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Backstage Pass: Vertical Horizon At Stage AE

By: Casey Shea
(Photo Courtesy: Vertical Horizon)

(Photo Courtesy: Vertical Horizon)

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Nearly four years have passed since Vertical Horizon’s last album, but the wait for a new one is almost over.

Many fans remember the band for smash hit singles, “Everything You Want,” “You’re a God,” and “Best I Ever Had (Grey Sky Morning)” from their 2000 release, “Everything You Want.”

The band has put out two albums since – “Go” in 2003, and “Burning the Days” in 2009.

However, their new album, “Echoes From The Underground” is due out this September and was fan-funded through Pledge Music. This gave the band more of a creative license than they’ve ever had before.

“It was this real shot in the arm. Everybody sort of said, ‘We believe in you so much, we don’t even need to hear a note of music. We will buy the record,’” lead singer Matt Scannell said. “We had an awful lot of support. I think that artistically, it really certainly gave me, I’ll speak for myself, the license, or the encouragement to chase inspiration wherever I could find it. So, whereas in the past maybe when there were more people to answer to during the creative process, I feel like during this one, there was no one to answer to except for the fans saying, ‘Be true to yourself, make the record you want to make.’ I don’t think there’s a greater gift as a musician than to have a core group of fans that are so behind you that they will encourage you to chase the muse.”

Watch The Entire Interview With Matt Scannell Of Vertical Horizon:

vh interview1 Backstage Pass: Vertical Horizon At Stage AE

With the fans behind them, Scannell and the band set to work on creating “Echoes From The Underground.” Scannell said the music has influences that may not have had as big of an impact on previous records.

“I think this record is stylistically far more variant than anything we’ve done before. There are moments that really are kind of nudging into prog and I don’t say that with a negative sense. I love progressive music. I love music that challenges the norms and wants to be things outside of the normal formula of pop music,” Scannell said. “Then, there are more singer/songwriter type songs. There’s a song called ‘Consolation’ that has more of a Bruce Hornsby kind of feeling to it in the verses and the chorus, most of the song, and then it goes sort of somewhere else, which is just fine.”

The album will feature several songs that are over five minutes in length, but Scannell said that the songs took on a life of their own.

The 2013 Under The Sun Tour featuring Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms, Vertical Horizon and Fastball made a stop at Stage AE on July 24, 2013. (Photo By: Casey Shea/KDKA)

The 2013 Under The Sun Tour featuring Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms, Vertical Horizon and Fastball made a stop at Stage AE on July 24, 2013. (Photo By: Casey Shea/KDKA)

“A lot of these songs are over five minutes, some six minutes, even seven minutes long, and I don’t believe they’re long-winded. I feel like these songs just needed to be the length that they are. It’s fun to not feel pressured to make the music anything other than what it wants to be,” Scannell said.

In addition to having the support of the fans, Scannell got support from two close friends, who are very well known in the music industry.

“Richard Marx, who is a really great friend of mine, co-wrote the first song with me a song called “You Never Let Me Down,” and produced the vocals on two songs. So, he helped me get the final vocal done on two songs and he sang harmony on four or five songs, so that was a major contribution,” Scannell said.

The other person to appear on the record is one of the most talented drummers to ever pick up a pair of sticks.

“The other major contribution from a dear and wonderful friend is Neil Peart, the drummer from Rush, plays on two songs. One is called “Instamatic” and his drum performance is a master class. Of course, it’s going to be amazing if he’s playing on it. He is one of the best ever. He deserves that title. But, this performance in particular to me, is almost like it’s sort of an overview of his entire career. I can hear elements from all the different chapters of his development as a player. And it’s such an honor to have him play on the record,” Scannell said.

The first single off of the new album, “Broken Over You,” is already hitting the airwaves. A free download of the song is available on the band’s website (VerticalHorizon.com). For Scannell, the song is about looking back on his past experiences and about losing touch with someone.

Watch Matt Scannell’s Acoustic Performance Of “Broken Over You”:

vh song Backstage Pass: Vertical Horizon At Stage AE

“I used to – back in the day – have to be living my life in a way that was sort of constant fodder for songs. It was like I would make choices about how I lived my life in order to stay in a very inspired place. Which, very oftentimes, meant that I was really unhappy and doing things that sort of perpetuated a sense of unhappiness. It’s one thing to write a lyric, “I’m hurt right now.” And it’s another thing to be so in pain that you have to write the lyric, “I’m hurt right now,” Scannell said.

“There’s that magical time when you’re first with someone where every thought is kind of sympatico. You know what the other person is thinking before they even say something. You look into their eyes and you can see everything inside of them. And then, sometimes, over time a distance is created and a disconnect occurs and you spend your time thinking, ‘What are they thinking about? I used to know and now I don’t.’ And that’s what ‘Broken Over You’ is about.”

“That song didn’t really come together for me until I wrote the bridge, which is so simple. But, the bridge says, ‘Broken over you, how do I get from broken, to over you?’ And that’s just really one of those songs that you don’t know if you’re going to have to move on, but you’re looking to try to find that person who’s next to you and you can’t quite do it. So, you don’t know what’s going to happen next,” Scannell said.

The band is currently on the road as part of the 2013 Under The Sun Tour with Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms and Fastball. Scannell is thrilled to be sharing the stage with some close friends in the other bands.

The 2013 Under The Sun Tour featuring Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms, Vertical Horizon and Fastball made a stop at Stage AE on July 24, 2013. (Photo By: Casey Shea/KDKA)

The 2013 Under The Sun Tour featuring Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms, Vertical Horizon and Fastball made a stop at Stage AE on July 24, 2013. (Photo By: Casey Shea/KDKA)

“All the bands have sort of known each other for years, so it really feels like more of a family reunion than a concert tour,” Scannell said. “Bunch of great bands, terrific songs. I love my band and I love what we do. Taking us away from it for a second, all night long, every song is a song that you know and that’s fun. It’s a lot of fun, so it’s a killer show.”

The tour stopped at Stage AE on July 24, but they had a couple of days off to relax and take in the Pittsburgh sights as well. While Scannell had been to Pittsburgh before, there was one thing he hadn’t done.

“We went to Primanti Brothers, which was awesome. Was my first time, not my last. I can tell you that!”

5 Questions For Matt Scannell

For every backstage interview we do, we’ll ask the same five questions. Some are music related, others are just for fun. Here’s what Matt Scannell had to say:

What was the first album you ever bought?

“Def Leppard ‘Pyromania.’ It’s still one of my favorite records of all-time. I won a book report contest in fifth grade and I got a gift certificate to Strawberries Records and Tapes, up in Worcester, Mass. And I went down and I got myself ‘Pyromania’ and I remember thinking, ‘This is the coolest record ever!’ With the cover explosions and fire. It was killer and I love that record man. Amazing stuff.”

What is your most embarrassing moment on stage?

“Easy, played Great Woods up in Massachusetts, which was the dream. That was the dream. I saw Rush there, I saw Eric Clapton, James Taylor – all these incredible shows and finally, we were playing there. Everyone’s there. Basically, all my of my family and friends from Worcester came out to see us. And I’m up on that stage walking around like, ‘Yeah, whatever. I got this. Made it.’ I backed up into a monitor and I fell over backwards. Fortunately, I did a little bit of circus trick guy, where I did a roll and got back up. You couldn’t say you ever meant do it because it was clearly a full-on yard sale. But, at least it wasn’t a broken guitar and blood. There was no blood and the guitar was still in tune. As far as I’m concerned, it was a victory, but it was definitely a defeat at the same time.’

What is your favorite home-cooked meal?

“Thanksgiving. Easy. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce. I like the snobby cranberry sauce, where you actually take the cranberries and put it in the thing and it’s all whole and chunky. But, I don’t mind me some out-of-the-can with the ridges – there’s nothing wrong with it. I’m an equal-opportunity cranberry sauce eater.”

The 2013 Under The Sun Tour featuring Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms, Vertical Horizon and Fastball made a stop at Stage AE on July 24, 2013. (Photo By: Casey Shea/KDKA)

The 2013 Under The Sun Tour featuring Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms, Vertical Horizon and Fastball made a stop at Stage AE on July 24, 2013. (Photo By: Casey Shea/KDKA)

What is your highest bowling score?

“Goodness gracious. Higher is better right? But, not high at all. Ten? Could ten be it? Maybe one? Whatever is really embarrassing, that’s where I am. Terrible. I am really good at getting the ball into the gutter. I nail that. If you need any help with that, which I don’t think is the point actually. I think you want to not do that. I am amazing at getting it in the gutter.”

What is your favorite thing to do outside of music?

“I love driving cars and I love going on race tracks. One of these days, maybe I’ll start to learn really how to do that. I would say between that and fly fishing, those are probably my two favorite things – very extreme opposites. But, I’m fortunate enough to have some really talented friends who are amazing at driving cars on tracks. So, I go to different places all over the world and have had some incredible experiences. It’s so difficult. It seems like it’s no big deal, you just mash the accelerator and turn the wheel. It’s anything but that. It’s the most finely nuanced and subtle sport. I’m mental about it. I love Formula 1. That’s my complete favorite sport. But, then fly fishing, getting out there on the water, having the quiet surround you, get some waders on and get out into the middle of a river and just try to try to fool the fish into thinking you’re a good fisherman. My dad’s an incredible fly fisherman. So, I’ve learned some from him. By no means am I good. It’s just the most peaceful thing. I love doing it. [We] go up to Maine. Try to go every year with my dad.”

Check out Vertical Horizon’s website to see their tour schedule and get your free download of “Broken Over You.”

You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sheavedice

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Vertical Horizon’s’ Official Website
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