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Matt Conner

writer, music journalist

Matt Conner is a freelance writer and journalist who has interviewed nearly everyone who has ever played music. That isn't entirely true.

Adventus

My wife and I recently spent an evening out discussing our childhood memories of the holiday season. I didn’t have much to share. I am an only child raised by a single mother, so the discussion of Christmas tradition is a short one with me. One year, I remember convincing my mother to leave the decorations in the back of the closet. I didn’t feel like retrieving them and the fuss wasn’t worth livening up a house for two. She still regrets that one.

As a member of a small family who put very little thought or preparation into the Christmas season, it’s not a surprise that we got very little out of it. The season consisted of a few presents, an artificial tree, and visits with rarely-seen family members. Rinse, repeat.

One year my mother wanted to inject some meaning into the holiday, and it’s the only memory that stands out for me. I remember complaining when my mother said we were going to read the Bible before opening presents. Specifically, we read about the birth of Jesus. I was anxious to unwrap new toys, I’m sure, but I remember sitting there as a frustrated adolescent while my mother opened the scriptures and read aloud the birth narrative.

Fast forward several years. My wife and I are now awaiting a birth of our own. We’re just a few weeks away from the arrival of our baby boy. For the last several months, we’ve endured a wide range of emotions, asked questions, considered names, asked more questions, discussed parenting techniques, and prepared our home. We have painted and rearranged, registered and unwrapped, laughed and cried. We have inhabited our own advent season.

RR Interview: Arthur Alligood

If you were at this year’s Hutchmoot, you will undoubtedly remember the moment a roomful of people came alive to a new voice among the mix of Square Pegs and Friends. Arthur Alligood hadn’t picked up a guitar in over a year, and even then was uncertain how the night would go. After playing two songs, the songwriter described the night as a “glorious moment” and one that would lead to newfound inspiration.

If you’re new to Arthur’s music, his ability to stand out even in a songwriter’s circle speaks to his incredible ability to connect so deeply and meaningfully. His music is now available in the Rabbit Room store. Look for a sample of one of his songs at the end of the interview.

You just played Hutchmoot and told us it was your first time playing in a while. Just how long has it been?

I think I played a show last September if I am remembering correctly. It was miserable, I do remember that. There are not many things worse than being away when in your heart you just want to be home. So, its been a little over a year since I’ve performed. I desperately needed a break from the touring machine. As far as I’m concerned, I’m still on break.

But I can’t imagine a better way to reenter performing than to share a couple of songs at Hutchmoot! I feel grateful to have been invited to play. I’d like to attend the entire retreat next year, if I can get a ticket. I hear they go pretty fast.

For those who weren’t at Hutchmoot, the room came alive and people started clapping along to “Darkness to Light.” How was that moment for you?

RR Interview: Russ Ramsey

As the Advent season approaches, Behold The Lamb of God will be a popular topic of conversation around the Rabbit Room. Andrew Peterson’s album and subsequent tour has become a beloved tradition for many at Christmas time. The addition of Russ Ramsey’s book added a new dimension, telling the Advent narrative in 25 chapters as a lead-in to Christmas Day.

This year, we’re proud to introduce the special Behold the Lamb of God audiobook, read by Russ himself. The book was always intended to be read aloud, so the audiobook presents the material in the way it was intended to be taken in. The way in which we hear a story can alter it entirely, and Russ hopes the familiar becomes fresh in this new offering.

What’s the hidden challenge in making an audiobook? Is the process different than you thought it would be?

RR interview: Ellie Holcomb

Every holiday season, many of us enjoy the old, old story of Christmas told through the songs of Andrew Peterson and friends. Behold the Lamb of God has become a holiday tradition in the last decade, and the Proprietor serves his audience well by inviting such a talented group of friends to carry the message alongside him. Each year brings a new face or two on the winter tour, and this year Ellie Holcomb is the newcomer.

For those who aren’t acquainted with her work alongside husband Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors or her own solo releases (check out her new EP, With You Now), you’ll find that Ellie’s delicate vocals fit perfectly into the BTLOG mix.

You’re on the Behold the Lamb of God tour this year for the first time, correct?

Yes. I’m in a band with my husband and it’s called Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors, and every year for the past five or six years we’ve done a Christmas tour ourselves, and it has been awesome. But because of that, I have never been able to actually go to a Behold the Lamb of God show. We just always make sure we’re not doing our Christmas show in Nashville on the same days they’re doing Lamb of God. We usually have to make sure we go to a different city.

Last year was the first chance I had to go. We had just had out little girl—she was maybe two weeks old— and because I’d had a baby, we weren’t doing our Christmas tour to the same degree. So we ended up being in town on the same night as the show, and I just laughed and wept through the whole thing. It was so wonderful. I was like, “This is the best thing ever!”

Review: Over the Rhine – Meet Me at the Edge of the World

[Over at my website, Stereo Subversion, John Barber recently reviewed the wonderful new double album from Over the Rhine. Here's what he had to say.]

Nobody does double albums like Over the Rhine. Their 2003 magnum opus, Ohio, is one of the best records of the 21st century. Married couple Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler consistently deliver good music album after album, and in terms of quality, Meet Me at the Edge of the World is no different. Nor is it a surprise when the new album is a double. For fans of the band, it’s like finding out that twins are on the way.

What’s different about this record is the tone. Meet Me at the Edge of the World is unique in that it feels a bit like the listener is an intruder, eavesdropping on something special. The audience is somehow a witness to a great love story. The songs are intimate and quiet. They’re love songs written and sung by Detweiler and Bergquist to each other, and most importantly, for each other.

You can read the rest of John Barber’s review at Stereo Subversion.

RR Interview: Melanie Penn

“If I had a donut for every time I’ve listened to this album I’d be dead by now.” -The Proprietor, on Melanie Penn’s Wake Up Love.

After winning us over with her debut three years ago, Melanie Penn returns this fall with Hope Tonight. Working once again with Ben Shive, Melanie believes if you’re a fan of the first album then this one will win you over, too. We talked to Melanie to find out how she’s been spending her time and what to expect on Hope Tonight.

Can you tell us what you’ve been up to creatively speaking?

I finished production on the new album, Hope Tonight. Ben Shive produced it and partnering together again for this album brought a lot of joy, laughs, and inspiration. I also had the opportunity to bring Steve Elliot to Nashville to record a lot of the guitars. It was great to involve a musician from my New York family—something I wasn’t able to do on Wake Up Love.

There’s some other stuff happening in New York. I try to be involved as much as I can in sessions, and I love co-writing with some dear friends there. I’m also singing in other bands, and leading worship at Redeemer Presbyterian Church and Resurrection Park Slope. My main push this fall, though, will be to get Hope Tonight out there.

You have your debut in the rearview mirror, so did the approach to the new album feel different?

RR Interview: Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet was ready to dream again, so he quit his dream jobs to carve out some space for that to happen. Now he’s stepping out into the unknown to allow new stories to come to life. If you’re familiar with Auralia’s Colors or Through a Screen Darkly, then you know to expect good things. Jeffrey is  one of our speakers this year at Hutchmoot 2013 and we recently caught up with him to find out a little about what he’s up to.

I saw recently that you cleared your freelance slate for the first time since 2001 so you can “dream new stories.” Can you tell us about making that move? Do you have any glimpses of what’s to come?

It’s complicated. And it will sound crazy—but yes, I’ve pretty much quit all of my dream jobs.

RR Interview: Subjects With Objects co-author DKM

[Special pre-release copies of Subjects with Objects are now available exclusively in the Rabbit Room store. We also have high-quality SubwOb art prints and weird greeting cards!]

If you were fortunate enough to support and score a copy of the newest Rabbit Room Press title, Subjects With Objects, then you know how enchanting the mix of Jonathan Richter’s painting and DKM’s poetic commentary can be. The book is both intriguing and inspirational, much like its writer, the mysterious poet known as DKM.

In this Rabbit Room interview, I’ve probed the mysteries behind those initials to learn a bit more about the man as well as to discuss the beauty of the project itself. The bad news? We’re still no closer to knowing who he is. The good news? There’s more Subjects with Objects to come.

Who exactly is DKM? Can you unveil any of the mystery behind the initials?

In the standard English Alphabet, one typically has 26 letters to choose from. Occasionally one is able to slip a 27th past the gatekeepers, and if it’s late enough or those in authority are drunk enough, then there have been a handful of recorded cases of this or that writer in this or that obscure corner of the English-speaking world managing to wedge in a 28th letter (most-often disguised as one of the lower 26). Shakespeare is even rumored to have discovered a 29th and 30th letter during the writing of King Lear, but if the stuff of such legend has any basis in fact, those letters were quickly repressed or purposely obscured in translation.

In order not to incur undue attention from those who monitor such things however, I restricted myself from the outset of the Subjects With Objects project, not only to the 26-letter variation, but to a subset of that: only those letters that have an utterly vertical line in their design. The reasons for this should be obvious, so I won’t condescend to explain them here. Plus, it wouldn’t be safe for any of us. At any rate, having narrowed my letter choice to 13 candidates for a 3 letter combination (any more would have been cost prohibitive!), I was faced with 2,197 (13 x 13 x13) possible letter combinations. To save time, I simply chose the first one I could think of: DKM.

It has a decided lack of elegance. It was clearly the antithesis of mellifluous and therefore well-suited to being a repository of mystery, as it were. When people go by initials, it’s mostly JJ or AJ or DJ or JK or RJ (Are we beginning to see a pattern here..?). Something simple and easy to say and, let’s be honest, something that prominently features a “J.” There, I’ve said it. Somebody needed to. Let the chips fall where they may.

Much rarer in recorded history are those who have been branded by three initials in the public imagination: MLK, FDR, LBJ, JFK, RFK, but again we begin to see a definite pattern: One must either be president of the United States, be running for president, or at least be a controversial national political figure before one is granted the three initial formation.

So in adopting the DKM moniker, I was both subverting tradition, and making a statement: You do not know who I am. You will not know who I am. I might be hidden in the light, or the shadow. I might be your grandfather, your neighbor, or one of thousands of unfollowed bloggers in the grey Northwest. I might be a hacker, an anarchist, an artist or a theologian. I might be a fact, a fiction, or a fact masquerading as a fact masquerading as a fiction.

In short, as DKM I might be anything you hope or believe me to be, and its exact opposite—at the same time. As DKM I am free to haunt the dim recesses of your imagination, poking and prodding as is necessary. I am the ghost in the machine, at the end of the day inexplicable even to myself.

Also, it makes book signings 70% quicker, with less chance of hand cramps.

It’s either presidential or serial killer-esque. Either way, why not enjoy the spotlight?

Andy Osenga House Show Tour

From the release of his incredible Leonard the Lonely Astronaut to his face-melting performance at Hutchmoot 2013, it’s been a great season for Andy Osenga.

This week Andy announced that he’s venturing out this fall on a house show tour. If you’ve caught any of his recent StageIt shows, you already have some idea of how intimate his music can be. Head over to Andy’s website to catch all of the details and see how easy it is to host a show yourself! In addition, a portion of the proceeds from the tour will benefit the ministry efforts of Young Life.

If you’re new to Leonard, you can hear Andy talk more about the new album here in our Rabbit Room interview. Also catch part of his performance at Hutchmoot below:

RR Contest: Son of Laughter’s “The Mantis and the Moon”

To highlight The Mantis and the Moon, the new release from Chris Slaten, aka Son of Laughter, we’ve got a new contest for you. Yesterday we posted the title track for you to stream, and now we’re giving away a copy of the EP to two different winners.

How to enter? 

1. Share the Mantis and the Moon release announcement post on Facebook and leave us a comment (here on this post) to let us know you’ve passed it along (or else we won’t know to enter you into the contest).

OR

2. Share the Mantis and the Moon release announcement post on Twitter using the hashtag #SonofLaughter.

It’s that simple and that easy. Entries must be submitted before Sunday night at 5:00pm CST. Winners will be announced on Monday.

Also, Chris is currently booking a series of house shows. If you’re interested in hosting one, please contact him at sonoflaughtermusic (at) gmail (dot) com.