This week I sat down with singer and songwriter Matt Mattheiss. He was born and raised in South Orange, and has been playing music here for 37 years.
“I started playing guitar at first, my old friend got me into it. I didn’t like lessons, so I basically picked everything up by ear. I wasn’t very good at it growing up, and as a result became more of a lead singer when I was playing in my band,” recalled Mattheiss.
That band was “No Heroes” and made quite a bit of noise in the late 70s and early 80s.
“We played in New York City all the time. The Stone Pony was probably our favorite venue. We opened for a few big names, but never quite broke through the glass ceiling,” Mattheiss explained.
Mattheiss described No Heroes as a very keyboard-oriented band, similar to a lot of the other stuff that was being produced during that era. “It was all about keyboards back then,” he laughed.
In addition to being the lead singer, Mattheiss wrote most of the music for the band, and even played some back-up guitar as he improved his play over the years.
“I have revisited a lot of my old songs from back then. Currently, I am working on a new album, trying to modernize some of the older stuff I wrote for No Heroes. So far it is coming along great,” Mattheiss said.
Mattheiss is collaborating with several other local artists to help produce a versatile and contemporary album.
“I’m working with drummer Rich Scanella; he’s doing all the percussion for the album. We finished recording in May. Scanella is a fantastic talent and versatile artist. I was lucky enough to be able to join forces with him” Mattheiss said.
For now, the focus is on recording the bass and guitar for the album. Vinnie Rosamilia has teamed up with Mattheiss to begin work.
“Vinnie Rosamilia is going to do most of the bass. Brendon Kelly of Mophat, which is another local band, has also helped out with a few songs,” explained Mattheiss.
This will be the first full album Mattheiss has produced and will be titled “No Hero”, a tribute to Mattheiss’ old band.
“A lot of the bands we played with had these massive ego problems. I looked around at the guys I was playing with and said, “look everybody, we have no heroes in this band, let’s just stay humble and have fun,” and that is where we came up with the name. I still feel that way about myself, so I just hope to play music others enjoy as much as I do” Mattheiss explained.
This album is a huge accomplishment for Mattheiss, who has only recorded demos up to this point.
“It means a lot to me. There are several tracks that I wrote based on my own life experiences,” Mattheiss told us.
For many of our local artists, music is their main form of expression. Mattheiss has communicated many of his emotions through his music, whether joyful or painful.
“Eerie Lackawana is the most important song to me. It is about three of my best friends who were hit and killed by a train back in 1975. One of them was Kevin Konkowski, who originally got me into music. It took me 36 years to write this song. I was with them that night and was the last one in the line. As the train came I jumped off, and witnessed the accident. It is something I am still not fully recovered from to this day. When I started working on this album, Kevin’s family was kind enough to lend me his old Gibson guitar. I used it to play and record the song. So it is safe to say that this album and this song are extremely important to me,” Mattheiss explained.
Currently, Matt Mattheiss is one of the partners over at South Orange Studios, which is a place where local artists can record their own demos and albums.
“We also have open mic nights every other Thursday night. It is a great way for local musicians to get up on stage and express themselves, as we also have a nice crowd,” said Mattheiss.
Mattheiss has been playing music in South Orange for decades and now he is giving a younger generation a chance to shine.
“I’ve played at Bunny’s, Cryan’s, Above, the Dancing Goat back when it was open. I performed at Celebrate South Orange as well. I’ve done well for myself but now I am trying to help out some of these younger artists by providing a venue for them. Open mic night at South Orange Studios is all about showcasing the local artists,” Mattheiss exclaimed.
Mattheiss’ album should be done by the end of the year, at which point he will try to throw a premiere concert at South Orange Performing Arts Center. Until then, make sure you check out South Orange Studios and help support all of our local artists and musicians!
Be sure to check out Matt Mattheiss' "Who's Got It Better Than Us?" music video!