Not Every Song By Phosphorescent is About Phosphorescent, Says Phosphorescent
Matthew Houck has been making music under the moniker Phosphorescent for over 10 years, but his latest album Muchacho, with its stunning single "Song For Zula", is the first to really catch the ear of a mainstream audience. We caught up with the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Alabama songwriter during a pit stop on his sold-out national tour, where we talked to him about how Mexico colored Muchacho, blending reality and fiction in songwriting, and the 10 years it took to find overnight success.
You're originally from Alabama and your music has referenced that in the past. Living in New York now, is this record about New York?
Well I guess it can't help but be about New York because that's where I was living when all these songs got started. But I actually did a lot of the writing in Mexico. But yeah New York situations definitely influenced some of the writing.
How did Mexico influence the record?
Looking back on it, a lot of the imagery was influenced by my time down there. The subject matter that I was writing about was largely stuff that was happening to me in New York though. But I can hear in the sounds and some of the words the feeling I was having down in Mexico. I was in a little place called Tulum on the Yucatan Peninsula.
In some ways this is a breakthrough record in that more people are hearing your music now. You're six albums in...
I've been doing this thing called Phosphorescent for 10 years now and was making music before that so I've been doing it for a little bit. But this one seems to be the first tour where it's sold out every night across the country and in Europe. So that's a new thing.
Let's explore that idea of putting in the time as a musician. Brothers only really became massive for the Black Keys after many many albums. Do you think that development is good for artists?
I think I certainly would have been pleased with a little more success a little earlier on. It was hard for a lot of those years. But I understand it. I think you're doing something that requires a little more than just an immediate sort of gratification with your art, most things tend to blow up real fast and then a year later they're gone. I'm glad I don't have a trajectory like that. It's been a really slow and steady arc. On the other side of that, it takes a body of work as opposed to one record or one song, you need a body of work to see what you're doing. I understand it needed to have a few years.