Interview with Elliott Smith Tribute Concert producer Matthew Solberg

Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective. As I told ‘The Tennessean’ in 2008, “since moving to Nashville twenty-five years ago, I have met people whose lives do not remotely reflect the caricature of what many outside our city presume to be a ‘Nashvillian’ or the Nashville experience.” “Underground Nashville” thus explores the soul of the city, not its surface—offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew


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Interview with Elliott Smith Tribute Concert producer Matthew Solberg

By Dave Carew

Matthew Solberg is a young Nashville-based singer/songwriter whose seven-song I Am a Fool EP has received air play in the U.S., the UK, and other countries around the world. Now working on his first-length album, Matthew counts Elliott Smith as one of the major sources of his artistic inspiration. On October 18, 2009, Matthew produced the successful Elliott Smith Tribute concert at Mercy Lounge in Nashville, whose proceeds benefited the Elliott Smith Memorial Fund for abused children.

Underground Nashville recently caught up with Matthew for this interview:

UNDERGROUND NASHVILLE: Why did you first decide to put together the Elliott Smith Tribute Concert at the Mercy Lounge?  What were you hoping to experience or accomplish?

MATTHEW SOLBERG: I thought it’d be fun to take part in an Elliott tribute show, but for a few years I was waiting around for one to happen in whatever town I happened to be living in at the time. So after realizing that waiting for someone else to put one together might have me waiting forever, I figured that I’d just put one together myself. Really, I wasn’t trying to experience or accomplish anything profound. I just wanted to put together a show that would be a fun way for musicians to pay tribute to Elliott while also entertaining fans by giving them a chance to hear Elliott’s songs performed live.

UN: If you had only the length of an elevator ride to tell someone why Elliott Smith was such an important singer/songwriter, what would you say?

MS: That’s a tough question (and it totally depends on who the other person is). I’d probably introduce Elliott by saying he created some great melodies, he was a skilled and creative guitarist, and he wrote lyrics that have just the right amount of complexity to be both complex and accessible. It’s a rare treat to come across someone who has all of those qualities. Really, I think I would just stress that the person should listen for him/her self… you can talk all day about how someone is a great artist, but I don’t think someone will really understand until they experience the art firsthand.

UN: What do you believe is Elliott’s musical and personal legacy?

MS: I think his musical legacy is that, not only are a lot of artists influenced by Elliott, but a lot of people also seem to really connect with Elliott’s lyrics. Besides that Elliott had some great guitar and melody-making skills, his lyrics seem to have a significant impact on a lot of his listeners. As far as a personal legacy… unfortunately, we as a society like to take people’s lives and sum them up as simply as possible, and I think his legacy among people who aren’t hardcore fans tends to be that he was a quiet but very talented singer/songwriter who battled depression and drugs and allegedly committed suicide. I really enjoyed Autumn de Wilde’s book on Elliott, as I think it kinda portrays what Elliott was like on a day-to-day basis… I’d hope that something like that grows to define his personal legacy.

UN: I understand you’re planning another Elliott Smith Tribute Concert for late 2010. Do you have any preliminary details at this point?

MS: Unfortunately, I don’t have any details right now, except that it will probably be in October again. I will say that if anyone who came to the show last year has any ideas for improvement, they should let me know at contact [at] Last year’s turnout was pretty good and I thought the songs were well-performed, but I’m always open to changes. One change I’m thinking about is that last year the artists all played both Elliott’s songs and their original songs, but I’m not sure if I want to do the original songs this year.

UN: How might people get additional information about you and/or your late 2010 Elliott Smith Tribute Concert?

MS: My website is I haven’t updated my website recently since I’m focused on my next album and don’t have much news to report right now, but normally I keep it pretty up-to-date. Also, last year I was fortunate to have Elliott’s official Facebook page make a post about my show, so hopefully that’ll happen this year too, to help get the word out.

For more information about the concert or Elliott Smith, please visit or

David M. (Dave) Carew is editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter.” He also is a freelance publicist and copywriter.


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