The Soul of a Songwriter

Matt Alber (’97) Photo by Adrian Lourie

Matt Alber (’97)
Photo by Adrian Lourie

Matt Alber (’97) is celebrating the release of a new DVD he recorded and shot in San Francisco with fellow local musicians, The Cello Street Quartet. It’s cleverly called “Matt Alber With Strings Attached.” After relocating from Seattle to San Francisco, Alber took some time between tours to share what has been happening with his career as a singer/songwriter.

After graduating from Truman where he was a music major with an emphasis in composition and vocal performance, Alber joined the San Francisco-based men’s classical a capella group, Chanticleer. During his time at Truman, he had attended a Chanticleer concert and was impressed by the group’s talents. “It was one of the best choirs I’d ever heard,” Alber said. With the generous help of his professor, Paul Crabb, he was granted an audition and kept in contact with the group until graduation.

Alber had a lot to show after performing with Chanticleer for five years. During his time with the group, they made seven records with two of them winning Grammy Awards for Best Small Ensemble Performance. Their album “Colors of Love” won the award in 2000, and the album “Lamentations and Praises” won in 2003.

Alber’s interest in songwriting emerged during his years at Truman. “When I got tired of practicing my arias and art songs and piano sonatas, I would sit around and play on the piano and start to write songs,” Alber said. He continued to do this throughout his years with Chanticleer.

His introduction to self-made recordings encouraged him to pursue a career as a singer/songwriter. “I kind of said, well, I can either stay in Chanticleer, which is a great job, and have a blast, or I can try to see if I can make a go at this as a songwriter,” Alber said.

Alber released his first album, “Hide Nothing,” on iTunes independently in 2008 and was later signed to the New York label Tommy Boy Records. “First albums are very special. It was basically 10 little experiments,” Alber said. “I had all of these sounds in my ears from my classical training with symphonies and choirs so I had those sounds that I was bringing, but I loved synthesizers and beats, so I mashed all of that together.”

Alber spent the following years learning how to make a living as a touring musician, which influenced the style of his next album, “Constant Crows.” “When I started touring, I didn’t have all of those synthesizers and beats, I just had a guitar and a piano,” he said. “So I thought, this time around I’m going to see what happens when I rely solely on acoustic instruments and my voice to make a record. I’m glad I did!”

In terms of style, Alber refers to his music as art-pop. “I fell in love with classical art songs while studying at Truman,” said Alber. “Art songs rely on melody and cadence, and the lyrics usually dance with both of those elements beautifully. I try to follow those rules when writing pop songs.”

Following his summer tour to the U.K., Alber is planning a solo concert at Truman this fall.

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