Matt Cusson: Going Along

Esther Berlanga-Ryan By

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When Matt Cusson was barely three years old something was already starting to unfold within the little corners of his young heart. Genius usually visits early in life, and never leaves those who have been pampered by its delicate spell. It watches them grow. It teaches them how to walk, and laugh and create pure magic out of thin air, always leading their way. It allows them to chase their dreams as if they were stubborn butterflies daring the Sun, catching them when they fall, only to lift them up that much higher and stronger. Cusson was not about to be an exception.

Matt Cusson

The son of a piano teacher, there was something different about him, his mother recalls. Looking back, his life was probably supposed to happen the way it is happening today: musician, songwriter, vocalist, and producer. His debut, Matt Cusson (Cuesound Records, 2008), is everything but an ordinary collection of original songs written by this young man. No wonder Brian McKnight chose to invite him to join his band, recently sharing the stage with none other than Stevie Wonder. James Taylor absolutely adores him ("You can just tell when he starts playing, that he is the real thing."). His poetic songwriting, delicate vocals, the way he softly caresses those piano keys and a certain predisposition to innovate and stretch the boundaries of jazz, R&B and even pop music, make him an extraordinary artist. If you are looking to be amazed by some unexpected tenderness, chances are he is your man.

John Coltrane,Nat "King" Cole, Miles Davis, Djavan, Michael Jackson, Thelonious Monk and quite a few other great ones left an undeniable mark in his sensitivity as a creative human being. Today, Cusson is embracing and looking at the world with the eyes of an artist that knows where he is going and how he is going to get there. Jazz is his lawful territory. Everything else is no more than an exquisite add-on, that Cusson seems more than ready to shape and blend with beautiful perfection.

It's easy to believe that the future belongs to the winner of Song of the Year 2009 John Lennon Songwriting Contest.

All About Jazz: Where are you today, musically speaking?

Matt Cusson: [I'm] just a dude that eats, sleeps and breathes music. I'm not sure who I am; I change musically day to day. I like to just do what I, and let other people decide who I am musically. I'm always expanding on my craft and experimenting. I learn from everything I listen to, and I listen to everything. I never hold back or limit myself, if anything, I'll shoot for something that challenges me and won't rest until I've exceeded my expectations. The sky is too low of a limit musically and lyrically so I'll never rest.

AAJ: Who are you at home?

MC: Son, brother, uncle, who watches any basketball and/or football game I can find on TV. However, music is always somewhere around me, usually in my head. It's all I do, whether I'm at home or not. I'm extremely close to my family; they are my best friends and biggest supporters. I tend to be lazy sometimes, love the television. I'm like a dog who needs the TV on sometimes when I'm at home so I don't feel alone [laughs]. But I constantly have a guitar or keyboard around, even in the bathroom!

AAJ: How did everything start for you?

MC: I'm not even sure it has started [laughs]. I'm still starting it, from birth on. My mother swore I kicked to a beat in her womb. I wrote what I wanted, sang and played how I felt, and networked when I could, and slowly but surely, my name started getting out there more and more. One of the most defining moments was when I was at Berklee [College of Music, in Boston] and Brian McKnight heard me play and sing, and flew me to his house the next day to work. From there, I was very driven to get my music heard, whether it was playing at open mic nights or opening for McKnight. I think we all create our own destinies so it's important to never stop working, never stop learning and getting better, and believe.

AAJ: Tell me about your songwriting.

MC: I believe I can write a song about anything really, in any style. I listen to everything, dissect it, and take a bit of everything I hear, whether I like it or not. I don't hold back for the sake of writing a "hit," I write what I hear and feel, and I write by the words of Quincy Jones when he said "let the song write itself." As corny as it sounds my fingers and vocal chords play and sing what my heart tells them too, always with interruptions from my head but all together, it's like having a band of musical directors inside my body, and what I play and sing is a result from how they wanted the music to sound. I'm very descriptive, I love words, I love twisting them and finding new ways to say things. The English language is so much fun, especially when it's paired up with music in a melodic way, one never knows what words can actually say or mean.

Matt CussonAAJ: You as a musician.

MC: Willing to do and try anything. Experiment constantly. And everyday expand my craft. There is always more to learn and more to do; I don't know that I will ever stop creating. Sometimes it's almost to a fault because I'm almost never satisfied with what I do. I always find a way to expand upon an idea, branch something out into something else. I love jazz. I love the free spirit of it; I love the honesty and heart involved in performing it. I love how it's never the same. To this day I haven't played any song the same way twice. I love complex music, I love simple music. It's very tough to say who I am as a musician because music is a never ending journey. Who I am today may not necessarily be who I am tomorrow as a musician.

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