Matthew Stevens recently sat down with Life + Times to discuss Woodwork, his debut album as a leader. The Next Collective guitarist has worked with a slew of artists including Esperanza SpaldingChristian ScottHarvey MasonWalter Smith IIIand more. Stevens is now branching out and exploring a new side of his artistry through the release of Woodwork, which dropped on February 26. Joining Matthew Stevens on Woodwork are Gerald Clayton (piano), Vicente Archer (bass), Eric Doob (drums), and Paulo Stagnaro (percussion).

Matt Stevens woodwork 1
Read an excerpt of Steven’s interview with Life +Times:

Life+Times: What made now an ideal time for you to finally release your debut record?
Matthew Stevens:
Well, it’s sort of a natural evolution for me. I started recording a lot of my own music in the last four years in different situations and with different people. I was really just trying to not rush things and work with a timeline that felt natural to me. It’s easy to get ahead of yourself and say, “I have to have something out now or this year or next year.” Or, “I have to have something with this person or that person.” Really, there’s so many different avenues to get your music out these and there’s no rush. I felt like I was really learning a lot about how I wanted my music to sound and how I wanted to present myself. I had a lot of new experiences in the last few years with a lot of really wonderful different musicians, and I think that all of those contribute to having a sense of what’s important to you and refining yourself in terms of how you write and present your music. I just didn’t want to rush it.

L+T: You probably could have had your pick in terms of who you wanted to play with. Why did you select the band that you did? What sound were you trying to capture?
MS:
I get to play with lots of great horn players, you know, but something that I really wanted to do – I was finding that I really wanted to play my own melodies. That was a big part of the music and I felt like, “Who better to interpret my own melodies than me?”  I knew I wanted to be the voice that was out front and I really wanted the guitar to be front and center, and sound like the driving force on the record. So, the rest of it was about filling out the instrumentation. I knew I wanted to have Gerald Clayton play piano – we first started playing together with Ben Williams and then with NEXT Collective, and we just developed a friendship and great musical relationship. [Bassist] Vicente Archer is someone I met playing with Jamire [Williams] with ERIMAJ at first. We were hanging around [the studio in Brooklyn] and spending a lot of time together, talking about music, playing together a lot, so that happened naturally. Eric Doob, the drummer, is one of my oldest friends. Him and I just have a real rhythmic kinship, I feel. Over many, many years of playing together, Eric and I have a real interesting dynamic, we interpret rhythm in the same way. It’s almost like we can read each other’s minds, we really feel the eighth note the same way and I really want to document that in this record and have that rhythmic thrust. Then, I wanted to add something else to add some texture and give it three-dimensional feeling. I wanted something else that’s not a horn, I didn’t necessarily want to go in an electronic direction and add keyboards or another guitar – Paulo Stagnaro is a percussionist. He and Eric had played together a lot. His father, Oscar, is a really well-known Peruvian bass player in Boston who I knew from when I was at Berklee, he was a teacher there. Paulo and Eric have such a strong connection, it felt like playing with 50 drummers and that was a really inspiring thing to play against.

Read the rest of the interview on Life + TimesScroll down to listen to “Star LA” from Matthew Stevens’ Woodwork LP. Purchase your copy of Woodwork via iTunes

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