Matt Latterell’s life has been a series of stops and starts; his new album Phase & Field — with contributions from Eamonn McLain, Sean Gilchrist, Reed Pagel, Justin Korhonen, and Peter Miller — took almost four years to make.
The Minneapolis singer-songwriter left town three years ago to make a home with his then-fiancé in his hometown of Foley, Minnesota. When the relationship fell apart, he took to the road and toured with Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles and couch surfed at many friend’s homes for a couple of years before settling again in St. Cloud. “I still have keys to a lot of my friends' houses,“ he jokes.
Living on a friend’s couch and unsure of what would happen with the collection of songs he had been hoarding, Latterell sat on it while he worked a day job teaching music at the Boys and Girls Club in St. Cloud. Making it a goal to move back to northeast Minneapolis, Latterell took the 60 songs he had crafted and began to hone in on the sound of the new album. The initial plan was to do a 46-song album with Eric Martin (of Jillian Rae's band) and make it into a double record.
This wasn’t the first time Latterell set lofty goals for himself in music. Back in 2012, he drafted the help of 69 different artists/bands to cover and record the Magnetic Fields' 69 Loves Songs. As if that wasn’t enough, he had the same bands perform the covers at First Avenue. for a four-hour event one late December evening that same year.
When taking on another large project and distance from the Cities proved to be too much, Latterell himself began whittling down the tracks to the ones that he felt stayed universal.
“I don’t know why I write so much,” he shares. “I don’t know if I had a good enough plan to know what I’d do with it. This one definitely didn’t start out how I planned. I had all of these rules about how it was going to produced — I was only going to mix a certain way, I am going to record a certain way. I eventually started throwing out one by one. The ones that remain are because there was something exciting to discover in them.”
On the opening track, that is certainly true. “And I’ll Never Let You Go” opens easily, oftentimes resembling a Rufus Wainwright operatic ballad, but begins to move in erratic directions and eventually comes to an abrupt ending — something that he concocted when working on that song in post-production. Latterell mentions his Catholic upbringing in the song, and even used hymns from when he attended Catholic Church in his youth as a guide for the pieces when he constructed them.
When told that he writes the saddest songs known to man, he abashedly laughs and says, “Thanks.” The genre he chooses to perform is peculiar, coming from someone who lists Kanye West and ABBA among his favorite artists. Latterell had not one, but two, relationships fall apart in the three years that it took to make Phase & Field. Everyone knows that a breakup makes for a great album, but there’s not much finger pointing in his songs.
“My ex was actually at my show the other night,” he concedes sheepishly. “There’s nothing super specific about our relationship on the album, so if she heard it, she wouldn’t know it was about us. I talk more about myself and my contributions to what happened than I talk about our relationship. It’s not like I want to keep my life shitty, so I have songs to write about. At the time, it happened to be that way. The reason I racked up so many songs is I demo as I write, and I write the base of the song really fast. I usually have no idea what I’m doing.”
Now living back in Minneapolis, Latterell revels being in a place he considers home. On the patio of the 331 Club a few blocks from his house, it is clearly evident he is home as he greets regulars and Jack Torrey and Page Burkum, the twin brothers that form the Cactus Blossoms, backing another band the same evening. As if bringing up the fact that he’s a performer embarrassed him, Latterell blushes as he points to a poster with his name on it hanging on the door. He even gives a nervous laugh when he apologizes for being so self-deprecating.
“I find things embarrassing in what I write and what I share,” Latterell reveals. "Not because they’re too personally revealing, but because I feel I can do better. The revising is cutting out those parts that make me cringe.” Without realizing he could be talking about himself, he continues, “There’s parts that remain that I have learned to love. The first verse that starts the record, I tried so hard to rewrite. I had a realization that it was the truth, and it not being well-written enough was not the point of the song. I had to let go of control."
Matt Latterell album-release party for Phase & Field
With: Peter Wolf Crier.
When: 7 p.m. Sat.
Where: Cedar Cultural Center.
Tickets: $12-$14 (click here for tickets)