April 3, 2013

Misty Watson: Jacob and the Good People: A circus on stage

Misty Watson

— Matt Clark was the trombone player who drove a light blue Volkswagen Bug.

He seemed kind of quiet, and I never really got to know him (even though I went out with his brother for a while). Matt and I graduated from Murray County High School together in 2000.

“The Matt from high school is gone,” he told me this week. “But he helped me get to where I am today. People change.”

We may not have been much more than acquaintances in high school, but thanks to the world of Facebook, I’ve enjoyed keeping up with where life has taken him.

Matt is the drummer and a vocalist for the Atlanta-based band Jacob and the Good People, comprised of him and Jacob Blazer, guitarist and lead vocalist.

Jacob and the Good People released an album recently and are currently on tour. They will be in Chattanooga at Raw on Market Street on Friday and Saturday at 11 p.m. The album is available on iTunes and Rhapsody.

The album is a mix of funk, soul and pop. It’s something you want to roll the windows down and blast while you’re driving on a sunny day. My 17-month-old daughter was dancing to it the other day.

“We wanted to make something family friendly, but represent our sound on stage,” Matt said. “We wanted to express ourselves; songs like ‘Crazy’ where Jake (who wrote the songs on the album) is in love with a girl, and another called ‘Moving’ about moving away from a girl. You have to go at least 12 hours to get away from a girl before it’s over. It’s good, fun music.”

The album has five tracks, instead of the traditional 10 to 12.

“No one’s attention span is long enough anymore,” Matt said. “So five to six songs is perfect these days.”

He’s wrong. I wanted more, but then I prefer vinyl records over an iPod. So maybe your average person is bored after five songs, but I wasn’t. The band is working on another album at least so I’ll get more of their music soon.

After high school, Matt left for Jacksonville State University with plans to become a band teacher.

“I was going to school to be a band director, an educator,” he said. “I realized I didn’t want to do that. Kids make me nervous ... in the masses. I didn’t want to deal with that. I didn’t want to deal with the parents or teachers.”

Matt always liked the drums, but stuck with the trombone through high school and college.

“I was in jazz band and I knew the drummer’s part better than my own,” he said. “I thought let’s pick up some sticks and see what I can do on it.”

He began listening to other drummers and learning. When he dropped out of college, he had gigs lined up as a drummer. He moved to Birmingham to play with some bands there, which began his career in the music industry.

Matt has lived in several places in the South and played in cities all over the country before moving to Atlanta where he met up with Jacob Blazer through mutual friends.

“There was chemistry as soon as we started playing together,” he said.

With a two-person band, “it’s a circus on stage,” he said.

I saw The White Stripes once. Meg White was on drums and Jack White on guitar, and they were all over the place on stage. I was tired just watching them. But the music never felt thin.

Neither does Jacob and the Good People’s. Listening to the album, you don’t realize it’s a two-person band. The songs sound full and have a lot of depth. (Thanks to the pregnancy and being a mom of a young child, I haven’t gotten to one of Matt’s shows, but I hope to soon.)

“It’s a lot different in that we can’t really open up with a guitar solo or even a bass,” Matt said. “The way we play, we fill things out. He does a lot of strumming. When I play I put in a lot of notes, at the same time hold a pocket and a groove. We have harmony and that fills it up.”

Matt’s entire family is musically inclined. (That was one of his brother’s biggest appeals to me. What teenage girl doesn’t like a boy who can play a guitar and sing like he could?) Music runs so thick through his veins that even as a child he couldn’t resist performing drum solos wherever he was on whatever was around him.

“The main reason I play music is because of Michael Jackson,” Matt said. “I know it’s cliché. I remember his music in elementary school and sang ‘Smooth Criminal.’” Then Matt began making sounds with his mouth mimicking the sound of drums.

Matt has an eclectic taste in music, as I’ve found many musicians do.

“My first influence has always been classical music and jazz,” he said. “I played trombone for eight, nine, 10 years so that got me going. When I picked up drums then I started listening — because I was on the jazz side — to Buddy Rich and Duke Ellington ... and all those cats, and I started getting in on the funk side of things. Best musician on the planet right now is Prince. I think he’s fantastic ... James Brown, Earth, Wind and Fire ... One minute I’ll have Garth Brooks, then Sevendust, then Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, then the Carpenters, then Mozart.”

You hear a lot of bad things growing up in Murray County. People like to tell you you’re doomed to a certain life; they like to act like you can’t succeed just because you grew up there. They like to tell you you aren’t smart or that you aren’t talented.

Those people are wrong. I’m an example of that and so is Matt.

“I knew I wasn’t going to stay in Murray County,” he said. “He (Jacob Blazer) and I both came from small towns, and it’s cliché, but anything you want to do, you can do. Your surroundings aren’t holding you back. Just you. Don’t be put down by your surroundings because there’s a lot out there.”

For more on the band, check out www.jacobandthegoodpeople.com.

Murray County native Misty Watson is a photographer and staff writer for The Daily Citizen. She is tired of people saying negative things about people who grow up in Murray County. If you are from Murray County and have a good success story, contact her at mistywatson@daltoncitizen.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/MistyWatsonDCN or on Twitter, @mistydwatson.