Interview: Matt Stansberry of Matt Stansberry and The Romance


Matt Stansberry: Lead Vocals and Guitar

Live at The Bottleneck on August 26th, 9 p.m.

GM: I’m a big fan of these two-part band names. How did you come up with Matt Stansberry & The Romance?

MS: The first part, my name was easy enough. But as far as The Romance goes, I just wanted something that had a positive connotation to it. I was driving down the highway one day – and this was after we started recording, so the band name actually came last – but I was driving down the highway, thinking about the project we were working on, all of the people involved and the good feelings, the love, and the synergy, and that’s when The Romance came to mind. The name just felt right. I actually called my brother, who is in the band, and he said it was cool too. And my brother, he shoots me straight, so when he said it was cool, I knew we were good.

GM: How many people are in Matt Stansberry and The Romance?

MS: It’s a nine-piece band. So we’ve got eight in the Romance part of the band.

GM: How did you guys find each other? Is there a story behind that, or did a group of good musicians just happen to find each other?

MS: Oklahoma City is kind of a big small town. Everybody knows a little bit of everybody through somebody else. So when we started making our first album, it was originally a solo album, but we brought in a rhythm section – just keys, drums, bass and guitar – and we recorded it that way, kind of live. And then a few of us were like, “this is really cool, but I think this music needs horns,” and so we just started adding stuff to it. That’s how it developed.

GM: Listening to your music, I can tell that you all have a certain chemistry, which is especially important when you’re dealing with so many different people. How long have you been playing together as a band? And have you noticed that chemistry develop over time?

MS: As a band we’re going on five years now, so we’ve been at it for a little while. Some of us have played together even longer than that, so there’s a lot of chemistry between how everyone performs. And on top of that, we’re a live band first and foremost. We love recording and writing, and it’s all about making good music, but at the same time, playing live is kind of our thing. We improvise a lot, we take turns with things that aren’t rehearsed, so the group has really learned to be intuitive to what is going on and everyone is really able to listen to what is going on around them.

GM: How would you describe that sound, or the type of music you make?

MS: Yeah, it’s kind of all around. It’s an American rock and roll sound, but with a lot of blues and soul and funk influences in there as well. So it’s a little bit eclectic

GM: Who are some artists or groups who influenced the band, and you in particular?

MS: A lot of early 50’s stuff, we’re obviously into that. And then 60’s mo-town as well. But really, we’ve been influenced by anything from James Brown, to Jimi Hendrix, to even some newer stuff. So it really comes from everywhere. I’ve always liked Buddy Holly, his image and what he does, but we just pull bits and pieces from all sorts of different places. We have a laundry list of different influences.

GM: I noticed in a lot of your music videos, everyone is rocking the black and white suits and the long black dresses, so I can tell that there is definitely a style aspect going into your work.

MS: Totally. We’ve actually changed up our look a bit for this new record, but there is definitely a throwback look to a lot of our earlier stuff.

GM: How would you describe the changes that you have made on this most recent record?

MS: I would say it’s a lot funkier. We’ve pulled a lot of inspiration from the 70’s era – some 70’s funk and even a little 70’s classic rock. I think there’s a little more a that edge to this new record. I also think that we bring the live element to this album too. There are a lot of energetic moments that we haven’t done a ton of historically. We do it live, but this is the first time we’ve captured it on a record. So those are the biggest changes, because typically, our stuff is rooted more in the 50’s and 60’s era, but with this album we’ve brought it forward a decade and really made it new.

GM: From the looks of it, you just are moving along that timeline pretty seamlessly – from the 50’s to the 60’s, and now onto the 70’s.

MS: Yeah, but it’s not really on purpose. Who knows, in the future we’ll maybe go back or forward but I don’t necessarily see how we’d make an 80’s album. That’s a tough jump to make. 

GM: If you could see any two musicians or bands – dead or alive – in concert, who would you see?

MS: Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles. Just going off the top of my head, that’s who comes to mind. I would also have loved to see Stevie Ray Vaughn. I’m a guitar player, so I would have loved to see him as well.

GM: If you could have dinner with any two people from history, who would you choose to share a meal with?

MS: Well, I’ll have to assume that we all speak the same language, so I’ll go ahead and make that jump. Leonardo Da Vinci, though. I think he was an absolutely genius creator, inventor and a brilliant person. To have a lunch or a dinner with someone like that would be amazing. And then my second choice would probably be somebody related to music, like a Mozart, because when you go that far back, there is a lot of information on them, but there is still so much we don’t know. I’m going pretty old school on both of those.

GM: If you weren’t a musician, what do you think you’d be doing right now? What are some of your other passions?

MS: I think I would be a painter. All through growing up, before I became a musician, I was painting and drawing and all that stuff. Now I’ve kind of put it aside to focus on music, but I think at some point in my life I’ll come back to all that. I’m still very much inspired by that world though.

GM: What type of painting did you do?

MS: Pretty early on I was able to develop technical skills, and I think maybe that’s why I haven’t painted in so long, maybe I just haven’t found my muse or my style. Early on I was just trying to paint things as real as I could, and then as I got a little older I started to take stuff that looked real and mix it with things that weren’t. I guess you could call it a surrealism kind of thing. That intrigued me for a while, but I haven’t really figured out what I’m into yet

GM: I was listening to a few of your interviews before this, and I stumbled across your red shirt story. Would you mind telling that story again?

MS: Wow, I actually just did that interview last week. I think my wife might kill me if I tell it again. But I was in college as a freshman, and my wife – who I didn’t know at the time – was a senior. So her and a few of her friends prank called me, and they didn’t tell me who they were, but they said, “hey, wear a red shirt tomorrow if you’re interested.” So I put a red shirt on the next day, because I didn’t know who this girl was and I wanted to figure it out. It turns out my future wife was wearing the other red shirt and that’s how we first met. Now, the rest is history.

GM: That’s an awesome story, and it’s one of those where, if you didn’t put on the red shirt, who knows what would have happened? I’m sure you’ve thought about that a few times.

MS: Exactly, exactly.

GM: To get back to the music, Matt Stansberry & The Romance has had the privilege to record at Sun Studio in Memphis, right?

MS: Correct, we did that last year.

GM: And for those who might not know, would you mind explaining the significance of that studio?

MS: It’s known as the birthplace of rock’n’roll. It’s where Elvis got his start, where Johnny Cash recorded a lot of his stuff. So many artists have been through there – Jerry Lewis, Carl Perkins, a lot of the early era rock was recorded and created at Sun Studio back in the 50’s.

GM: How did it feel to be able to make music in a place with so much history?

MS: Oh yeah, it was incredible. The way it actually worked out for us was, about a year ago we played a show in Memphis and we got to tour Sun Studio. While we were there they asked us who we were, and when we told them that we were a band, they asked for a CD and said they’d give us a free tour. Unbeknownst to us, they started playing the CD back in the cafe while we were in the main studio, and at the end of the tour they said, “hey, we want to have you guys record here.” It was actually a really organic way. We were just super excited to go tour the place, we didn’t know that a few months later we would be recording there. So that was a really cool experience, and the history is just wild.

GM: And you have an album that will be coming out shortly, right?

MS: Yes, it’s coming out September 8th and it’s called Future Love.

GM: Was that recorded at Sun Studio as well?

MS: No, that was actually recorded in Memphis, but at a different studio called Ardent. It has a amazing history too, a lot of great artists and albums have come from that studio. But here’s the cool thing: a guy named Fuzz Hampton and another guy named Curry Weber are the ones that worked with us in Sun, and they also worked with us at Ardent. They were the main two engineers or executive producers that were involved with the projects. They’re awesome guys who do great work and I think it worked out super well.

GM: Awesome, well we’ll go ahead and wrap things up with some details about your show in Lawrence. You’re playing at the Bottleneck on the 26th of August, is that right?  

MS: Yeah, I’ll be there August 26th. It’s my first time at the Bottleneck. We’ve played in Kansas City and other close areas as well, but this will be my first time in Lawrence, so I’m excited.

GM: We have some Kansas City listeners as well. Will you be making any stops there?

MS: Yeah, we are actually. August 26th we’ll be at the Bottleneck and then September 4th we’ll be at Crossroads KC, where we’ll be supporting Lake Street Dive.

GM: Awesome. I heard you guys put on quite a show, so that’s something that people will definitely be excited to check out.

MS: Well I appreciate it. That’s what we love to do and we’re looking forward to it. Hopefully we make some new friends and new fans.