Interview by Kimberly Annette

Matt Sorum’s Fierce Joy speaks volumes about the artist himself. Sorum is at a place in his life where he has found success, health, peace and after speaking with him; I truly believe inner-joy. So yes, Fierce Joy speaks volumes about the artist and Stratosphere, the release’s title encompasses a musical odyssey that crosses time and space. Mystically transporting the listener deep within every chord of the music, an adventure for the lover of the real; real music that is.

Stratosphere begins with an intro (Strosphere part 1) that engulfs the listener, carrying one into another dimension with it’s old school television symphonic adaptation which sets the stage as it blends into the first song, “The Sea.” The entire album is a musical treat with an edge. Matt’s musical influences have a voice almost as if each of them has walked out of time to take a seat on the edge of the experience; watching and enjoying the magical odyssey which they have inspired.Matt-Sorum-Stratosphere

One thing that stuck out most for me while researching Sorum, was how mindful he has become about the bigger world picture and his heart for the future. The future of wild animals, women’s rights in countries across the globe, and for that of the arts, making sure that our children and their generation do not grow up in a greyscale flat world. Sorum is quite involved with giving back across the board, but the Adopt the Arts project gives life to a system that believes music and art have no place in education. A system that our children are better prepared for life if they are only taught to copy and paste, take no responsibility, and all music and art come from the digital machine. Children deserve to know the fierce joy that art and music bring to the soul.

If Sorum’s charitable contributions were not enough to keep him busy, recently he got married, opened his own recording studio (Drac Studios), and is producing various other artists. Some of which are; Macy Gray, PennyLane, Billy Idol, Mastodon, and Billy Gibbons just to name a few. With all this, what more could Sorum wish to accomplish? Perhaps his own solo project?

While speaking with Sorum, the imagery that Stratosphere created in my mind is solidified and comes to life each time I enjoy one of the tracks. Below is my recent conversation with Sorum, may his heart in this project open your mind to the magical odyssey which is Stratosphere.


KA ~ Hey Matt, glad we have a chance to chat. So tell me what’s new with you?

Sorum~Well, let me see. I got married last year. That’s pretty new.”

KA ~ How’s that going for you?

Sorum ~Good; we get along great. We do good.”

KA ~ That’s fantastic

KA ~ It sounds like you’re having a blast. This is … you know, like in your webisode, the first episode, the very last thing you say is; “probably one of the greatest experiences of my life. Just where I’m at now… I think anybody can relate. I mean, that’s really a cool place to be.

Sorum ~ “Well, making my own record was … something I thought about doing for about three or four years, but then I just I didn’t really have sort of the ways and means to kind of figure out how to make it happen, so I had to deal with all of the business aspects of it first— like, how am I going to put it out, you know. I didn’t necessarily want to put my own money into it, so I started looking for a partner and then I found a guy to form my own record company. Before I even started the album, I did all that and then I found an investor. Then once I did that I was able to just sort of relax, and I had the money to go start the album without putting a lot of pressure on myself, you know— wonder like, “Oh my God, I’m going to throw $100,000 of my own money into a project that I don’t know what’s going to happen here.” So once I got somebody interested in the fact that I’m forming basically my label and I started laying down and putting the record together … once I did that, I was very relaxed. I mean, I just got super into it and I had no pressure to kind of come up with any kind of particular kind of song. I didn’t have to write a hit per-se or whatever, but I’m just going to write some cool songs. Then I started thinking, “Well, what kind of record do I want to make?” And then initially I was like, “God, I guess I could make any kind of record I want.” I got real … the only thing that I have to worry about is my fans and … my fans are rockers. So, like, even then I didn’t really worry about it too much. I was sort of like, you know what, I’m going to do what I want and people are going to go, “Well that’s quite a bit different.” But in a way, I thought that was a better story than me coming out with some silly rock album”

KA ~ Well, I mean—this one, it’s incredibly personal or at least it feels incredibly personal. Is the whole musical journey you take us on as personal for you? I mean within each songs lyric, you talk about family members, people being gone, and … just where your heart is as far the humanitarian aspect of life.

Sorum ~ “Yeah, I think once the lyrics sort of started coming out, you know, I realized that it was a pretty natural thing for me to do. Obviously my vocals use a certain kind of range, so I figured, you know, try to think of the music as more of a bed for the vocal and you don’t really want to make it so hard rock that the vocal doesn’t really have a place that sits properly. So I was like, well I’m going to do kind of an organic Tom Petty meets David Bowie meets the Beatles kind of record you know. And I’m like, that’s what I’m going to do. I always wanted to record live strings and I wanted it to be a very acoustic album so a lot of the songs— most of the songs—have acoustic guitar, piano, about four tracks with quartet string sections, a lot of cool keyboards. … I was really super stoked when the sound started coming together.”

KA ~ Were you able to hear the music before you put it together? I mean, all of those arrangements and everything—the way it came together, it’s amazing; its absolutely beautiful. It’s so raw and organic. It’s raw and organic and just really powerful.

Sorum ~Well, thanks, but I think what I did was I really thought about who I was going to use on the album as musicians I’ve known for a while. Everyone was saying, “Well, who are you going to get on the record and is it going to be about your guests and all this blah, blah, blah.” And I’m like, no, probably not. I’m probably going to get the best players for the record and they might not even be known at all, except for the fact that they’re some of the best studio musicians around that I know. And they’re not even studio musicians in the sense of the generic thing. They’re more like the groovy guys, you know. And the guys that I picked to play on the album are guys that work on all these kind of trippy, groovy records around town. And so what we did was we went and rehearsed the songs and basically all I had was an acoustic guitar, you know. I’m standing there playing the chord chains and singing the melody and to hear the band kick in was just so awesome—to hear the music start to stutter. It kind of starts to unfold around the player and the guitar. And then I remember one day when I was in the studio, and I sat down—we were over at this place called Swing House that’s really cool. Basically, I would show the band the song and then they all start kicking in and just jamming to it, and I was like, oh, this is awesome. And then I sat down and said, “You guys, I wrote this song on piano, and I want you to hear it and I’m thinking sort of like, kind of an Elton John meets T-Rex and very seventies—Elton John meets “Layla” or something. So I would say stuff like that—give them an idea of what I thought as sort of an add. … So when I kicked in the gong all of the sudden the drummer, Ryan McCloud, he just did the perfect thing to it. Same thing when I played him with “Ziggy Says” for the first time—I said I want this to kind of have a T. Rex kind of groove meets the Beatles. And then the whole ending when we went into the whole big string section, I remember saying to the drummer, “I want you to kind of go Keith Moon meets Ringo here—like go crazy.” So that’s the kind of banter we’d have and the whole experience was us talking like that. When I did “The Sea,” I said to everybody, “Hey, I want this to be kind of a chill Tom Petty meets Jackson Brown.” I said to Randy Ray Mitchell, the guitar player, I said, “I want you to kick in with some cool slide melody.” And that was just awesome hearing it all. Also I had a really killer percussionist, a guy named Scott Breadman”

KA ~ … That’s amazing that you guys had that kind of a chemistry that kicked in and the music just flowed from there. Good Stuff.

Sorum ~ “I really want to take it out on the road. I’ve got a killer band and everybody wants to go, and now my next step is trying to figure out how to pull that off.”

KA ~ Getting the booked?

Sorum ~Not only that but just get enough money to make it happen because, you know, I got a six-piece band, and I don’t see myself in a Ford van going across the country, sharing a hotel room with six grown men”

KA ~ (Laughs) Right, right. You’re at a different point in your life now.

Sorum ~Yes”

KA ~ Yeah, you know, that’s one of the things about the industry today. I talk to a lot of different musicians in different stages in their careers, and the one thing that—because of the changing climate for music—is just it’s becoming more and more difficult, even to where first it was just the record sales that went; then it went to where people are just not supporting live music anymore. I think it has to do more with the digital age that we’re in. People are just losing touch with their connection to the real. You know what I mean?

Sorum ~Yeah, I do. Well, there’s some symbiotic sort of translation of the fact that you can push a button on your phone and get a song versus you can go into your bedroom, pick up a piece of vinyl, look at the artwork and start to experience the moment—it’s about being in the moment. So it’s like, are you in the moment when you’re listening to some song on your phone? But it’s the whole experience of the music. I think, if you look at the new generation, everyone’s in this whole DJ trip. It’s really mindless music. It’s a background for a party, is all it is. [For me], growing up as a kid, rock ‘n’ roll was that. Rock ‘n’ roll was not a background; it was my lifestyle. It was everything. It was an entire culture. But the DJ culture, I can’t understand as much as people actually gravitating to it as music. Where’s the song? I don’t quite … the only thing I can say is it seems like the whole digital world, and this quick response to the feeling is what it is. Very weird time right now.”

KA ~ Exactly. It’s kind of like people are so plugged into the machine—whether it’s the Internet or their phones or whatever it is. They’re so connected to this machine; they’re connecting to reality or to the world through the machine instead of through real interpersonal relationships.

Sorum ~Even getting somebody to click on a YouTube link—like for instance, I made all these webisodes. The idea of the webisode is always to get people to see what it is because it’s like, how do you get people to discover your music, No. 1? I put an album out and it’s over there on a file that you’ve got to go to. You’ve got to throw as much stuff out on the Internet as possible, like photos, content, stuff for people. But then, you’ve got to get them to click on it, to go and leave—say you’re on Facebook—get them to click on the link to leave Facebook. A lot of people don’t want to leave Facebook. They don’t want to head to another destination. They don’t want to go, “Oh, I’m going to be leaving this destination,” their little planet they’re on. Or even on Twitter—so you put your stuff up on Twitter and they’re looking around and scrolling at stuff. Click here: Well, I don’t know. I’m kind of busy looking at all this stupidity. So that’s the hardest thing. But then they find something silly, like a dog scratching its balls, and they just think that’s amazing and they send it to 30 million other people. You see “French bulldog scratching butt”—woo. It’s a little bizarre when you see some chicken chasing around another chicken, and it’s got 50 million views and everyone just thinks it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever seen. Oh my God.”

KA ~ Right. I’m right there with you. I get that, completely. It’s a difficult time; it really is. People are trading it—they’re trading the depth of the music. They’re missing out on the experience of it all.

Sorum ~What it is maybe … you look at reality TV—you look at stuff like that. I think there’s more pressure in the world now than ever. People are pressured. There’s a lot of that. Everybody. And it seems like a lot harder times, and I think if people are going to sit down and listen to a record like mine, they’ve got to be ready to get serious. They’ve got to be ready to open up their mind and actually think. To go and watch a reality show or watch some chicken chasing another chicken is a moment to not think about anything except how stupid it is.”

KA ~ Yeah. Mindless crap, right!

Sorum ~ “Yeah. So when you wrote an album like I wrote, you’re looking for a very specific audience—someone that’s willing to take the time to sit down, and that’s kind of where I’m at. That’s kind of the sort of people that I’ve been hanging around with and want to be around, the kind of ideal that I have as far as the kind of music I want to write and how I want to represent myself. Because rock ‘n’ roll was always an escape too, really. This album is a little bit more of a thinking-end album—like, what does this mean to me …? But then again, it’s more of a real life experience; hopefully it’s stuff people can relate to. There’s other world issues, like “For the Wild Ones” and “Lady of the Stone”—that’s pretty serious.”

KA ~ Tell me about those. … You’re involved in some of those kind of outreaches, aren’t you?

Sorum ~Yeah, well, “For the Wild Ones” … I’ve been very concerned about what’s happening with a lot of wildlife. Like the elephant and rhino-poaching situation that’s been going on in Africa—horrible; last year, more rhinos were killed in the history of Africa. The last count I believe was like 800 last year alone.”

KA ~ That’s craziness. That’s absolute craziness.

Sorum ~ “It might even be up to 1,000 by now. But usually, average, they were losing 200 a year, maybe 250. Elephants its crazy. They kill thousands of elephants a year for tusks. Just the treatment of animals—I’ve got to say, I’m more of a wildlife activist than I am on regular sort of animal treatment. I understand animal treatment is an issue, but my focus is wildlife. The only reason I say that is because I’m really involved with the dolphin project, which is the situation with the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji. I went over to Japan last September with Ric O’Barry from “The Cove.” If you look it up on Google, you can just put “Matt Sorum Taiji” in there, or “The Cove.” But I got involved in that charity, and I’ve been working with Ric O’Barry, who starred in the movie “The Cove,” and we’ve been doing a lot of stuff together. I just did a big concert for him last year. And then I have my own charity, Adopt the Arts, which is an arts charity I do in [kindergarten] through six schools. I give instruments, and I do arts projects. Last year I did a huge art project with the kids where they all drew elephants. At the time, they learned about elephants and they learned that elephants come from Africa and Asia, and they don’t need to be in a circus, and that there’s poaching. We did it in a very gentle way, but [wanted to] teach the kids that we need to respect animals, and we need to treat them with compassion. So I did that. This year I’m doing dogs and cats. Next month I’m doing 400 schools, so I’m very involved in that. Another really heavy charity that I’m involved in is called Animals Asia and they’re in China and Vietnam. They rescue bears from factories … that use them for bear bile extraction. If you go on the Animals Asia [website], you’ll see what they do. They’re really amazing people. Do you ever watch “Downton Abbey?””

KA ~ Yeah, I’ve seen “Downton Abbey.”

Sorum ~ “The cook on there, Miss Patmore, she’s my friend, and we work on that together. Jane Lynch is my partner on my kids’ charity. I’ve got a lot of shit going on with that. So when I started working on the album, I tried to tie everything together. How can I tie my whole world together, all the stuff that I do? So I wrote that song, “For the Wild Ones,” based on … I’m a real activist against Sea World, Barnum & Bailey—all that stuff’s got to go. It’s basically barbaric. I’m over the circus thing. Circuses have got to go. I’m tired of live animals being exploited. The zoo situation is the way it’s going to be. You can’t really talk about zoos, in a way. I’m against animals being entertainment for people and being abused. So that is part of the song, “For the Wild Ones.” Listen to the lyrics—it’s based on an elephant that was being beat in a circus. And then “Lady of the Stone,” I wrote about my take on our global situation and what’s been going on with all these traumatic sort of situations around the world with earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes. I’m real concerned about the use of drones, which is an instrument the military uses basically to kill people. So that whole song is pretty like, sort of a commentary on my outlook on global warming and issues that I’m concerned about. “Land of the Pure” is pretty heavy; that’s about … it basically started as an idea after I saw that little girl, Malala [Yousafzai], that got shot by the Taliban. I don’t know if you remember that.”

KA ~ You know, personally, I try not to turn on the TV at least hardly ever.

Sorum ~ “Well, Malala was this little girl in Pakistan. The Taliban doesn’t allow the girls to be educated. The Taliban is very ruthless when it comes to the situation with the male population being rulers, especially the Taliban situation with …. So they shot this little girl when she was on her way walking to school.”

KA ~ That’s craziness… That’s absolute craziness. The destruction these days that we’re doing to each other, it’s just …

Sorum ~ “So; she became this token, this symbol for women around the world. I didn’t name her name in the song by any means, but I took an example of the idea of that, and I wrote “Land of the Pure.”

KA ~ Nice. So there’s a lot of depth to the songs that you put on this album. A lot of depth to the lyrics, and the journeys. You’ve got “Josephine,” about your grandparents—that’s an incredible story, 69 years together.

Sorum ~ “Yeah, super cool, huh? My grandma is still alive. She’s 101.”

KA ~ Wow. That’s amazing. Were you really close to your grandparents?

Sorum ~ “Oh, yeah. I used to spend a lot of time with them down by Laguna Beach. We used to go hang out down there a lot. So when I went to write the album, I went down to Laguna and I stayed in this hotel they used to take me to in the ’60s when I was a little kid. It’s still there and everything. So that song, I just sat—I have a grand piano in my living room, and I kind of wrote that by myself just sitting there. I thought, well, do I want to record this? I’m like, well, I’ll just record the piano, the vocal, and I’ll do a little bit of strings. It didn’t really need any drums. I didn’t think it needed any. So I just left it really simple and put the orchestra over it, which is a live orchestra. I recorded a few songs like that—like “Nick Drake,” I recorded by myself on guitar and I just put one cello on there. Maybe live I would put some drums on it; it might be cool to have drums on lit live, to make it a little bit more upbeat”

KA ~ I don’t know, it kind of works. The whole thing just blends together really well. The progression of the songs throughout the whole entire album—I dig it

Sorum ~ “When I laid it out, and I put the songs together, and sort of put the order of how I wanted them—it felt kind of right the way I did it. I ended it with the really kind of weirder stuff, obviously. The last song I recorded was “Stratosphere,” which was that spoken word piece. But then I wanted to kind of wanted to bookend the album with that. I don’t know if you have the album version or if you have iTunes or if you have the download, but on that album, it starts with “Stratosphere Part 1” and ends with “Stratosphere Part 2.” But basically I went into this—metaphorically I was thinking, well, hey cool, it’ll be kind of like that movie “Gravity.” All of a sudden, you kind of leave the planet for a minute, you go into the stratosphere, and at the end of the album you come back, or whatever. The idea was to kind of take you on a journey, the whole idea with the album cover with me as the astronaut and all that shit.”

KA ~ Great concept. I mean, it’s a great concept, the whole thing.. can’t wait to see it live. Are there any dates? Are you going to do anything live anytime soon?

Sorum ~ “Well, like I said, I’m working on that. I’m hoping I can get out in the summertime. I’d love to go to at least a few shows. I don’t want to let it go without playing the album live. I’m going to shoot a video on Thursday and Friday. I’m going out to the desert to shoot “The Sea.” It’s going to be a full-length, high imagery kind of … so we’re going to shoot to get that on Vevo. “The Sea” has been picked up on about five radio stations so far, which is not bad for me. I want to get like 25 or 30, and then I’ll be definitely ready to go. I’ll have to go on the road then. After “The Sea”, I’ve got about three more videos to come out after that. They’re already done. They’re actually already in the bag. I’ve got “Lady of the Stone,” “For the Wild Ones” [and] “Ode to Nick Drake.”

KA ~ What about “What Ziggy Says”?

Sorum ~ “I’d love to make that video. Did you like that one?”

KA ~ That’s the one I’d love to see.

Sorum ~ “Yeah, I hope that I can make that video. I want to. I’ve got a guy that’s gonna make it for me.”

KA ~ Just listening to it, that imagery that comes into it—because of that circus backdrop and the Beatles kind of tone to it, it’s just a really cool song.

Sorum ~ “Yeah, thanks. I want to do that video. If I can get “The Sea” going and get some other things rolling, I’ll make it anyway, just as a statement.”

KA ~ Yeah, you should. It’d be a cool one. I’d be interested to see what you come up with for it.

Sorum ~ I’ve got an idea of what I want to do, but I won’t tell you yet.

KA ~ No, you’ve got to save that one. Well, alright…. Let me ask one last question. Because of the difficulty and the climate and everything, the kids that are out there—or just people that want to get into the industry or be a musician and have it as their profession—is there any kind of word of advice you would give to them for making out there right now?

Sorum ~ “I think you’ve got to be ready for a lot of obstacles. You can’t get into this business thinking you’re going to get handed the golden egg. This is a very difficult business. … First of all, you’ve got to do it because you love it, No. 1. You’ve got to do it for yourself, No. 1. And your expectations—you’ve got to keep your expectations in a position that you’re not going to hurt yourself. I’m going to make the best music possible. I’m going to work hard, like I would if I had a regular job. You’ve got to treat it very similar—like if you were a guy who had to get up and go 9 to 5 to a gig. You’ve got to put your heart and soul in to it; you’ve got to work hard. You’ve got to be passionate enough about it that nothing is going to keep you from not doing your dream. And then I would say, create something that you think people are going to want. You’ve got to come up with something cool for yourself, No. 1. But then kind of look at the world around you and find your niche. Go for it. If you really want to do it, go for it. But remember it’s not going to be easy and you’ve got to work hard. That’s all.”

KA ~ Well, you know, things that are worthwhile and are your passions and your dreams, they don’t usually come easy. But when they do come, then it’s worth it—they’re worth the long journey or the road you had to travel for it.

Sorum ~ “That’s right.”

KA ~ Thank you, Matt. I appreciate you giving me a call and doing this interview… Thank you for your time.

Sorum ~ “I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.”

If after reading the full interview, you are not intrigued enough to check out Matt Sorum’s Fierce Joy Stratosphere or check into Adopt the Arts Foundation, my only question to you would be; are you kidding? Why not? (Links provided below)





Matt Sorum Interview on Matt Sorum’s Fierce Joy, Stratosphere and Other Stuff
4.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)

Leave a Reply