Q&A with Matisyahu

Matisyahu has undergone perpetual evolution since he burst out of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where he groomed his musical talents and allowed his faith as a Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic Jew to grow. Murmurs circulated of the unlikely artist, particularly with the buzz of his Billboard chart-topping sophomore release in 2005, Live At Stubbs, and its hit single "King Without A Crown." His 2006 Grammy-nominated Youth further demonstrated his artistic growth, and in 2007, he confided to the New Times that he no longer affiliated with Chabad in his desire not to exclude himself from other Jewish faiths.

It's been two years since that last release, but his third studio album Light is on the horizon, slated for an August drop, and he has not spent these past two years resting on his laurels. As he told Crossfade in a recent call from his home in New York, they've seen him continue to evolve musically, artistically and spiritually. Check out what he had to say about his experiences as a spiritual performer, his upcoming tour, and the benefits of the Internets.

New Times: You're pretty busy online, keeping a MySpace page, a Facebook, tweeting on Twitter, doing...whatever it is people do on iLike, and you've even got your own community at Matisyahuworld.

Everything is based on Internet now, in the sense of fans having access to the artist and vice versa.  Before I go to bed, for example, I check my Twitter. And I won't spend hours on it, you know, but I check the messages from the last couple hours or whatever and I answer people on my iPhone. It's easy. It takes ten minutes and starts to build a kind of connection.  It's kind of a remarkable thing, I think.

We had some rehearsals and I invited people on Twitter to rehearsals and a bunch of them just showed up. If you were in New York and you didn't have to work or whatever from like 3 o'clock in the afternoon, you'd just come out. You get to develop a different kind of relationship outside from the typical setting where you're on the stage and they're in the audience. It's kind of a cool thing, I think.

Talk to me about your colabo with Crystal Method on "Drown in the Now". What was that like?


was at a festival last year in British Columbia and they were

performing in the dance tent and I got backstage to meet them and ask

if they were interested in having me perform with them for a song. I

did, and it was cool, and they were way into it and the fans were into

it, so we worked something out where they came and opened up a show for

me in New York, at a thing I do over Hanukah called The Festival of

Light. So I did a thing for their record.  

We did a cool video too. Did you check it out?

No, I haven't seen it.

If you get a chance, I did a web page, If you go there you can watch the video in HD. It's really cool.
If you could collaborate with anyone at all, who would it be?


don't know. That's a tough question. I don't really have an answer for

that. Artists like Bob Marley or someone like that were so amazing

that, I don't know, I don't feel I'd want to collaborate. I'm sure

every artist you'd ask that probably they'd have an answer for you, but

I just don't. It's kinda strange, but I don't have an answer to that.

And you know, it may sound kinda crazy, but the band I'm playing with

now, I feel like, I can't really imagine making music with anyone but


Let's talk about your faith versus your public life. What challenges do you face, and what are some benefits?


challenge, for any performer invested in making music for a spiritual

reason, the challenge in itself is to live a spiritual live, to try to

create music for that purpose.

And the reward is great too. I

feel like everyone who makes music is invested in it for more than just

a selfish reason. I don't know, maybe not. Maybe I'm being too


Do you view it as responsibility for those in the public eye to do something positive with their reach?


more of a natural thing, more like, you try to live a certain way. I

don't know that I'd use the word "responsibility". I don't know if

that's the right word. But I don't know what else I would do, you know?

What else would I write songs about? I'm not going to write songs about

things that aren't important to me. 

Let's talk about the new album, Light.  What can you tell us?


is, I guess, the work that I'm most proud of in my career. It is, I

feel, a continuation of growth in terms of the sound, the music, where

I'm headed. It has not been a period of stagnation for me, the past few

years, in terms of my life, in terms of my spirituality, in terms of my

music and influences. So the music is a continuation. It takes up where

I left off.  I'd say it's an evolution.

And the new single is going to be "One Day?"


song is sort of an anthem for peace, for love, positivity, hope. It's a

pretty positive song. It's the kind of song you listen to when you're

having a hard day, or when you first get up in the morning to give you

a boost.

Tell us about your summer tour.


Beach is going to be the first stop on the tour. That's where we're

starting. I started playing with a new band, Dub Trio, which is really

amazing, an amazing band, which has members of my old band. And it's

really great. Again, it's an evolution from the past live music that

I've made. There's a lot of trust and a lot of improvisation, peaks and

valleys and dynamics in the show. A lot of sort of not really knowing

where things are going to go and just opening things up. There's more

people onstage than I've ever had, so it's going to be a very full


Matisyahu will be performing at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater with Dub Trio and  Les Claypool this Saturday, May 30 at 6:30pm. Tickets cost $31.50 pre-order or $35.50 day of show. There are 4-packs available for $20.10 each.

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Christopher Lopez

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