It is rare to find a musician who truly cannot be compared to anyone else. Matisyahu is one of those artists. Creating a mix of music that is part reggae, part alternative rock and part religious, he produces a blend that is certainly one of a kind.
Matisyahu, known for being a Jewish musician, has made some huge changes in his life during the last year. He shaved his long locks and tweeted he was reclaiming himself. Matisyahu, known as Matthew Miller offstage, took time to share this metamorphosis with The Badger Herald in a recent interview.
“When I was in college, about 21, I started to become interested in Judaism, in my ethnicity — studying becoming more religious,” he said. “At a certain point, becoming more religious, or how I understood it, meant letting go of some of my own logic … in order to grow beyond myself.”
He added this change was about much more than religion — something many others face at certain points of life — and explained his personal motivations in further detail.
“I think that I was no longer blindly living by an ideology,” he said. “I had accepted upon myself, but was sort of taking what I know from what I’ve been inspired by … and, at the end of the day, making my own decisions about my life.”
When listening to Matisyahu’s new album Spark Seeker, it is not difficult to see a more optimistic, freer version of the artist. In the single from the album, “Sunshine,” he sings, “Reach for the sky/ Keep your eye on the prize/ Forever in my mind/ Be my golden sunshine.”
With lyrics like this, it would seem Matisyahu intended the album to have a liberated vibe. The songs tackle important issues, he explains, but feel anything but heavy.
“I think this album is a fun album,” he said. “It has a lot of content but a light to it as well … a lot of it is about rebirth and reclaiming yourself. Trusting yourself. A lot of my music has been about searching, about believing in yourself.”
It is surely clear to listeners that Matisyahu’s music comes from the soul: The soul of a very optimistic man, with deep-rooted religious beliefs.
“Faith is a big part of who I am and my sort of essential sense of this world,” he said. “It lends itself to optimism at times. Music is my outlet … I try to write songs that are inspirational, will give people strength and are empowering for myself as well.”
Aside from listening to his music, something else Madison fans may look forward to gleaning from this concert is Matisyahu’s tradition of stage diving, which he says he is continuing on this tour.
Matisyahu knew he wanted to be a musician since he was 16, when he saw a Phish concert that changed his life. He states that being at the concert and being absorbed into the music made him want to be a musician. That concert and love of music began a life-long journey that has been constantly changing.
Thinking about all of the recent changes he has undergone, it would seem that something big had caused all of this. But Matisyahu thinks of it differently.
“Life is a transition; I think that we are always in transition. There are points in time where we have to make big decisions, but usually that doesn’t happen in one moment or one day,” he said. “So usually those big decisions or big transitions happen over a big period of time, and in a process, an organic process.”
If you want to see Matisyahu’s transition, and, of course, the promised stage diving, he is performing tonight in Madison at the Overture Center for the Arts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30.