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Musician Matt Nathanson’s Brief But Spectacular take on finding confidence

Transcript

Judy Woodruff: In tonight's Brief But Spectacular, we hear from Matt Nathanson, a musician known for his blend of folk and rock.

Perhaps best known for his 2008 single, "Come On Get Higher," Matt shares his thoughts on getting older, gaining confidence, and finding his voice.

This is part of our arts and culture series, Canvas.

Matt Nathanson: Music to me has always been the answer. It just -- it makes everything work for me. It brings down the anxiety, and it cracks open the roof. And it's just -- it's -- it's just the only way I know how to handle life.

I love music so much that, when I get to make it, I'm bringing so much baggage to it. I have to wade through that thing to get to what I actually mean to say. For so long, I wanted to be my heroes. I wanted to make songs that sounded like the Indigo Girls, like Bob Dylan, like U2, like Stevie Wonder.

Like, as a kid, I got into a Public Enemy record, and I was like, oh, it's got to sound like Public Enemy. And I would betray my own self because of my -- well, because I wasn't -- because I'm just not a particularly confident person. And I would think that something else was obviously better than I was.

And, really, my only real job as an artist is to, as honestly as possible, get what's in me out. And I was like, I'm going to write anthems, so that my fans and that humans can sort of galvanize around something that's positive and that's like, hopeful.

And, all of a sudden, the first song that came out, and it was like, "Why'd You Leave Me?" I was like, OK, this must be just the cleaning out the tap because I'm in a great relationship, the best it's ever been. All right, let's get to the next one. And the next one came out, and same thing. It was like, don't go, don't go. I'm worth it. Aren't I worth it?

So, I kept cleaning out the tap, essentially, and I just ended up with 15 songs about, why'd you leave me?

So I was awkward throughout my entire life. I was a heavyset kid. Then, when I finally lost weight, I still thought I was a heavyset kid. From the first cassette Walkman, I lived my entire life with headphones on my head, and I listened to records, and I soundtracked my entire life with them.

I spent most of my childhood and most of my life in the pleasing-other-humans department. That was like -- that's probably why I'm a performer. And so being late to the confidence game has meant that I have spent a lot of years writing songs that I thought other people wanted to hear and doing things I thought other people wanted to see.

The only real gift of age is the experience that goes along with it. That's the lesson that you get from being young, is that you squandered so much of it. You thought it was going to be forever, so that, by the time you're in your 40s, you're like, I definitely know this is not forever. I better get on with enjoying myself as best I can.

My name is Matt Nathanson, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on confidence.

Judy Woodruff: And we like those child pictures.

And you can find all of our Brief But Spectacular segments on our Web site. That's at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.

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