The Sonic City
Indiana singer-songwriter Matt Gold discusses his music and religious freedom
The Sonic City chats with a very special guest internationally renowned singer-songwriter Matt Gold. As an openly gay artist, Matt has forged a career in the music industry, rising to the Top of the Adult Contemporary music charts of Amazon and the FMQB.
With enthusiastic reviews from The Mirror and The Huffington Post, Matt’s career has been gaining momentum, recently entering Billboard’s Hot Adult Contemporary chart as an independent artist. With this said, Matt is also from Indiana, a state currently affected by the proposal of so-called ‘religious freedom’ law which has been described as essentially a license to discriminate against the LGBTQ community. In response to this disturbing piece of legislation, Matt has stood up as an artist and wrote a song called “On the Way” which has been making waves internationally with its powerful message of love over hate.
Casey: Welcome to The Sonic City, Matt; it’s great to have you join me today!
Matt: Thank you, Casey.
Casey: Your recent song “On the Way” has really been resonating internationally as a type of anthem for love and acceptance during this turbulent time in Indiana. Tell us a little about how you came to write this song, and the message that you aim to express through it.
Matt: Well I had originally started writing the music for myself; for another song that I was going to do. I was looking at the news and I went back to the music and the words just started to come out to me, and the song became what it is. It took a completely different direction. I normally don’t really talk about world issues in my music.
Casey: I guess as I’ve seen with many artists, sometimes it’s not something that you choose, it just happens. Was that the case? There came a time that you had something to say, something to speak up about?
Matt: It just happened. I felt that this song lyrically was just about universal love, and somebody in control and making changes that you don’t agree with; and that love is really the only way that this can be all sorted out. Everybody has a different way of standing up for your rights. Some people do it by signing petitions and voting and rallying, I think all of that is effective. Just finding the proper outlet for your voice I think is a key component in being successful.
Casey: What type of reactions have you received from the song so far?
Matt: So far everybody seems to understand my message of love, and it’s coming across that way. There hasn’t been anything negative said that I’m aware of. I think it’s pretty cut and dry; it’s universal. Maybe some might view these lyrics as not specific to Indiana or not specific to the gay community, but I think in general the message I’m trying to convey is that I won’t stand for hate or discrimination, and I don’t think anybody else would. As I mentioned in the song, even God wouldn’t stand for this. This whole thing with religion is not the proper way to approach problems. You cant keep pointing fingers at other people and discriminate against other people to propel yourself
Casey: Living in the LGBTQ village of Toronto, the situation in Indiana has been discussed quite a bit in my neighbourhood, but we would like to hear firsthand from someone who it would directly affect such as yourself. As an openly gay man, how do you feel that this law would affect your day-to-day life, if passed?
Matt: Well, they made an amendment today, but you could still fire people, or deny people people housing or public accommodations; you just can’t use religion as an excuse. That doesn’t really fix the problem, it just kind of creates another problem. I just feel like I wouldn’t want to go into a place of business and have someone say, now that they’ve amended it, “I just don’t like you because you’re gay, and that’s why I choose not to serve you or accommodate you”.
Casey: The very premise of this law itself seems very very troublesome, and I’m just finding it really puzzling as to why anyone would want any variant of it in the first place.
Matt: Right, I mean religious freedom is important, but I don’t think that gives anyone the right to impose their beliefs on others, or to discriminate against them or harm them, and that’s essentially what this is doing. I’m all about different opinions. I know it takes two sides of a coin, but this is really just pushing the movement backwards. It’s not helping anything and we’ve gotten so much ground lately on everything. Everyone has fought a hard fight and we still continue to do that. I think people just need to stop and realize the basis of this is “How do you want to be treated”? The same way I want to be treated.
Casey: Exactly. Now going back to the music again. As you mentioned, there has been a lot of ground gained in recent years, and it has often been said that many underestimate the transformative force of music which can be a powerful tool of social change. It appears that “On the Way” demonstrates this idea. Do you feel that music is an effective way to enact social change?
Matt: I think it’s an effective way to quickly get your point across in three minutes. I feel that music ties you into a certain emotion and if something propels you forward enough and you feel enough, I think instinctively it will change something in your brain, and maybe it will make you change your view on something. That’s what music does to me. I might completely feel differently about something and then I hear a song and I reassess, I think it’s about putting things in perspective to try to fix that problem.
Casey: Definitely. With the medium of song, it’s been picking up a lot of attention on social media which leads me to the next point. Social media is often a contentious area to discuss; some emphasize its role in bullying, while others highlight its ability to unite people on a common cause. As an artist, would you say that social media is an important tool to get your message across?
Matt: I think social media is definitely the way to go to get your message across. You reach a much broader audience. I’m in a social media era. I don’t know how I would do things if it weren’t for Twitter and Facebook and iTunes. I don’t know how I would get myself out there. I guess I would get in a bus and hit the road.
Casey: I often feel the same way. For a number of years, I was a board director with PFLAG, and so much of it was connected through our Facebook group, our Facebook page. When we would provide support for LGBTQ individuals, that’s how they would often find out about us. I often wonder if we were to get rid of social media, essentially, and go back to the pre-connected age, I think it’s almost hard to imagine as we’ve grown so into this medium these days,
Matt: It makes everything more accessible for everyone. It’s easier for me to get up in morning and turn on the computer and read my Yahoo news page or whatever I’m looking at as opposed to being left there with the television to watch the news or wait for the paper. I think in this day and age, it’s all about that instant gratification, and I’m in the middle on that; I feel that it hurts, but it also helps.
Casey: That’s a very valid point. When I was reading about your approach to music, you described it as a type of therapy. Can you share a little bit about how music is a therapeutic process for you?
Matt: I kind of bottle my emotions and feelings up. If you know me, I’m a very quiet and reserved person to strangers. My friends know a different side of me, but In general, I’m soft-spoken. I think just playing piano in itself is therapy for me, and when these things come out lyrically I don’t ever sit down and intentionally say “I’m going to write a song about this”. Stuff is coming out of me that I’m not even aware of. I have no drama going on in my life at the moment, so songs about love or lust, I don’t know where all of that comes from. I’m kind of like a vessel in that sense. I just write what I write and hopefully it speaks for itself. I think that’s the way with this. I just wrote what I wrote and hoped that it would be a universal message that everybody could understand.
I’m not the type of person to throw somebody else under the bus. I’m not saying I shouldn’t throw them under the bus, but I’m not that blatant and opinionated in my lyrics. There was a blogger today that posted about the song and said that it was refreshing that it wasn’t about political agenda, etc; that it was more from the heart, and had a deeper meaning. I think that’s more universal than yelling. It’s all about your approach. I don’t take that kind of approach. I’m all about in with anger out with love.
Casey: When I listened to it, it sounded like it was something that came very naturally; it didn’t seem forced at all. As you said, there was a point to be made, and it was made without finger pointing at anyone in particular; just getting the message across.
Matt: Yes. I think it was either The Advocate or Out who said it was haunting, which I found was kind of an interesting comment. It did come relatively easy for me. I think I wrote the lyrics in like fifteen minutes. It’s hard for me to put out something so rough. I just recorded it on my iPhone at my home. It’s not professionally recorded or anything. I would like to do that. I perceive possibly doing that, but I was interested in getting the message out there; a different type of message and take a different platform and a different stand. I thought, I’m a musician here, and i have a voice and I can do things in a different way; and i wanted to do something more than sign a petition or rally. Again, those are all important things, but I take a different approach, and i think that’s okay.
Casey: I think that approach has been very effective. We’re up here in Toronto, and it’s really resonating with us here, and I think the message is spreading; it’s really struck a chord with not only people in the community, but with people who are allies and people just in general who believe in human rights and respect for human dignity.
Matt: Yes, and this is not just Indiana. It’s happening in other states as well. This is something going on in a lot of places from what I’ve read, and that’s why I think the song is different because its not so specific; it’s just a universal message I’m trying to present.
Casey: Definitely. For our readers interested in more your your music, I highly recommend your recent record ‘Let it Out’; great record, I might add. I noticed that you had worked with David Biaco and Kenny Arnoff. What was it like working with such renowned individuals on this album?
Matt: At first it was very intimidating, but once you get in the studio and get around the people, you realize that they’re just people like you are. They just want to help make the best product possible. I think it’s great when you can work with musicians like that, and people who have worked with so many other people. I was very very humbled, and I’m always happy to collaborate with other people, so it was an interesting experience; and I can never complain about going out to L.A. where it’s sunny and warm and nice.
I just hope that people enjoy the song, and they seem to be responding well to it. I hope I got my message across in a way that people understand. Again, I’m not the type to yell and scream and point fingers. That’s fine if that’s your thing; I don’t condemn you for it. This is all I know: How to address issues is to put it in music and write a song and make people feel that. I think that’s the most important thing I’ve learned as a musician. It doesn’t matter if I’m gay or straight. I mean, I’m proud to be a representative of the gay community. I will never not be proud of that, but for me the music comes first. Everyone feels the same in music. Music makes you feel. Period. Whether you’re gay or straight, white, black, whatever you are; you’re going to feel something, and that’s the most important thing to me.
Casey: Yes, definitely! For our readers, any final thoughts?
Matt: Just keep standing up for what you believe in, and in the best way possible. Even if others think it’s not the best way, you have to go with your gut. That’s exactly what I did with this. I went with my gut. I had other people who didn’t like it, and I thought “Well, I’m at least I’m trying to help in a way that I know can”.
Casey: That’s often the most effective way and the best route. I think this has been a really great thing that you have done for the community, and in general, for respecting human rights across the board.
Matt: Thank you, Casey.
Casey: No problem. Thank you Matt. It’s been both an honour and a privilege speaking with you this afternoon. From up here in Toronto, we wish you and the fellow residents of Indiana all of the best with your efforts toward equality and acceptance. Keep up the great work, and we look forward to hearing a lot of great music from you in the future!
About the Author
Casey Robertson is a genderqueer human rights activist, musician ,composer, and graduate student researching musicology and cultural theory. In recent years he has been involved with the committees of LGBTQA projects such as the Durham Pride Prom, Allies for Equality, and Queerstock Canada. He also served as a member of the board of directors for PFLAG Durham Region from 2012-2014, where he was a member of the peer2peer support team and a facilitator for monthly sharing evenings. Casey currently resides in the Church-Wellesley Village of Toronto and enjoys spending his free time scoring independent film projects and playing with his band Liberty Street, while on the constant search to discover new artists of all expressive forms. Follow Casey on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at CaseyRobertson.net