk a little about that.
“Ever since I started touring full-time, I would always kind of go to Philadelphia. When I first started way back, I would fly out from California and I would kind of do Boston, New York, Philadelphia, D.C. – that run. And Philadelphia has just always been … it’s just such a musical hotbed. I think a lot of it has to do with WXPN, actually. But also with proximity to New York.
“But I’ve always just sort of felt welcome there. I recorded a live record at what used to be The Point in Bryn Mawr [2005’s “At The Point”] and I think I’ve played every possible venue – from, like, tiny café to … and we were up at the Tower Theatre, I think [Laughs].
Nathanson's new album 'Last of the Great Pretenders'
And it was like, Philadelphia’s just a music town, a hundred percent. Think about Springsteen was embraced there early, and all that kind of stuff. And every time I play there, the crowds are just, like, powerful and super engaged. And so it’s always been on of my favorite places to play, for sure.”
Talk about you latest disc, “Last of the Great Pretenders” – how well it’s doing, how well it’s been received. [“Last of the Great Pretenders,” is the highest-charting disc of his career. It hit No. 16 on Billboard’s albums chart and No. 2 on the rock chart, and produced two Top 40 hits: “Kinks Shirt” and “Mission Bells.” This week, “Kinks Shirt” was still No. 27 on the Adult Alternative chart, more than a year after its release.]
“I was fun to be able to tour the record in the fall. The record came out in summer, and you’re never really sure if anybody’s going to dig the songs [Laughs]. Sort of like sending you kid to the playground and wondering if he or she is going to, like, A) get beaten up or B) beat someone up or C) if they’re not going to get along, you know?
“So it was nice to be able to be able to tour in the fall and watch peoples’ response to the new songs and have them, like, sort of take them as their own so quickly and sing them back to us and all that stuff. So in that respect, it’s been like way beyond. It’s been heartwarming, actually, which is not a word I would use any other place, actually. [Laughs] It’s, like, incredible to get such positive feedback from folks. Still, every day, I’ll get people posting lyrics from the new record and people discovering the new record. And then when we did the fall tour, it was just rad to see people kind of engaged like that and singing and taking the music and making it their own.
“So it’s been pretty bad-ass. So far, it’s been pretty amazing.”