What began with a homemade drum groove on Matt’s front porch in Nashville sprang into a varied ten-song album that is equal parts a dip in the electric blue waters of the 80s and a testament to the artistic breadth Wertz has developed at this The year was 1987. Reagan was in the White House, Bill Cosby was the king of Thursday nights, Dirty Dancing was selling out theaters. And on stereos across America, singer-songwriters like Bryan Adams, Richard Marx, and Kenny Loggins were rocking the airwaves with hits that would go on to do the near impossible: cater to popular demand and stand the test of time.
It was 1987, and Matt Wertz was an eight-year-old kid in Liberty, Missouri. He went to Louis and Clark Elementary, he took piano once a week from his Nana, he rode shotgun in his mom’s Oldsmobile station wagon. And on those lucky afternoons when he could tune in to Casey’s Top 40, Wertz listened to songs that would become the soundtrack of an era – Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” Steve Winwood’s “The Finer Things,” Lionel Richie, Peter Cetera – classics set to drum machine and Stratocaster. He didn't know it then, but those radio waves were settling into Wertz’s memory and slow-curing his own songwriter sensibility. And after a decade of commercial success, seven studio albums and thousands of miles touring, they were the songs Matt found himself going back to over and over again – “Footloose,” “Mandolin Rain,” “Hold on to the Nights” – music that was ﬂat-out fun to listen to.
Those hours of rediscovery inspired Matt Wertz to create his newest and most ambitious project to date, Heatwave. What began with a homemade drum groove on his Nashville front porch has sprung into a distinct, varied ten-song record that both pays homage to the lush, accessible sounds characteristic point in his career of that era and evidence the breadth of artistic reach Wertz has come to embody at this point in his career.
“Get to You,” the opening track on Heatwave, was written during the initial porch session with producer Brandon Hood, conﬁdently dipping its toes in the electric blue waters of the 80s. The drum groove brings to mind the classic loop beats of that era and immediately establishes the album’s ﬂuid, dynamic tone. With “Whenever You Love Somebody,” Wertz delivers the aching, honest lyrics his fans have come to expect, this time setting them against a backdrop of resonant beats and velvety guitars.
In addition to Wertz’s interpretation of his favorite 80s inﬂuences, Heatwave also boasts tracks that feature his wideranging scope as a songwriter. Between working independently and on major labels like Universal Republic and Nettwerk Records, Wertz has become a veteran musician who deftly employed his years of songwriting mastery to this latest offering. After 12 years based in Nashville, co-writing with the best in the business, Wertz’s own insights manifest themselves best on the introspective tracks “What I Know Right Now” and “Thing About Freedom.”
“What I Know Right Now” explores a contemporary folk blend of warm harmonies and brushed snare, and “Thing About Freedom” gently draws the album to a close with pensive lines and a melancholy steel guitar.
Heatwave bridges a lifetime of musical history. Wertz uses the melodies of his Missouri childhood as a springboard into an exciting new realm of modern musical possibilities, interpreting his inﬂuences in a striking, singular way. As Wertz himself would say, these are the songs he’d want stuck in his head. And that’s a good thing for everyone.
“Family” began as a song for his sister who was going through a difficult time, but through the course of the writing cycle, Wertz realized he couldn’t fix everything. “I guess the irony in me writing that song for my sister was that it ended up being for me,” he reveals. “More times than not, songs do that. You think they’re about one thing and they turn out to be about something else.”
“Running Back to You” is perhaps the album’s most stunning track, featuring a grand chorus that grabs hold of heartstrings and never lets go. Despite what has happened in the relationship, Wertz sings about returning to the person who grounds him. The song was co-written by Rector and features background vocals by Dave Barnes.
Of course, Weights & Wings wouldn’t be complete without a classic love song. “Feels So Right” is an up-tempo track on which Wertz sings about the anticipation and excitement of telling a woman he loves her for the very first time. It is yet another example of Wertz’s simple, yet acute songwriting ability.
This year, Wertz will head back on the road to reconnect with his fans and share the songs he’s worked so hard on. His hope is that listeners will be able to identify with his music, and find a “windows down, sing along at the top of your lungs” quality about the album, too.
“It’s like I made a gift for someone,” he muses. “I created this scrapbook for someone, and I’ve saved all these memories and things I’ve put together. I’m going to give it to them for their birthday…I’m excited, but the real joy is seeing them open that gift.”