How to write 14,000 songs: Mark Mallman interviews Motern Media's Matt Farley
"Hey Mallman, did you hear about the guy who wrote 14,000 songs?" was my first introduction to the music of Motern Media (a.k.a. Matt Farley). Upon a little web surfing I found out about a comedy songwriter who takes up more of real estate on Spotify than anybody else in the world, and pulls down $23,000 annually on the service when most established artists are making pennies.
After laughing myself though instant classics like "Phil Collins Deserves to be Worshiped By All of Us" and "Andrew Bird Flies to Great Musical Heights Always" I had no choice but to track the Massachusetts songwriter down to find out how he can .
Mark Mallman: The thing that strikes anybody I talk with about your stuff, is that technology has allowed you to do something that no one's done in music history before.
Matt Farley: Just from my looking around the internet, I definitely haven't seen it.
How many songs would you say you make per day?
For the piano and vocal songs it'll be about 20 to 40. For the ones that are more involved, I can do 5 to 15 in a day. I can do 100 birthday songs in one day, but takes a lot of will power.
Traditionally, a proper "song," isn't just made up on the spot. There's this notion of a songwriter poring over a song. Like if you don't tear your hair out, it isn't valid.
People might say that what I'm doing is just releasing home made demos as finished, or that since there is so much of it, that it's terrible. But I'm proud of most of my songs. I'll sit down, look at a topic, find some chords, and hit record. I'll go for about 90 seconds, mix it, then on to the next one.
Is there a perspective for some to not see it as legit? It's improv comedy music, yet, jazz improvisation is perceived as highly intellectual.
Yeah. In general, anything that is comedic is going to get a little bit less respect, I don't know why personally. A lot of comedic songwriters are seen to be on the lower tier. But, I think Bob Dylan is also pretty funny. Did you ever see the movie, Ishtar? It's about a couple of idiot songwriters who make very bland songs. I feel like every songwriter at some time feels like those two characters. That movie is wonderfully inspiring. Ishtar is unfairly maligned.
So, are you saying there's a bit of Don Quixote in your vision?
Yeah, like it's a ridiculous misguided quest. "Hey, I'm going to go outside and just sing about my back yard. Isn't it nice?" I also think that musicians are limiting themselves by putting out one album a year. If you spend a month on a song versus a week or a day, what's the difference? Sometimes the instant creativity is better than what you tweak for the next month. That's my theory.
I've played, Unexpected Songs of Joy, and Celebrations of Music Stars by one of your alter egos The Passionate and Objective Jokerfan to a number of fellow professional musicians. Everybody I play it for says "Thumbs way up!" You're singing really funny songs about serious musicians like Miles Davis, Lauryn Hill, and Jack White. Comedy music is rarely very educated.
Yeah, I try to go deep as possible with the songs about music. People like Townes Van Zandt, they make a movie about how tortured he was. When I saw that I watched that I was like, "Man I should get addicted to drugs and ruin my family, it could lead to more sales!" I'm kidding, of course. But record companies know that the more they say Brian Wilson is a tortured genius, the more they are going to sell of Pet Sounds
Could you envision any of these artists, like Jeff Mangum or Adele, ever contacting you and saying, "Thanks for the funny song about me" or something?
I think I do everybody justice. They're all musicians, I think they can experience the exercise of what I'm doing and the process of making and making songs and just moving forward. I hope so. I could also see them being suspicious of me. So, I'm not expecting any calls anytime soon.
So, these are ideas of mass production? It's a concept that Andy Warhol and Steve Keene touch upon as visual artists, but you're kind of applying it to music and comedy?
I wrote a song called "Andy Warhol, you are just like me" where I sing "we both produce crap and trick people into buying it."
Well, I don't think what either of you do is crap. 14,000 songs take a long time and dedication, regardless of the subject matter.
It's not at all easy. I think that if anyone tried to do this, they'd quit after a couple weeks. It's hard to write this many songs, but I'm keeping myself interested with each album by finding new variations. I feel if you listen to an album from the last two years it's more interesting than an album from the previous two years.
Ask a songwriter for a favorite song, and they'll always say "the new one."
Yeah, but you know there are gems all throughout the whole 14,000 catalog.
Which is why I asked for your 12 favorites in a play list before this interview. Like this whole idea is so crazy and nontraditional I wanted to see how it might fit into the concept of a regular album. Do you think when you reach the point of 30,000 songs or whenever, when you will do a full on orchestrated version of these tunes?
Yeah, the songs aren't really made to be listened to all at once anyway. They're kind of created to be these little things you might find in a mix. Take something like one of my sports bands, on a grand comedic scale it's fun to imagine someone just discovering it. I can imagine they would be like "what the heck are these insane songs about athletes?!" It's pretty weird, but I get my facts right, and each song is it's own thing. I hope it's a pretty mind blowing experience.
But what if a person doesn't have the time to listen to 14,000 songs? I asked Matt, if Rick Rubin were produce a record of Motern Media classics for Warner Brothers, which 12 of his canon would he select. Consider this a "Greatest Hits... so far" of complete weirdness.
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