My Life Under the Covers
By Mary Scholz
“Weight of It All” by Matt Nathanson
…The big game changer for me as a songwriter…
One girl, one guitar, one song, one iPhone, one take. It’s not perfect, and not as clean a quality as my new recording equipment. But that’s part of the beauty and the point of this song. Not perfect, not clean. Just real.
The year was 2003. It was the summer before my sophomore year of college – one of the most freeing summers I can remember. I was home from school, working as a teacher for a musical theatre camp near my parents’ house and hanging out with a group of kids from high school that I had never really spent much time with.
I saw John Mayer and Maroon 5 in concert at the Tweeter center. I started playing open mics. I reconnected with a boy I knew in high school…I had the first of my annual summer pool parties and we had chicken fights and listened to awesome music all night. At the end of that night I was handed a mix cd that just read “Matt Nathanson.”
What I knew was that I was being handed a compilation of songs this boy thought I would enjoy by an artist I’d never heard. What I didn’t know was that I was being handed a compilation of songs by an artist that would intensely shift the way I listened to and wrote music. That would change the way I saw concerts and experienced songwriters.
(Matt would probably be happy to know that, not too many nights later, I made out with that boy to that cd)
One of the songs on the mix cd was “Weight of It All,” off of Matt’s 2002 release, “When Everything Meant Everything.” It was his last independent release before his first project with Universal. The song was later recorded for “Beneath These Fireworks,” which was released in October of 2003 (just two months after hearing of him the first time). By the time that album came out I was already a hard-core Nathanson fan. I went to see him play for the first time at Princeton that September with my friend Rick. He played on a tiny raised “stage” in a small room where we had to sit against the wall because there wasn’t really seating and it wasn’t really a venue.
I went to see him in coffee houses and learned the way a musician communicates with their audience. He performed multiple times at “The Point” in Bryn Mawr, a legendary music café and coffee house where I spent my summers playing open mics. (Formerly called “The Main Point”) Billy Joel, Elton John, Bill Wither, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Buffett…they had all graced the same stage. He was from Massachusetts but he lived in San Francisco and recorded his live album right there are The Point the following summer. I was in the audience. He actually talks to me on the album. Seeing him live is always a damn good time. You have to be prepared for dirty humor and the chance you’ll get teased from the stage. The man in entertaining, hilarious and a fantastic musician. He’s one of those people that you can see in every motion just how much they love music.
(From his show at the TLA in Philly, April 2005. I love this photo)
So this song in particular has always stuck out to me. I’m not sure what it is really, just something about the sentiment of not really being known by the people you are most intimate with. My favorite line by far is
“I spent days, stupid, nailed to your floor
And I spent nights, pushed against you
Trying to keep warm
But you don’t know me at all…”
… trying to feel warmth from someone who isn’t reciprocating…Or who you know really isn’t truly looking at you.
Or the opening…
“I’m weak when you miss me
When you roll me on your tongue
When you whisper me your best moves
I almost believe you
But you don’t know me at all. “
Okay I love the lyrics. All of them. Of all of Matt’s songs, this one has always resonated with me the most. And I like the original version better than the second. That’s the version I’m covering here.
Matt doesn’t play coffee houses anymore. He’s had big hits and collaborated with awesome artists, touring through big venues like Radio City Music Hall. And it seems nowadays I can’t go into a department store, restaurant or coffee shop without hearing one Matt Nathanson song or another playing overhead. And that has been a fantastic journey to watch.
Matt Nathanson – thanks for lessons in songwriting, communicating with your audience, knowing yourself and not being afraid to be honest about it through your music. Here’s to collaborating one day.
(And thanks to the boy, Brandon, who I still call a great friend, for handing over that mix cd.)
Matt signing “Weight of It All” Live – not the best sound quality but it gives a good idea of him with the crowd…