Matisyahu needs no introduction, his breakout album in 2005, "Live at Stubb’s" reached #1 on the Reggae Albums Chart and #30 on the Billboard 200. Since then, he has evolved creatively, spiritually and musically releasing his current album, "Akeda" pronounced (Uh-‐kay-‐duh) which is a album that is the result of time and the overcoming of past struggles and consists of anthems for the brokenhearted or anyone going through a struggle, with singles, such as: "Surrender" and "Champion".
Examiner.com received the opportunity to discuss with Matisyahu, one on one about Akeda, his current tour and more.
I (Interviewer): Marie Flounoy
I: Why did you choose the name “Akeda” or “binding” for your album title?
M: I started working off this concept about 4-5 years ago with a mentor, sort of like a teacher/friend of mine, named, Brian Rosentheen from Jerusalem, and we went to Mezhbizh, Ukraine and spent some time there at the grave of the founder of Hasidic movement in Judaism and he has an interesting take on the Akeda, which is normally, sort of to look at in a religious circle, the glorify act that Abraham does.
He appears before his God and is willing to sacrifice his son. And in the way in which we looked was more different perspective, of what are the consequences of what happens?; what does it mean when Abraham says he hears the voice of God? and what does the voice of God sounds like? They did this three day journey through the dessert, and what about when his son asked him “Here’s the blade, here’s the rope, but where’s the sacrifice? What happens up on that mountain? How come after Abraham and Isaac never really speak again, they go down and go to two different places.
Sarah, his wife died after that. The concept is sacrifice, and Abraham has it all, he’s got fame, he’s got money, he started the monotheism, the first one to start the idea of the belief in one God. He’s the one who puts the end to sacrifice and now at the end of his life, he’s being asked to do all of this and it’s completely insane. And he comes out following his intuition or following the voice of God, but he loses a lot in the process.
The theme there is “sacrifice” and that’s a big theme on this record for me and in my life over the last couple of years.
I: This album was way more personal than your previous albums - why did you decide to go this route compared to your other works, in the past?
M: Well, for a long time, I spent a lot of time in my head - I was in the religious world and studying a lot and studying concepts. About 2 years ago, my whole life began to unravel, I went through a change in losing my image and I got a lot backlash, a lot of fans and people hit me with a lot of hatred, and it really hurt. I went through a divorce, I went through some real issues with addiction. I felt my life kind of unraveling and I took all those ideas and different places in my head and brought it down to my heart and began to write songs from my heart.
I: Who would you say, this album, Akeda is for? And what is the lesson do you want the listener to take with them after listening to the album?
M: The main thing for me is for people going through some type of struggle. Music has always been for me is something that can empower and strengthen people. For me, the times in my life when I felt the most broken I'd listen to music, which allowed me to feel that I wasn’t alone in the world. That’s the music that created the most impact on me, so that’s who the music is for, the brokenhearted.
I: Would you say this album is sort of a release of everything you've experienced in the past? Like a breathe of fresh air?
M: I did feel in my life, it was a big release for me. It was like kind of like the unpacking of the backpack, you know what I mean? - a brick that I was carrying around, this record, this record talks about freedom, a lot to do with redemption.
I: And you mentioned that some of your fans and people around you back lashed on you?
M: What it did was separate who are the real fans and who aren’t. The fans of my music and the fans who were really listening to the lyrics and touched by my music are still fans now. And the ones who were interested in me as either a way to promote their own set ideology or the ones that were interested in the image of me, religious or non religious, are no longer fans. So, it was a breath of fresh air in that sense, that I don’t have to worry anymore about trying making everybody happy, I can just create the music I want to make and make it for the people i want to make it for.
I: Besides, Akeda, do you have any other projects coming up, besides music that you're currently working on?
Just this record is my focus right now - getting it out there and performing.
I: Ok, so you are currently on tour, how is your current tour going?
M: It’s great. We’re doing a tour in Hawaii, but I had to fly back to Los Angeles, I was on Jimmy Kimmel Live. the other night. I believe it was a really great performance and we performed this song called “Surrender” and it’s a very important song for me.
I: So, is this song “Surrender” the most personal track off you album or each track is a chapter of all the personal things you’ve been through?
M: They’re all very personal. They’re interwoven, they’re all connected - this record, there’s no song that I’m trying to promote more than the other. “Surrender” is the song I made a video for and will premiere shortly.
Going into, for example, Jimmy Kimmel, into that kind of place, I have a song on the record that is definitely much more of a acceptable, marketable song called, “Champion”. It’s a song that in the end going to be used for the World Cup, the NHL (National Hockey League), and it’s sort of a feel good, similar like to my song called “One Day” which has come out. I specifically did not want that to be the single and the song “Surrender” which is sort of the opposite idea of “Champion”.
It all sort of falls into “Akeda”, of sacrifice and I’m putting the people first and not trying to most million I can make. You know?
I: Yea, definitely. You discussed that you received many backlash from people, so where in the world would you say you enjoy performing the most and where you’re shown the most love?
M: We just played a show in Honolulu, a few nights ago and I got to tell you it was amazing. We played out in Guam and the fans are really, really strong out there. We haven’t done a lot in South America in a couple years, we haven’t done a ton in Europe, but, we do got to Poland, they like us a lot there. Most of the touring is in America.
I: Ok, so who are you currently listening to?
M: I’ve been listening to a lot of different music. I think my favorite record of the year is Frank Ocean, Channel Orange. I listen to a lot of Kid Cudi, his newest record - but all of his other stuff.
I like a lot of music that’s not that well known, Rafael Anton Irisarri, is his name, I’m a huge fan of him. I like electronic stuff like Pentagram and Twin Shadow. I’m a big fan of Twin Shadow. And then I like all the old school records.
I: Last question, how do you feel about the current state of the music industry, as a whole, based on now from when you started? You started in 2006, correct?
I: So, what do think about how it is now from when you started?
I think it’s great. I think if you are an artist who’s a performer, which I am. I didn't start on a label, I started as a touring artist. And to come back to that, that’s where you make your money and if you are a touring artists and you love to tour and you love to be on the road and you love to perform then you’re going to be fine. You’re not going to make any money on record sales, anymore.
And the access that people have to music is amazing. And for me, as a musician, the access that I’ve had via the Internet has changed the way I make music and the music that I make. There’s an access to a lot more bands and a lot more in the hands of the individual and out of the hands of the big power companies, so I think that’s great.
I: So, any advice you have to anyone who’s trying to get into the music industry, now?
I think, just do it yourself. I know many people who were on big labels, they never released their record, they had big hopes and big dreams. They got robbed and then they went back, set up their own Internet station, started performing on the Internet and have now blown up via Internet. It’s not up to anyone else, just work on your craft and allow it to happen, because it will happen if it’s supposed to happen.