Track by Track with Matthew Smith of Bravely
Posted: by The Editor
Known for his work with NJ folk rock band, Hodera, Matthew Smith recently released a solo EP, Seeking, under the name Bravely. A few weeks back, I got the chance to talk to Matt about these songs, and how the project differs from Hodera.
Smith said that he writes dozens of songs, and some of them just don’t make it to the Hodera table. Instead of scrapping those songs, some of them became the Seeking EP.
“The songs all have a similar origin point, but the difference between Bravely and Hodera is that I’m the sole director of the music throughout the entire process,” says Smith. “Hodera, which started as my solo project, developed to a louder, more inclusive sound. Bravely is those softer, folkier songs that didn’t quite fit the Hodera sound.”
The Bravely songs definitely feel more personal than any Hodera release. In “Braver,” the female lead, Lacey Ellis, directly references “Matthew” as the person in the songs. I asked Smith if there was a specific intent for this metanarrative. He responded, “I didn’t really write these songs any differently than other tracks. I like things to be personal, to be real. Specificity has always been something that I think helps people relate to the content.”
Steering away from the narrative to focus on the music, we talked a bit about Seeking’s style, which I identify as an Americana subgenre of folk. The blending of folk instrumentation with a classic structure shows strength in compilation and collaboration that leads to unique compositions.
I asked Smith if he agreed with the “Americana” genre I had proposed, to which he replied, “I don’t really know. There’s a bit of subgenre with Americana, sure, but folk is the real inspiration for me. I’ve always found Connor Oberst to be a main inspiration, but for this record, I leaned into Clem Snide’s 2015 album, Girls Come First. The emphasis on Seeking’s sound is that small room feel. It’s not like bedroom pop kind of small room, it’s more like a parlor sound, and I think that came out exactly how I wanted it to.”
Before we closed things out, Smith gave me a brief track-by-track of the album, and how that personal metanarrative is weaved throughout the record:
“The whole album overall is influenced by the 12 Step Program that saved me from a dark period. The song ‘Seeking’ is about the journey of finding a higher power/purpose, and discovering your meaning in the universe.
‘The Comedown’ is sort of a follow-up to the Hodera song, ‘Best Intentions.’ After three years, the subject of that song came to a show, told me they heard the song and wanted to try again. It just didn’t work out, and that’s where ‘The Comedown’ came in.
‘Florence’ is straight up named for Hurricane Florence. I wrote it during that harsh storm (both literally and figuratively). I think the song speaks for itself, honestly. I tried to get that visual of survival across with the lyrics.
‘Where We Began’ is the darkest song lyrically. It discusses the events of 9/11, in regard to the lack of control we have over life sometimes. It’s how we learn to cope with situations where things did, or could have affected you, drastically. Much like the 12 Step Program, we’re just handling things, and trying to help others.
‘I Want To Go Home’ is a pretty simple reflection. It’s about a desire to go home, not physically, but emotionally. It’s a longing for true home, and I think it’s best reflected in the lines, ‘It used to be home. I wish it was home. I want to go home.’
‘Braver’ is kind of specific. It’s inspired by a three year relationship I had that fell apart, but we reconciled and stayed friends. I found this old photo of my high school graduation, where she had written me a letter on the back. It just struck a chord with me and reminded me how quickly life can change.
The last song, ‘Clarity,’ was originally titled ‘New Mexico,’ because I wrote it in 2016 during a three week solo tour to NM. It really ties the album off, because the whole thing is about searching. It starts with ‘Seeking,’ and ends with ‘Clarity,’ where I’m still looking for peace and clarity without finding it, but that’s okay. We’re always trying to get better, we’re always seeking a purpose. Clarity comes from knowing you might not find it, but you can always seek it out.”
Seeking is available to stream everywhere now. Check out Bravely, and when you burn through that, go give Smith’s other project, Hodera, a good listen as well.
Luciano Ferrara | @LucianoRFerrara
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