Matt Gold’s First Album Drown Before You Swim Is As Good As He Looks

Marilyn Monroe wanted to be known for her acting ability rather than for her sex appeal. Matt Gold wants to be known for his music rather than for the lanky muscular body he displays in his modeling portfolio. He vetoes my choice of photos to accompany this review of his newly released first album Drown Before You Swim. Okay, I say. I’ve listened to his album. I’d love it even if he weren’t such a hunk.

Gold is a singer/song-writer/pianist who is on the verge of graduating from the coffee houses of Indiana to mainstream prominence. As I expected, he has no problem talking about being gay, but would be disappointed if he were to become pigeonholed as a gay artist.

Gold tells me that Tori Amos is his inspiration.

“When I heard her sing, it was as if I heard the voice within me for the first time. That was when I realized what I could do,” he says.

He is indeed very Tori Amos, but with elements of gay singers who are his contemporaries, like Rufus Wainwright, Tom Goss and Matt Alber. When I say this, Gold laughs and protests the comparison with Wainwright and Goss. He says, “ I’ll tell you a story because of what you just said. When I had my first demo, I gave it to my singer friend Kim Fox because she said she could get it to Geffen. After a few months, I asked her about it and she said ‘Well, I did give it to them and they liked it but they said they had just signed someone like me, named Rufus Wainwright.’ I don’t think we are anything alike.” He is right about that. Gold is much better.

After a show, if someone says, ‘You made me cry’ I think I have done my job.

As we talk, I find that Gold is a very sweet and vulnerable young man who is full of endearing insecurities. He talks wistfully about having been adopted by a strongly Baptist couple in small town Ohio. Their marriage broke apart and Gold’s coming out further distanced him from the comforts and confidence of family. He says, “Not having much support leaves a hole in you that is never filled. I have abandonment issues. I was twice given up. Now when I meet guys who have loving families, I am so envious I think I would trade anything, even my talent, to have that experience. Instead, I make my own gay family.” You and almost everybody else, Matt.

Gold became a musician on his own with almost no training.

“I always liked music and singing. I took piano lessons for only a month when I was eight. It came natural. I love making people feel something deeply,” he says. “After a show, if someone says, ‘You made me cry’ I think I have done my job.”

Gold says the name of the album Drown Before You Swim describes the process of its creation.

“Very messy and frustrating. I had to switch studios in the middle of production. I wrote the song with that title in the middle of all that and I think it sums up both the happy and the sad sides of the album,” he says. “I have songs that go both ways. You can take your pick.”

I liked most of each. Gold plays a gentle and pensive piano that carries the easy burden of a velvet voice. There is a steady rain in his lyrics. Sometimes driving and cold. Sometimes a soft warm shower. He is often trying to tell an ex-lover something.

He says the song Void is about his last break-up and that it delivers his true dark self. It is a very empty room. Very fallen leaves. The song Recovering asks how we go on living, even in despair. Very autumnal. Very bleak. The song Grounded is a soaring arrangement of strings and vocals. Very Eleanor Rigby. When Gold describes how demanding he was in the studio about this arrangement, I begin to see the Laura Nyro side of him that producers probably dread even though the results are gorgeous.

There are equally fine happy songs like Ordinary which is an ode to someone you build your life around, and Oh Joe which may be the best song on the album. Gold almost did not include it because he did not think it was strong or would get any response.  It is about a particular friend of his who was never his lover. When I suggest that its strength comes from the fact that it is a portrait of a real person rather than of a pain that Gold is exorcising, he pauses just long enough to consider that bit of analysis. I do not know if he agrees.

When I concluded our chat by reminding Gold that Marilyn had real acting talent but used her looks to get the parts she wanted, he says, “I don’t really see myself the way others do. In everyday life, I am not confident, but when I walk on stage, I lose all my insecurity.”

I sigh with the presumptuous implication of the greater wisdom of an elder and say goodbye. I wish Matt Gold much success with his exquisite first album. Oh, and for the record, boys, as of this writing, he is single.

For more info: http://www.mattgold.netFor the new video: TV performance: Tony Adams

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