By Cole Altmayer, entertainment editor
Artist: Matt Farley
Favorite song: It’s OK to Break the Law as Long as You Have Good Intentions
Every music fan has at least one artist that they feel really “gets” them.
If you’ve ever spent countless hours listening to one song or album on repeat during the darkest hours of the night, you know what I mean. The rise and fall of the instrumentation, the angelic voice of your favorite singer, the poignant lyrics that convey emotions that spoken words could never emulate; it almost seems like they were all written for you.
I’ve found many artists that make me feel this way, but nothing truly compares to the feeling I get when I listen to the immensely relatable “Hot Water Heater Make My Water Hot” by The Very Nice Interesting Singer Man.
The Very Nice Interesting Singer Man is one of the many brainchildren of Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter Matt Farley; his other 69 acts include Papa Razzi & the Photogs, the Toilet Bowl Cleaners and the Hungry Food Man. Between all of them, Farley has produced over 18,000 songs since 2008 and uploaded them to Spotify and iTunes for the whole world to enjoy.
Song topics vary wildly, but they all share one very important niche; they are all about things that most musicians would never bother writing about. We’ve got tracks about office supplies, dead animals, the Chupacabra, fictional characters, every member of the Arctic Monkeys, and several songs that include Farley passionately singing out his cell phone number.
18,000 tracks is no small feat, so I decided to give him a call and discuss the process and the inspiration behind his whole discography (He’s a really nice guy, by the way!).
Now 38 years old with a wife and two kids, Farley has been making music since he was ten years old, eventually forming an indie rock duo called Moes Haven with his friend Tom Scalzo in 1996. Haven had quite a good balance between straightforward rock tunes and the silly, tongue-in-cheek songs that Farley is sort-of-famous for today. But “a lightbulb went off” in Farley’s head when he discovered that Haven’s funny tracks were getting more hits on iTunes than the serious ones.
“Well, people go on iTunes and just type in weird words,” Farley said, “so I set out on writing 18,000 songs about weird and unusual topics.”
Even before this epiphany, Farley always has put an emphasis on being prolific with his music; Moes Haven released 25 albums over the course of six years, which is more than most bands release in their entire lifespan.
“Our approach was to write, even if you have nothing to write about,” Farley said. “You have to get through all the bad songs to get to the good songs.”
This philosophy to songwriting lends itself well to Farley’s ambitious effort, which is to sing about everything that “most people aren’t singing about”. There’s always something new on his mind, like that jerk who rammed a snow plow into his garage, or how much of a talentless hack Jackson Pollock was.
Even if I’m not in the mood to listen to something as silly as most of Farley’s music tends to be, I’m always pleasantly surprised to find some shining examples of excellent songwriting. A recent Very Nice Interesting Singer Man album called “Keep Being Awesome!” has some of the catchiest hooks I’ve heard on a rock album in a long time. It feels very much grounded in his Moes Haven days, as well as other rock bands with a similar style of wit and whimsy, such as They Might Be Giants.
The album also has some dark lyrical content that you wouldn’t expect from the guy who wrote “Welcome to Fart Town.” Farley explains it as a bit of character development that he wanted to add to the Singer Man persona.
“I like to imagine [the Singer Man] broke down and said, ‘I’m done writing novelty songs!’, and then wrote ‘Keep Being Awesome,’” Farley said. “I’m really proud of it. It’s really the perfect combination of my novelty songs and my serious songs. It’s just plain good and weird and everything at once.”
While Farley hasn’t exactly ridden his thousands of songs into mainstream success, his music has gotten a degree of notice from celebrities. Farley nailed a performance of his landmark track “Used to Be a Pizza Hut” on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and John Stamos even danced to one of his tracks on an Instagram video. He’s even planning his first ever live tour for June 3rd. Sadly, it’s only one stop and it is in his hometown of Danvers, but a show is a show nonetheless.
“I’ve sold three tickets so far, and frankly, if no one else buys a ticket, the show will go on!” Farley said.
Describing it as a “five-hour epic extravaganza,” it’s something I wouldn’t want to miss for the world, as Matt Farley is one of the only artists I’ve discovered that I can truly call one of a kind. The jury’s still out on whether Farley’s truly a creative genius, or just some guy with way too much time on his hands. I’d say he’s a little bit of both. Either way, listening to his music has taught me you can find unexpected greatness from just about anywhere; even on a Google search for “My Fascination With Insects.”