Q&A: Up-and-coming pop-rock artist Matt Hires

If there’s one up-and-coming acoustic pop artist to check out this spring, it’s Matt Hires. Hires, fresh off his successful 2009 full-length debut album “Take Us to the Start,” recently passed through town, playing at the Rhythm Room to sprinkle some of his unique flavor on Phoenix during his current tour.
The State Press caught up with Hires to sprinkle some of his unique flavor here during his tour.

State Press: You were the first artist to sign with F-Stop Music, which is a division of Atlantic Records. What has your experience been like with F-Stop?
Matt Hires: It’s been great. Everybody that works with F-Stop is really cool. A lot of times you hear horror stories about people and their labels and stuff. But it’s been really great so far. I really like the other band that’s on the label, too — Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights. It’s been cool so far.

SP: For your album “Take Us to the Start,” you got to work with producer Eric Rosse. He’s worked with many top artists, such as David Archuleta and Tori Amos, to name a few. What was it like working with Eric?
MH: Eric’s a really cool guy. When I met him, I didn’t really know a lot of the people that he had worked with. A lot of the people aren’t artists that I normally listen to. We hit it off and I thought the ideas that he had for recording my record were very good. It was a great experience working with Eric. He’s a good guy and a good producer. We had some things that we kind of butted heads on during the recording process, but I think that’s part of the process. It ends up becoming something better because of that. It was really cool to be able to work with him.

SP: Vocally, you sound similar to Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows, and musically, you give off a Matt Costa sort of vibe. As an artist who’s still sort of blossoming in the industry and still getting your name out there, what’s your take on being compared to other artists? Do you prefer to avoid comparisons and be viewed as your own entity, or do some of these artists serve as inspirations to you?
MH: Well, a little bit of both. Sometimes I get a little tired of being compared to Adam Duritz all the time. I don’t even really listen to the Counting Crows. I guess our voices are just similar. But I definitely take it as a compliment because he has a great voice. But yeah, I’m okay with it, I guess.

SP: You’ve had the great opportunity to work with Sarah Bareilles and you’ve also opened for some pretty prominent performers like the Dave Matthews Band and O.A.R. Do you have any plans or hopes for future collaborations with other artists, whether it’s live or on a record?
MH: I don’t know. I think Jakob Dylan would be cool to do something with, or Ben Gibbard or Death Cab for Cutie. Jeff Tweedy from Wilco would be cool. I don’t know. There’s nothing planned.

SP: You just kicked off your tour of over 30 dates. What’s life been like on the road and how do you balance your life while you’re out there?
MH: It’s been really busy, for the most part. This is the first tour that I’ve done with a full band and the first headlining tour I’ve done, so there are a lot of new things that go along with that. It’s harder than being the opener because when you’re headlining, you’re the first ones at the venue and the last one to leave. The nights of sleeping are a little shorter and some of the drives are pretty rough. But it’s been good. It’s been really fun so far.

SP: In terms of live performances, some artists tend to tense up when they play for small crowds. Some of them prefer small crowds and some of them prefer big crowds. What’s your deal?
MH: It’s easier to play to a larger audience. Even if there’s nobody there that I know in the crowd, that’s when I get the most nervous. If it’s all strangers, if I screw up, I just peace out and don’t ever have to see those people again.

SP: Jason Castro, who was an “American Idol” contestant a few years ago, is joining you for a significant chunk of your tour. What was it about Castro that musically attracted you enough to invite him along on your tour?
MH: Well it worked out that he’s on Atlantic Records and my manager brought it up to see if he wanted to come out. This is his first tour that he’s done. Musically, he’s cool. He’s a good songwriter. It’s been pretty cool to have him along. Caitlin Crosby is also opening up and she’s a cool songwriter. They’re both just really good people. It’s been a really fun tour so far.

SP: For a budding artist, you’re impressively accomplished. Since 2008, you’ve released an EP as well as a full-length album. What’s next on your agenda?
MH: For the rest of the year I’m probably going to stay out on the road a lot, keep touring and try to play in front of as many people as I can. There’s a live EP in the works that [I’m] probably going to put out sometime this year. My first album was a live EP. It’s called “Live from the Hotel Café” and it was four acoustic live songs. But we’re recording stuff on this tour with a full band to release a full band live EP. And also [on February 9, we released] a deluxe version of “Take Us to the Start” with extra songs on there and some acoustic demos of the full band’s songs are on there.

Reach the reporter at lenni.rosenblum@asu.edu.