Get Close ... with Singer-Songwriter Matt Nathanson

By Renata Certo-Ware

Matt Nathanson has been in the music business for two decades, cranking out soulful folk-rock tunes like “Come On Get Higher,” often used to set the tone on shows like Scrubs and One Tree Hill. (We’re also partial to “Laid,” his rollicking, risqué James cover that popped up throughout the American Pie flicks.) But before he played cities across the country, Nathanson grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts. He recently returned to the area for an intimate show at BOKX 109 in Newton’s Hotel Indigo, part of the Mix 104.1 “Mix Lounge” concert series. We nabbed him for a fun chat about everything from instigating make-out sessions on The Bachelor to oral sex in the olden days.

Ever consider moving back to Massachusetts? No . . . I’ve lived in San Francisco for about as long as I lived here, and I think California suits me a little better in terms of weather. I love the seasons when I can visit them. Although sometimes I think I want to move to New Hampshire and live in the woods and snowshoe around. But I’m feeling pretty California-y. There are milder seasons. My blood has thinned; I’ve become a total wimp.

Gene Simmons was an early musical influence. Any others? It was all of KISS, not just Gene — although he did spit fire, which is badass. KISS was my band. . . . From there I got into hair metal for a long time. U2 was a band that straddled the line. Growing up near Boston in the ’80s, as it still is now, it was almost a prerequisite: you gotta love the Celtics, the Sox, the Patriots, and U2. So I went to see U2 . . . and it was life-changing. Seeing them perform in Boston is like a religious experience. I’ve seen them play elsewhere, but watching them in the old Boston Garden was like watching them play to all their friends. It was the most tingling experience you could ever have.

You recently tweeted admiration for Kanye West. Is he your guilty pleasure? I was listening to his last record, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. You’re not supposed to confuse the art with the artist, and he makes it really easy because he’s not very likeable in his persona as a star — but man, he’s so good that it just doesn’t matter. But no, I don’t have guilty pleasures musically. I have television guilty pleasures: bad early-2000s dramedies. I’m embarrassed by my love of Dawson’s Creek. I like Dawson’s Creek because I can live vicariously through other people, instead of my own painful life. I was in love with Joey. . . . She could have shanked my mom, and I would have been like, “Yeah, Joey Potter, way to kill my mom!”

Do you think your recent performance on The Bachelor , where you serenaded Ben and Lindzi on a private date, influenced the heavy petting and make-out sesh that ensued? It was a lot like being the music for porn. I felt like a fluffer. It was really strange. It was just these two people getting it on. And we just played, and if we leaned into something a little funky, they really got into it. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there when people are macking, but it’s not fun; it’s not something you want to do every day. I thought they were just going to be dancing, but then they started to get their lick on.

How is your newest record, Modern Love , different from past records? It was produced more like records in the ’80s, like the Tears for Fears records and the INXS record, where the production is as big a deal as the song. We were trying to get that feel where you hear the song and it kind of feels like it was beamed in from the future, but back in the 1980s. Back to the future.

You wrote the single “Modern Love” for a female friend who dubbed herself “nobody’s girlfriend.” Why did that strike you so profoundly? I always thought that was a great line. Yeah, powerful woman! You don’t need to be anybody’s girlfriend — men suck, culture sucks, and it teaches everybody to like Jersey Shore. So I say go: be your own girlfriend.

If modern love doesn’t cut it, do you consider yourself an old-school romantic? I don’t think they had oral sex back in the olden days, so I’m not that guy. . . . I’m definitely a modern person.