Matt Nathanson is a rarity -- the musical equivalent of a scene-stealing understudy or a bench-warming athlete who unexpectedly leads his team to victory. (Matt-sanity!)
Of course, the "Come on Get Higher" singer-songwriter has gotten so good at opening for stars like Pink, Sugarland, Train and, currently, Kelly Clarkson in big venues and winning over new fans that he's now headlining bigger places on his own.
"Opening is always a real struggle," Nathanson says, calling from a tour stop in Tampa. "It's like fighting a grudge match every night, winning them over and carrying them back to my cave."
Why did you decide to do your headlining tour in between the dates you're opening for Kelly Clarkson?
Kelly takes a certain number of days off each week when she tours, so this tour that would normally take a month and a half will take three months. I really only headlined one tour , so I thought I'd do it. Sometimes, you get into a groove as an opener and headlining screws up the groove, but I'm enjoying doing both.... When you're opening, you never know what kind of audience you're gonna get, since they paid good money to see someone else. Sometimes, it's easy to go into battle the next night if you were cuddled by a crowd that was there to see you the night before.
Your "Modern Love" album sounds big. Did that come from playing so many big places?
That really influenced the songs. I had the idea of wanting to do songs that would work in basketball and hockey arenas....I learned a lot from touring with Sugarland and seeing how their songs affected the crowd. Their songs were so incredible -- the second time you heard it, you were singing along.
Is "Modern Love" a concept album?
It sort of turned out that way. When I was writing it, it seemed everybody around me was going through some crisis or revelation -- either a divorce or an affair or having kids. It was like this explosion that happened. I started out trying to tell these stories about other people, but it turned out I was just telling stories about myself.