Interview

Late Bloomer Matt Haeck Shines on Debut Release

The straight path isn’t always the most interesting. Often the really good stories are found in the twists and sharp turns. If Nashville-based singer songwriter Matt Haeck’s impressive debut release, Late Bloomer, is any indication, there’s a lot to be learned from walking a crooked road. Twelve beautifully crafted songs that rock and twang, the album is a sign of many more good things to come from this talented musician.

Born in Barbados to missionary parents, Haeck returned to the US with his family when he was one, moving from town to town with his father’s various jobs.

“We moved around a lot when I was growing up because my dad worked for the mission agency here in the States, and he was a pastor for while, and he was an insurance agent for a while, and now he sells software,” Haeck explained.

Haeck’s upbringing was closely intertwined with the church. So much so, that he originally set out to study theology before making a break from everything he knew to pursue his music.

“I went to a Christian college and majored in theology and music,” he explained. “Then I went to seminary and worked on a masters degree in theology.”

When the time came to enroll in preaching classes, Haeck began to reevaluate his life. While in seminary school in San Diego, he started playing at open mics and realized how much he loved music.

“It was actually a dream of mine since I was a kid,” he recalled. “But I was only really offered one path, so I never even voiced that desire. Once I started doing it, and people started taking some kind of notice, like, ‘hey, you really have a talent for this,’ it definitely drew my attention in that direction. At the same time, I was kind of falling out of love with theology.”

Dropping out of school for a career in music was a decision that profoundly impacted his life.

“I don’t identify as a Christian at all anymore,” he noted. “I think in the beginning of that phase in my life, I was very reactionary and kind of bitter toward the church, but you know I’ve mellowed out a lot, but there’s no escaping it. It’s there. I was deep, deep in it for 27 years.”

Through his music, Haeck discovered a world very different from the one in which he’d been raised.

“It was my whole life,” he remembered. “I mean my parents were in the ministry. Just to transition out of school and toward music got me out of the bubble for the first time in my life. That was my whole world. That was all I knew when I started playing music.”

Haeck’s music brought him into contact with a diverse mix of people with an equally diverse range of beliefs.

“I’m out playing shows and meeting all kinds of people who have completely different backgrounds,” he said. “That helped me get out. The culture that I was brought up in was very exclusive, so if you’re not just like us, you’re out. I was brought up to think that everyone else was going to hell and was wrong and were sinful and horrible people if they didn’t know the Lord. I got out there and I met all kinds of other people and met gay people and had to confront that, oh my god, these people are better than the people that I know in church.”

The move to this new world wasn’t always an easy one. Haeck had to battle a few of his own demons along the way.

“I’ll be the first to say that whole period of deciding I should be putting my focus on music instead of theology and then ultimately leaving the church was very, very terrifying. There was a divorce right there in the middle of that, and I never thought I could do it, even in the beginning when I thought, ‘oh, shit, this is what I need to do.’ I didn’t think that I could actually follow through because it was so terrifying. The whole world falls apart. I just did what I had to do, really.”

Eventually, Haeck landed just where he needed to be. Late Bloomer is a testament to that. The album is produced by David Mayfield and has a host of special guests like Old Crow Medicine Show’s Critter Fuqua, The Avett Brothers’ Paul Defiglia, Caitlin Rose and Elizabeth Cook.

“All those people on the record were just friends that I knew and asked to play,” Haeck noted.

Haeck’s friendship with “Crackerfarm” aka Mike Beyer, the official photographer and documentarian of the Avett Brothers, was the common denominator. He initially introduced Haeck to Mayfield.

“I really liked his musical aesthetic and just his approach, so I asked him if he’d be interested in producing, and he said, ‘absolutely.’ I worked on crowd funding, and we dove right in. I knew Paul Defiglia from the Avetts through Crackerfarm, as well, and Critter from Old Crow. I met all those guys, but Critter and Paul are really close friends that I see all the time here in Nashville. It was amazing to have those guys work on the record with me.”

Late Bloomer reflects an array of influences from country to rock. The latest video release from the album is “Tennessee”.

“I’m not exactly sure where the sound or the song 'Tennessee' came from. As much as I love traditional country music, I love to rock. I like to let loose. I think that it’s about letting loose. It’s about feeling free in a performance and doing something a little bit wild, and I think traditional country music is the original punk, you know,” Haeck laughed. “So, I think it all ties together.”

 

This is a good record...I bought it when someone else reviewed it just as it came out...I wondered what this guy's story was based on some of the lyrics, etc...now I know more.  Thanks Julie!