Tuned In to Matt Duke

March 10, 2008 4:33:53 AM PDT
Our featured artist of the month is Matt Duke. He is a talented Philadelphia area singer songwriter. We caught up with him during a WXPN Musicians on Call benefit concert at The World Café Live. Here is the biography that he submitted to us. "Twenty-one year old South Jersey-bred singer/songwriter, Matt Duke, released his debut LP, Winter Child, through Drexel University's student-run record label, MAD Dragon Records (Ryko Distribution) on September 12, 2006. Winter Child was co-produced by Stewart Lerman (Loudon Wainwright, Dar Williams) and Steuart Smith (The Eagles, Shawn Colvin) at The Shinebox Studios in New York City. The record features contributions by accomplished musicians, including Marshall Crenshaw, Brad Roberts (Crash Test Dummies), Suzzy Roche (The Roches), Steve Holley (Wings, Ian Hunter) David Mansfield (Bob Dylan, Bruce Hornsby) and more.

Duke began playing piano at the age of seven, and by ten he developed a deep love for the arts. Inspired by artists such as Van Morrison, The Band and Pearl Jam, he taught himself how to play his mother's vintage guitar. Duke spent his high school years at Philadelphia's St. Joseph's Prep, where he was exposed to Ani DiFranco, Ben Harper, Tool and Damien Rice. Impressed by their poignant lyrics and musical ambition, Duke threw himself into writing and began performing at coffee houses in Philadelphia area. By the winter of 2004, Duke recorded his first demo, which fell into the hands of Marcy Rauer Wagman of Drexel University's Music Industry Program and the newly-formed MAD Dragon Records. Subsequently, MAD Dragon Records recorded four of Duke's songs for inclusion on XYX, a compilation of twelve tracks from three artists that toured as a songwriter-circle to promote the record.

XM Satellite Radio's "The Loft" (Channel 50) received an immediate response after adding all four of Duke's songs from XYX into its rotation. Duke's songs were among the most requested at The Loft, joining Bruce Springsteen and Ben Harper for six weeks at the top spot. Mike Marrone, The Loft's Program Director, said that his listeners had an "overwhelming positive reaction [to Duke's music] from the very first spin." Marrone also described Duke as the next big "break out act" for 2006, recommending that Lee Abrams, Chief Programming Officer of XM, play Duke's songs for an executive music panel he moderated at the 2005 MUSEXPO in Los Angeles. The buzz surrounding XYX and Duke's emotionally charged live shows helped MAD Dragon Records secure national distribution through Ryko Distribution. In late 2005, Duke entered the studio to record his debut LP, Winter Child for MAD Dragon Records.

Winter Child is a crowning moment in the development of Duke's budding career and is laden with Duke's signature songwriting style - extraordinarily beautiful melodies infused with unconventional song structures and intricate rhythmic textures. Duke's lyrics tackle a number of topics ranging from self-destructive behavior (To Whom It May Concern, Listen to Your Window), to casualties of inner city violence (One Small Bird), to the mourning of a loved one (Don't Ask for Too Much) and the Apocalypse (Tidal Waves). Tidal Waves, one of the forthcoming singles from Winter Child, and one of the closing tracks, Yellow Lights, channel Duke's commentary on religion and politics, while Ballroom Dancing displays Duke's penchant for great literature with his ode to Hemmingway's short story "Hills Like White Elephants."

Commenting on Winter Child's evolution, Duke states, "Getting the songs to translate [from solo acoustic arrangements] was an amazing process, but it certainly took some thought." Duke continues, "We [Duke, Lerman and Smith] didn't want to overdo it, so our real task was to see just how far we could go before we would pull back. It was very much like splashing paint on a canvas."

Winter Child's veteran producers, Stewart Lerman and Steuart Smith, helped provide a perfect balance of color and texture for each track. Duke enthusiastically states, "We worked to build around the essence of the song?the arrangement and selection of instrumentation was a well-thought out process." Smith's psycho-guitar talk box juxtaposed with Duke's off-beat burlesque piano on Listen To Your Window; Smith's intricate guitar voicing's on Oysters and subtle harmonica solo on The Love We'll Never Know; and the gorgeous string arrangements from Rob Morsberger on One Small Bird and Yellow Lights are all built around the framework of the song.

Duke reminisces, "We had quite an incredible time taking these songs places that we could only imagine." The result is Winter Child, an intriguing, colorful and thought-provoking record that builds a platform for Duke to continue his musical exploits for many years to come."

Please enjoy the performance video from his show at The World Café Live

You are now Tuned In to Matt Duke!

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