Matt Hillyer Talks About Going Solo, The State of Eleven Hundred Springs + Performs Live – Exclusive Interview
Matt Hillyer is branching off on his own. No, his band Eleven Hundred Springs hasn't called it quits, but Hillyer decided to release a solo CD, and it's one of the best country albums of 2014. Matt stopped by the KEAN 105 Afternoon Show to talk more about his music, and play a couple songs, too!
The first part of my conversation with Matt Hillyer included explaining where he (and his band, Eleven Hundred Springs) got their unique sound. "I just think that's kinda how it comes out...we came up along the same time with a lot of the really big acts (in Texas country music) and we were doing shows with them all at the same time. We were all kinda at the same level. But the turn that it was taking, when Red Dirt sorta got more introduced to it, was just not a turn that we could make. And it wasn't because we didn't like it. It wasn't because we weren't on board with where it was coming from. It was just like one of those things, we looked at it going, 'Okay'. It really kinda forced us to identify the fact that...as far out of the pocket as we're gonna get when it comes to country music is something like, uh, Doug Sahm or Graham Parsons. It was like a decision between those two types of sounds that we really identified with as far as country music is concerned...and our own blend of (traditional country music) came from just being five different individuals that were bringing something to the table."
Matt also played a song - the title track from 'If These Old Bones Could Talk' - and explained how a sentimental song about dominoes came to be. Take a listen to the first half of our conversation:
Matt Hillyer Interview - Part 1
The second half of my interview with Matt Hillyer included talking about the elephant in the room. I had to ask Hillyer "What is the status of Eleven Hundred Springs?" He gave an answer that should have Eleven Hundred fans sighing with relief. Matt tells us, "No, I don't think [this is a break from the band]...Typically when this stuff happens, the lead singer, when he goes and makes his own CD, always gets the brunt of the ribbing from people, because they think the lead singer has got some big ego and has to go out on his own. That's not the case. Everything's good with me and the boys. We're great. We've still got gigs to do. There's still stuff for us to do. I think there are other things that some of the guys want to do that don't include keeping as heavy of a schedule as we have been over the years...therefore...I don't have a lot of employable skills. I gotta keep working!".
Hillyer explained that, while his solo CD has similar traits to an Eleven Hundred record, there were specific reasons he felt it was a good idea to make 'If These Old Bones Could Talk' on his own. "I feel like the genre is fairly similar [to the music Eleven Hundred is known for]. There's still a lot of good honky tonk and country music. The subject matter for me - and that was also another reason I felt like it was the right time [to make the solo album] - I knew the songs that I was writing were coming from a very personal place to me...I was writing a lot of songs that was really registering on my own personal deal. So it did feel like, if there was a time to launch out and do your first CD with your own name on it, those were the songs that were really indicative of where my head was at at the time."
Hillyer played another song for us in studio. Take a listen to the second half of our conversation, as well as Matt's acoustic version of his first solo single, 'A Little Less Whiskey'.