The West Chester, Pennsylvania native reminisces about his first-ever reggae show where he experienced one of the most profound moments of his life, helping to shape his career as an artist:
“The first reggae show I ever went to was the Vermont Reggae Festival in 1996 and I dropped a hit of acid. I was 16. The [artists] that really jumped out were Burning Spear and Israel Vibration … I love both those artists and I had heard a lot of their music up until that point, but there was something about Izzy Vibes when they were on stage that was mystical. That was like a game-changing moment for me. It was raining and I was watching Izzy Vibes dancing on stage, you know with the canes, and it was like one of the top 10 influential moments of my life probably”
Seeing the industry change since those bygone days of the late nineties up until just a few years ago has been a beautiful experience full of camaraderie, support, and love, he explains.
“When I started out in 2004/2005 there were not that many festivals. There’s been so much support and reception for reggae music all over the country now; there are so many reggae festivals and honestly it’s great for the artists because instead of playing one or two festivals they play 10-20 festivals in a season.
“You start to see a lot of the same people—same production, bands, and peers. You know everyone’s been off doing their thing and then you see each other every few months it’s like a check-in. You start to recognize a lot of the same fans coming and you get this whole real sense that it’s like a community all over America. It’s beautiful to see. I don’t remember that even just 10 years ago.”
Always playing the long game and never rushing perfection, Matisyahu has had stretches between albums spanning anywhere from three to five years. It’s not by design or with intention, and he is hell-bent on changing that, he says.
“It’s too much time, honestly. There’s been too much time between all my albums. I’ve had albums like four years apart, three years apart and for some reason my process in the past has been, when I’m on tour or playing shows that’s what I’m doing. Then I go into some kind of writing process that could take six months to a year, and then everything just always moves slow for whatever reason.
“The different little technical things are obstacles that get in the way in terms of the releases and stuff, but my whole attitude is shifting now. I just wrote like 20 songs in the last two months with a team of writers–people that really know my music and are fans and super talented, as opposed to putting it all on me. I’m getting help from other people’s inspiration, ideas and my idea is to just start turning out music, singles every two months or so.”