Matt Wertz

There's nothing like the feel of a favorite old t-shirt paired with a worn-in pair of jeans. Some of the best things in life move into their prime as they age, making them more enjoyable, more valuable. And so it is with the music of Matt Wertz, a handsome Missouri-born soulful rocker who has been splitting time between his home in Nashville and hundreds of stages around the world for the past six years. His latest offering,

Everything In Between, displays a patina that prompts an even deeper appreciation of his music than initially seemed possible. Everything In Between is full of vivid snapshots from every landmark along his two-year journey through love, questions, pain, and healing. "This record stems from relationships and heartbreak, but ultimately I'm grateful for everything that happened, because I learned who I am through the process of making this record," Wertz says. And while the process was born out of a difficult journey, the result is an eclectic and energetic album, delivered smoothly and with confidence. As a whole, Everything is seamless and cohesive, but each song varies in color enough to make it unique from the others, beautiful in its own way.

The songs on Everything possess that familiar, worn-in feel, which makes them easy to fall in love with at first listen. From the effortless groove of the opening guitar riff on "The Way I Feel" to the addictive hooks of "Heartbreaker" and "Like the Last Time," the entire album is road-trip worthy, changing gears and sliding into place with the easy flow his fans have come to expect. Honesty is another thing he has always worked hard to present, and he pulls back the curtain even further on "I Will Not Take My Love Away," revealing a wisdom that belies his 27 years. "More than any other song on my album, that song is truth," he says. "It's about unconditional love, a love that is bigger than any of us. We all know it's out there, but we keep looking for it in the wrong places. It's a song I need to listen to and receive from every day."

Wertz is proficient at turning life's lessons into a beautiful soundtrack, but he has a natural way of moving through those serious moments to a place where he can relax in the simplicity of life. He loves to laugh, and he has a guy-next-door charm coupled with movie star charisma that draws people to him. Chances are, if there is a group of people, and there is a sound system, then a Michael Jackson album will be playing, and Wertz will be in the middle of the room, on the floor, dancing. It's no surprise that many of his friends wanted to accompany him in making Everything. They gathered around him for the recording process, headed by producer Ed Cash, who worked with him on his second album 23 Places (2003), and the Today & Tomorrow EP (2005). The result is his best album to date, one that will undeniably find a place at the top of the playlists of his ever-increasing fan base, which has largely grown by word of mouth.

When artists reach the level of success that Wertz has, they often use that platform to garner a record deal with a major label. But as his career has grown, so has his confidence in the independent machine that fuels it. "I love being independent," Wertz says. "If I succeed or fail, it's not based upon someone else's decisions, but my own. I like the freedom and ownership that comes from keeping things small and in-house." It's clear that Wertz, just like his latest album, has realized the potential that comes with the benefit of time and will catch the attention of everyone who comes within earshot of his music.

It’s called ‘chemistry’, an elusive quality that can be part history, part mystery and all intangible until the moment that you feel it. It’s a meant-to-be melding of the emotional and creative that can happen between songwriters, performers, best friends or life partners. For Josh and Nicole Johnson – the duo Elenowen – that connection is all of the above and much more. And on their self-titled EP, the chemistry they share is as rare – and real – as it gets.

Though emerging from the same Nashville-based Americana-folk scene as The Civil Wars, Elenowen deliver a sonic glow all their own. Amidst haunting harmonies and elegiac lyrics, their songs flow with an undercurrent of yearning, surrender and unexpectedly sharp edges. “We strive to maintain a certain vulnerability in our music,” Josh says. “We write a lot about our own lives as well as the truths about relationships that we relate to. We think it creates an intimacy that’s totally connected to the music.” The sound itself is roots-driven, with accents of cello and pedal steel cutting a deeply evocative facet. Even the name Elenowen is an authentic nod to heritage, with Ellen being Josh’s mom’s middle name and Owen being the middle name of Nicole’s dad. “They’re the sides of the family we each got our music from,” explains Josh. “What’s in our hearts will always come out in what we do.”

The singular power of Elenowen comes from the bond that can only exist between two people who’ve known – and loved – each other for most of their lives. “We were 15 and 16 when we met,” explains Nicole. “We dated for a year, broke up for a year and a half, then got back together and have been together ever since. After that first breakup, I think we both still knew that we were meant for each other, but we also knew that we weren’t what each other needed at that point in our lives.” At 18, Josh moved from Knoxville to Nashville to be with Nicole, writing songs and pursuing a music degree at Belmont University while Nicole worked as a homecare attendant, back-up singer and barista. Within a year of Josh’s graduation, the starkly candid debut album Pulling Back The Veil chronicled their first year of marriage with songs that were subsequently showcased on TV shows like ‘One Tree Hill’ and MTV’s ‘World Of Jenks’. Josh and Nicole began filming impromptu performances in their small basement apartment, with the resulting clips – called ‘The Basement Sessions’ – quickly garnering a following on YouTube and the No Depression website. In 2011, Elenowen made their national television debut on the top-rated premiere season of NBC’s ‘The Voice’. But it’s the five tracks on their new EP that now mean the most to the couple and convey what’s most real to audiences.

“We wrote all these songs around the same time,” explains Josh, “when Nicole and I were walking through similar issues and feelings. Most marriages are not all lovey-dovey, like most love songs claim. For us, these songs are as much about love as they are about the struggle of keeping love alive.” The EP’s opening track, “Flying For The First Time”, is co-written with acclaimed singer/songwriter Trent Dabbs and soars with uninhibited vocal harmony and lyrical beauty. “Blood And Bones”, also co-written with Dabbs, is a towering paean to the physical and emotional bonds of desire. “Head To My Heart”, co-written with EP co-producer Philip LaRue, reconciles intuition with passion via Nicole’s potent vocals. “We Were Better Off” is a shimmering reflection of lost innocence and mislaid dreams. And “Bittersweet” is a hushed and moody twist on traditional love songs in which a couple affirm they are ‘all I want/and nothing that I need’. “I absolutely believe in true love,” explains Nicole. “I also believe,” she adds with a laugh, “that true love is never easy.”

More and more, Elenowen are discovering that the truth of what they do is bringing them new fans nationwide. “I think audiences respond to our honesty,” says Josh. “When we perform these songs, people get the feeling they know who we are, because that’s what we’re putting out there. We are the heart behind our music.” For Nicole, the journey both starts and grows in a place of instinctive sharing. “When it’s 3 AM and I have an idea for a song,” she explains, “my best friend/music partner/husband can grab his guitar and the idea takes off. The songs that come out of those moments are part me, part him, and all us. When we formed Elenowen, I realized that I’m no longer a singer in the shadows. I’m now a half of something that means so much not only to us, but to other people as well.”

But what about that thing called chemistry? For Elenowen, it’s a one-of-a-kind formula that is about to become bigger than the both of them. “I think our chemistry is what keeps us going,” says Nicole. “We fight for it in our marriage, in our friendship and our music. These songs are so much a part of us and the emotion is so real, that every time we sing them its almost as if we’re feeling them for the first time. What Josh and I ultimately want is for people to get inspired and connected by what we do.” And for Elenowen, it’s a promise you can take to heart.

$20

Tickets

The Sinclair is general admission standing room only.
Tickets available at TICKETMASTER.COM, or by phone at 800-745-3000. No service charge on tickets purchased in person at The Sinclair Box office Tuesdays-Saturdays 12-7PM. Please note: box office is cash only.

add to your calendar

Who’s Going

Upcoming Events
The Sinclair

Ticketfly

Matt Wertz with Elenowen

Saturday, November 9 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM at The Sinclair