The Tallest Man On Earth and The Influences started almost simultaneously. His debut album Shallow Grave was released in 2008, the year this website started. Ever since, I’ve been following Kristian Matsson’s art and career – and he inspired me many times through his albums and the many live performances. So, it was a great pleasure to finally film a session and talk with him in the lead up to his latest album Henry St.
The full interview will appear in some form, some day, but I’ve included a snippet of it below, to accompany the five songs The Tallest Man On Earth recorded: singles Every Little Heart and Looking For Love, title track Henry St. and covers of Hank Williams’ Lost Highway and Håkan Hellström’s För sent för Edelweiss. Both covers also appeared on his 2022 covers album.
Pretty much as soon as we sit down to talk after taping his session, Kristian Matsson starts telling me about his past few years. “Henry St. is what happened when I could go back into the world. So I went to North Carolina, started writing a bunch of songs and I recorded it over there. It just has to do with being around people. During the pandemic, I couldn’t write any songs. I have not experienced that before, not for such a long time. Of course, it’s like an identity crisis. It’s like when you don’t like, when you start to not enjoy what you’re doing.”
“I think I am where I am, and I’ve done what I’ve done because I have daydreams, and I’m an optimist. And the naive playfulness in things is what’s been driving me forward. Like, what if I did that? What if I did that? And daydream: one day I’m going to play there, or one day I’m going to do this. And then when that playfulness went away, it’s just like, everything disappeared.”
The daydreaming returned
But, luckily for Matsson and for us, the daydreaming and playfulness came back, and you can certainly hear it on The Tallest Man On Earth’s new album. “There’s a lot of hope and an uplifting kind of spirit in it, I guess. I’m glad you can hear it.” So, the daydreaming led the Swede to North Carolina, where he saw friends and enlisted them to play on the record, which was produced by Sylvan Esso’s Nick Sanborn. Sanborn’s bandmate Amelia Meath co-wrote the lyrics of the album’s opener Bless You. Among the friends who joined Matsson in the studio, were The Dead Tongues’ Ryan Gufstafson and Phil Cook.
“Fuck it, I’m just going to take the leap and trust people.”
A complete change compared to the previous The Tallest Man On Earth album I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream, the singer admits. “It was almost stupid. I love that album for what it is, but it’s almost like a joke now. Because in the end of 2018, I decided to record an album in my New York apartment for one month. I wrote and recorded it, by myself and I isolated myself from everything. It was after a breakup, so it was just kind of a dark one anyway. And after that, the mother of isolation happened. So for this album, I wanted to invite as many people as who wants to play on it.”
And that’s something Matsson had not done before, due to his lack of confidence if you can believe it. “In the past, I’ve been really self-conscious. I haven’t had confidence enough to just invite other people, because I always thought: ‘Oh, my songs are not good enough.’ Even though I have friends who are amazing musicians, and they say they like my music, I’m just like: ‘Yeah, yeah.’ But I don’t fully believe them, just because of self-hate.”
“But, after coming back to America, I decided I couldn’t think like that for the rest of my life. Fuck it, I’m just going to take the leap and trust people. And have fun, because coming back and having all these people around me, and they’re amazing musicians… I wasn’t going to tell them what to play. We recorded so much of it live in the studio, just all of us playing at the same time.”
“There is good in people.”
“I think coming back and doing this album, just feeling so good around my friends, that’s when the daydreams came back. And the optimism, there is good in people. People can do amazing things, and we can’t lose that. I need to do something. I need to put something positive out there in the world for it to change. I’m not saying the album is going to change the world, but you know what I’m saying? I’m trying to put positive energy out into the world. That’s what art does. Art can lead to other people starting daydreaming as well, and seeing the positive things of the world.”
The Tallest Man On Earth’s seventh album Henry St. was released on April 14, 2023 and features 11 tracks, including the three originals Kristian Matsson played for The Influences. You’ll find links to his Bandcamp, website, Apple Music and Tidal below. Or do as I did, and visit your local record store and get it there. That will at least get you out of your house for a bit.
Filmed & edited by Matthijs van der Ven.
Additional filming by Marlies Waters.
Audio recorded & mixed by Yulya Divakova and Daan Duurland.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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