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Alone Again, Naturally: Matt Sharp broke off from Weezer and the Rentals to try his luck at a solo career.

Disconnected

Former Weezer bassist Matt Sharp pulls a reverse 'Beverly Hillbillies' and rediscovers his creative essence

By Spence D.

TO THE average denizen of Urban Sprawl, USA, Tennessee seems like a world away--a world teeming with backwoods hillbillies sucking the marrow out of possum bones littered at the bottom of the stew pot. It's this stereotypical view of the South that causes one to ponder why a well-known L.A.-based musician would pack up his gear and relocate to the wilds of the Agriculture and Commerce state.

Matt Sharp, former founding member of Weezer and the Rentals, is that well-known L.A. musician who pulled the reverse Beverly Hillbillies maneuver. A year ago, he bounced from the concrete jungle to Leipers Fork, Tenn., in an effort to recapture his creative integrity. The leadoff track on his recent EP, Puckett's Versus The Country Boy, is appropriately titled "Goodbye West Coast."

Sharp's current musical output--loosely classified in the singer/songwriter vein--seems to be part of a reverse career arc. He went from founding one of the most influential pop/rock outfits of the past decade to fronting a retro New Wave band, and now he's a solo artist toting an acoustic guitar. Most musicians would have started out with the guitar and slowly climbed their way up to arena-rock status. "Well," he states in a deadpan drawl, "we hit the jackpot awfully early on. 'Tis life."

Though it would seem that Sharp hit the jackpot, took his winnings and disappeared to live the reclusive country life (with a short stop in Barcelona), such is not the case. "It doesn't really have anything to do with the money or any of the success of things," he says. "This is where I'm at, and this is what I'm most turned on by."

Where Sharp is today--making music with nothing more than his voice and a guitar--is far more intimate and introspective than thundering away on bass or pounding a Moog as part of a group.

"For me, when you start your first band, like I did with Weezer, you're faced with a lot of questions," he explains. "That time in your life is very analytical and filled with a bazillion questions about what you like about other people's music, why you are attracted to certain sounds and not to others, and those kinds of things. You find yourself in a place, asking these questions over and over again."

"I really felt that we [Weezer] did get to that place, and we did what we were trying to do about as good as we could. Then you go into autopilot, and you're cruising along, making the kind of music that you love, but at some point you stop and look at your record collection and realize that the kind of music that you're playing has nothing to do with the kind of music that you're listening to. That's where I found myself."

In addition to recording the aforementioned EP, Sharp has an album's worth of material that he's shopping around and he's crisscrossing the States in a van, playing in small, intimate venues. He's not beyond embracing his past, to a degree (don't expect to hear any Weezer tunes). "I'm thrilled that people are requesting Rentals songs. They don't know this new material very well, so there's really no other choice in the matter but to play those songs," Sharp confesses.

One question still remains: Why Tennessee? "Tennessee's a gorgeous place," says Sharp. " I think that it seemed like the best place to disconnect--cut off all the ties and be in a place where I was left to my own devices and able to start reasking all those questions again."

In the end Sharp's self-enforced disconnection has allowed for him to reconnect both with himself and with his audience. And that's a good thing.


Matt Sharp and Logan Whitehurst perform Tuesday (July 15) at 7pm at the Gaslighter Theater, 400 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell Tickets are $10. (408.866.1408)


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From the July 10-16, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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