Matt Wallin and his Nervous Breakdown
Brian Ripple | Tuesday Jun. 1st, 2021
photo courtesy of Neubauer Media
Matt Wallin and his Nervous Breakdown are set to release his first album on June 4th at the infamous Filling Station on the outskirts of new Bozeman. Ravens is a collection of fifteen songs from the heart and the from the gut, a reflection of hard work and dedication.
Growing up a few miles south of the Canadian border in rural North Dakota, Matt Wallin tells stories about the trials and hardships of rural farm life and oil boomtowns to starting a family and following your own path, wherever that leads you. Ravens songs paint pictures, with writing that reflect the character of Mike Cooley, Corb Lund, Waylon Jennings and Vic Chestnutt. Songs you can see when you hear them.
Recorded in Bozeman, with production help from Max Davies (Kitchen Dwellers) and engineering help from John Griffith (Dusty Pockets) the songs on Ravens hit on ethereal parts of human life. Love, connections, regret and death. Dead ends, failures, hopes and the future are all themes that are interwoven into the fabric of Ravens.
Bozeman Magazine recently had the opportunity to have a cold one or three with Matt Wallin and Max Davies at Shine Beer Sanctuary to discuss the new album and a few other things, enjoy.
Brian Ripple: When did you get to the point where you wanted to pursue music?
Matt Wallin: I have always wanted to. I love music. I used to go to like a million shows a year, but when I see those guys doing it I realize that it is somewhat unrealistic to make a living doing it, so I never really pursued it very hard. And I am still not really trying to push my way into anything, it’s just kind of happening. A while back I was singing at a campfire after a Pine Creek show and somebody was like “hey, you can really sing a song” Then you hang out with some people and it just really snowballed.
BR: So is the new album Ravens the first recording that you have ever done?
MW: Yes. Ever. It is long. There’s a lot of words on this record. Probably too many... COVID was good for this for me. In April or May 2020, these guys (Kitchen Dwellers) came to my property and they were saying how much of nothing they had to do, and it was a lot. So at that point, I asked Max to just go through a couple songs, to try and work them out, and get some lessons and get better.
Max was like holy shit you have a lot of songs, let’s make a record. So Max is playing guitar on the record and also produced it, John Griffith plays bass, Ethan Decker plays drums, and it was like this little house band. Pretty slick. I wanted to make a record and it just happened. Now it’s really happening, it’s supposed to be here today.
BR: How many did you order?
Max Davies: 200
MW: I am poor, I am funding the whole thing myself from just painting, and I have a lot of other bills, but it was time for this shit to come out and be done.
BR: So how long did it take from being at the cabin with Max to pressing the record in the studio?
MW: Four months maybe? The whole project has been eight or nine months. We did it sporadically really. A day here and there, but it was so fun, and there was no rush.
BR: What was your process for picking what songs went on the album?
MW: I didn’t show them a couple songs, but really we started with sixteen and ended with fifteen. I actually had ideas for some songs when we started, that came into a song while we were working. The premise was there, and the idea was so strong that I couldn’t not do it. These guys were at times saying do you really need it? ...and I was like I will figure it out, I’ll write this one too. We have some strong songs, it is really cool.
BR: You also have set up a live band and have played one show already, right?
MW: Yep. We have played a few shows already.
BR: How did you go about selecting those people to play in the live band?
MW: I met Al Sanvolt, he is a drummer. I was playing guitar in a backyard of a place and he came up and asked if he could be my drummer. I said I don’t have a band. He said I should make one. So he came on probably two years ago and we have been fiddling around.
One of my best friends Tony Boyd is playing bass. He actually sold all his equipment to buy a bass to be in my band that didn’t exist five years ago, and he has been hanging on to that thing, so I figured I better ask him.
Weston Lewis is my guitar player. He is fantastic. We have known each other for quite a while too. We have a really good band. It is fun.
photo courtesy of Neubauer Media
BR: You play acoustic guitar?
MW: Ya, acoustic. We’ll try and get in on electric sometime soon. Weston plays electric. He is on his Tele shredding.
I mean, I have a lot of confidence behind the microphone, I am not very shy in most circumstances. Just being able to step away from that and have that be a little bit less of the show, and having someone who can make people actually scream when he gets down on some shit. That feels so good to have that in a band. He doesn’t step all over the room either. He is very nice about when he comes in and goes out. I have played with some pretty harsh players, but he is not one of them.
BR: Tell us about the name. Matt Wallin and his Nervous Breakdown.
MW: It’s the number one thought in my head all the time is either I am having a nervous breakdown, I’m about to have a fuckin nervous breakdown, or when is the next nervous breakdown going to happen because I feel kinda good. Ever since I was a kid that has stuck in my head, those two words.
When I was thinking of a band name it was months and I was like what am I going to call myself. And then I am on my way to work and I am like, oh no, I am about to have a nervous breakdown and I am like, well that’s pretty good. So the band that I had right before this was “The Nervous Breakdown”, but I could never find myself playing with the same people for very long. So I just put Matt Wallin and HIS nervous Breakdown, so now Max is a part of my breakdown, Griff is a part of my breakdown, anyone who joins me on stage or just myself is still a nervous breakdown.
MD: So he can say something like ‘tonight’s Nervous Breakdown is...’
BR: Nice I love it. Can I mention it seems contradictory to what you mentioned about your confidence onstage?
MW: Well, so that’s the one thing. If I could be on stage at all times, life would be a lot better. That’s when I feel comfortable, which is kinda the reverse for most people. You know, if I am standing in the crowd watching music I have such high anxiety and sometimes I can’t talk to people, but put me up there and it just goes away, but it’s only for two hours every once and a while.
I like to think I sing to people (who feel) like that too. It’s kinda a theme in my life. Especially on this record, every song is about pretty much just that. Pretty deep thoughts in there. Something that most people wouldn’t be proud to say, or maybe brave enough to say is on there.
BR: Who inspires you as a songwriter? Who do you look up to?
MW: Well. When I was a kid Dr. Hook was what was up with me as far as his songs. Um, I really love The Guess Who. As I got older I got into Hayes Carll and Todd Snyder you know, Jerry Jeff Walker and some of those older guys. I went into a major Willie Nelson kick for like three years. That was all I wanted. So, I don’t know. I also love Tupac and Biggie to death so I don’t know? Kurt Cobain.
When I was young it was all the nirvana records, The Doors, The Guess Who, Dr. Hook and that was it basically. I Tried to dabble in what my friends were into, Heavy Metal shit but I couldn’t get into it. I just couldn’t, I wanted to be a bad ass but I just couldn’t.
BR: Even Tupac and Biggie primarily focused on songwriting.
MW: I LOVE storytelling. If I can picture a good story with a song, I love that. My grandfather was a really good storyteller and I love that stuff. It’s dying. Nobody sits down and tells a story. Nobody even asks anyone to tell them a story. It’s super sad. I got two little kids that are constantly telling stories and I just love that. I’m like if you want to talk to someone, that’s normal, do it. Put them in that place and get them out of that comfort zone.
BR: It’s crazy compared to how it was twenty or fifty years ago. Everyone has a cell phone and is isolated. My old neighbor was super cool, he was a cowboy poet.
MW: I love cowboy poets, there are some really good ones in South Dakota.
BR: So when are you having a CD Release Party for the new record?
MW: It’s Friday, June 4th at the Filling Station, coming up soon. We will have shirts, stickers and Koozies.
BR: And 200 CDs
MD: If they show up. (Laughter)
BR: You are not confident?
MD: I am, but I don’t have a security camera doorbell, they should be here any minute.
BR: Does the band have a website?
MW: I only have Instagram.
BR: So just go to the show.
MD: I can say that this is the most captivated I have ever seen an audience. Like the way that Matt works the crowd and is just so brutally honest with the crowd and engages with them, I mean people are almost aghast at first, but then they are like, whoa I am actually in love.
MW: With the internet thing I don’t like it. My friend a few months back was like just get Instagram so people know when your playing at a brewery or whatever, but just managing my 200 fans or whatever is a lot. Ha, I think I’m at 290 now but who wants to do that. I can’t stand it. I know I am supposed to check it and post on it and do stories.
BR: I agree with all that, maybe just a website would be easier?
MD: Well we have talked about how music is a focal point for Matt for sure, but it is not his main gig, he’s not twenty years old trying to make this his full-time job. So that removes the ‘I have to make this work at all costs’ agenda so he is almost afforded the opportunity to do this on his own terms. So if you don’t want to do it you don’t have to do it.
BR: Well, that being said it still seems like you should, or maybe want to play as many shows as you can?
MW: Well, I play quite often. A couple times a week. We are doing the Three Forks Rodeo. We are doing Settler Days in Clyde Park. We are booking some good stuff.
I have a wife with a hand full of medical issues and a four and five-year-old, so I ride that line very carefully. Because I am also stuck in my head, so if I am around sometimes I am not. Which is very difficult for some people, but I also know exactly who I am and that I do that. I try not to, but I get in there real deep.
I think now that I can get some decent paying gigs I don’t have to struggle too much and worry about playing the $200 dollar ones as much. I just want to keep writing songs.
Beer Drinking Pause
MW: So like the other day at work 11:11 comes on the clock and I am like man I hope I can stay busy with painting work. Then I am like what is your problem? You didn’t wish to win the lottery or do something awesome.
MD: You are very practical.
MW: I didn’t think about what I should wish for until about two hours later.
BR: Winning the lottery would be weird.
MD: It would solve a lot of problems.
BR: I don’t think it would solve any of your problems, or maybe it would just make new ones. You might be able to spend more time doing what you enjoy or helping other people but there would still be all the same problems.
MW: I would probably keep painting shitty houses.
BR: Because you like it?
MW: Well I am liking it less and less all the time. But that is because you break down and get tired and sore. I am thankful for today. I am like I hope it gets windy and rainy.
More Beer and Free Nachos, Thanks Shine!
MW: Oh, you asked me about songwriting influences, one is my good friends Cleo Toll from Livingston. He is a kid like 24 or so, he started working at my farm when I was home for Christmas. This is my interview in painting and it was at my farm too. I’d say “Are you willing to learn and work hard and show up on time?” If they say yes without hesitation, I will see you Monday. If you have to think about that question for a second or two, no go. So Cleo was actually working for me for a few days and when I got back he says,
“I see you got a few guitars in here, do you play?”
I say “I do”.
He asked me if I wrote any songs. So I sang him one and handed him the guitar. He just started playing like twenty of the most kick ass original songs that I have almost heard.
We ended up sitting there for days. We didn’t get any work done, but he gave me such inspiration to write some kick ass songs. I think within the next year I had about twenty songs written that I liked.
He just played at Wild Rye and I sat in. We did a little thing for Joe (Knapp) because we were both buddies with him. He opened the can of worms that someday he would like to do a two guitar two songwriter type of band. He is a very emotional singer, I love it. I think that would be really cool, so we will see.
BR: Earlier when we spoke about influences and how you might say things other people wouldn’t, along with what you just mentioned both make me think about Patterson And Cooley from the Drive-By Truckers.
MW: Yeah, I listen to them almost every day. And I am an Isbell fan too. The Decoration Day album is a working man’s album. I mean I literally get in a zone for like twelve hours, and thats what I am doing. I put that on and it’s got lyrics like “You want to grow up and paint houses like me?” And I a hear him sing songs about stuff like that, like painting, I am very much like that with my songs. I can’t go outside of a box and make something up, it’s gotta be exactly like I fuckin said, exactly what someone else said, exactly what happened. I am trying to do better at creating stories, but they are real for now. Like if something rhymed better or whatever you could throw it in there and nobody would know the difference, but I can’t do it.
BR: That is what you mentioned about storytelling. That is really what you are trying to do here.
MW: Yes it is.
BR: Painting pictures with words.
MW: I hope that people can see them.
MD: I can, and I am the worst visual listener. I am all about sounds and the melody and the music part of it. The words are so hard for me. I can sing songs that I write, but if it is a cover it is hard for me no
matter how many times I sing it.
MW: I can sing for twelve hours and not forget words. The first time I realized that I think I had a three hour gig instead of like an hour gig, and I was like no fuckin way, and then I played for like five hours. I just kept playing and singing and it is just so fun. Get up there and stretch it out and get some tips, it’s how we live.
Fans of live music, storytelling, and beer drinking should make their way to the infamous Filling Station located on the outskirts of new Bozeman (2005 N Rouse Ave.) on Friday, June 4th for the release of the new CD ‘Ravens’.
This particular Nervous Breakdown will have an all-star line up featuring alumni of the studio band including members of the Dusty Pockets and the Kitchen Dwellers, and many other guests and surprises.
I also would highly recommend purchasing the Raven’s CD as well as more merch. Their album has grown on me every time I listen to it and I am sure it will be a mainstay in my listening rotation for some time to come. If you look for a weak spot or song you won’t find one. The songs are all well crafted and the production has a nice touch that matches the music.