Matisyahu reflects on new album, rocks the Blind Pig
Before reggae star Matsiyahu performed at the Bling Pig on Thursday, he spoke with AnnArbor.com about his newest album "Spark Seeker" and what it's like to share music with the world.
The deeply spiritual musician has become known for reflecting on his life and Jewish spirituality through music that defies any one genre. His musical influences—reggae, hip-hop, pop, alternative, and traditional Jewish music—come together in his newest album, and hints of all of them were heard at the Blind Pig show.
There is something unmistakably different about Matisyahu these days. It was not long ago that he cut his long beard and hair, his signature look, which he kept in accordance with Hasidic tradition. Now the clean-shaven musician has a much more secular look. But his connection to Jewish history and spirituality remains in his life and in his lyrics. He recorded part of his new album during a 2-week trip to Tel Aviv with producer Kool Kojak.
In a phone conversation with AnnArbor.com, Matisyahu indicated that the new album was inspired by his personal experiences, choices, and faith. However, he was hesitant to say whether or not he is the "Spark Seeker."
"When you're creating any type of music, you're creating it from your perspective," he says. But at the same time, "Spark Seeker is an idea that's really up for anyone's interpretation.
"Communicating something personal can affect a lot of people like a wave of consciousness. I think it's really about how it inspires them in their own situation, in their own life or relationship, whatever it is," Matisyahu says.
Although "Spark Seeker" speaks to anyone in personal reflection, many of his songs hint at his state of mind during his own life changes. Of his song "Crossroads", which helped kick off the concert at the Blind Pig, he says, "In my own life, I find myself at a crossroads multiple times a day and I have to make decisions about which direction you want your life to go."
More pop than his previous releases, "Spark Seeker" still features his multi-genre approach to music. When asked about his musical influences these days, Matisyahu says, "there are a multitude."
"There's the Israeli element and spiritual experience element that I wanted to bring to the album. I wanted to bring in a very organic mix of sounds that are basically pop songs. I see myself as making all types of records in my career and this was definitely one of the records I wanted to make. Kojak (who has produced pop musicians Nicki Minaj, Travis Barker, and Ke$ha) was really the perfect person to do that record with. He has the same kind of sensibilities as me when it comes to that kind of music," he says.
The crowd at the Blind Pig got a good taste of songs from "Spark Seeker," including his hit singles "Live Like A Warrior" and "Sunshine" Others off the new album were "Crossroads" and "I Believe in Love."
But it was not all about the new stuff. He mixed it up with older hits such as "King Without a Crown" and "Jerusalem," both off of his 2006 release "Youth," which had much of the crowd singing along. Everyone at the Blind Pig seemed to know the words to "One Day" off his 2009 release "Light," which he played as an encore.
Despite a last-minute venue change—the show was originally scheduled for Pease Auditorium at Eastern Michigan University—the smaller show at the Blind Pig had a lot to offer. The change of venue added The Constellations, a Atlanta-based rock, soul, and hip-hop inspired band, who got a great response from the crowd. And the smaller venue provided for a more intimate experience of Matisyahu's performance.