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Interview:
Matthew Check branches out with new album, 5 Things to Know
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Wednesday, December 9, 2020

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Like many of his peers, the pandemic quarantine sent Matthew Check on a different creative path this year.



Best known as for contemporary Jewish music and bluegrass -- both on his own and as part of a duo with Joanie Leeds -- Check left New York, temporarily, early during the pandemic and spent time with his parents in Newtown, Pa. There he was reunited with the 1979 Yamaha baby grand piano on which he was forced to take lessons as a child, and on which he wrote most of his new album, "The Condesa Queen," a return to secular pop music.



Fleshed out with mostly virtual recording sessions, the album finds Check ruminating on past loves, or at least infatuations -- some of which took place around the world. He isn't abandoning the religious music world, but Check has re-opened another direction that he predicts will also continue to inspire him during the coming years...



Check, 39, cays "The Condesa Queen" was an "unexpected" project that came from a pair of songs he wrote near the beginning of the year. "I had a fling with a friend down in San Miguel, Mexico, which I'd heard was a beautiful place to spend time. She went back to Mexico City, but I was inspired by the experience so I wrote (the song) 'The Condesa Queen' on piano here (in New York). It was one of those singer-songwriter moments -- guy goes to Mexico, hangs out with a woman, writes a song about it. That's where it started."



Check had, in fact, reacquainted himself with piano two years earlier, during a trip to India. "I had decided I really wanted to do something new, musically. I was bored playing the same music. So I bought a keyboard and started taking piano lessons. It was like walking into a room I hadn't been in for 20 years. I definitely recognized how to play and realized I could still kinda read music, basically. Little by little over the past two years I figured out how to play the piano. I was tinkering with it at the beginning of Joanie & Matt but wasn't good enough to do anything with it at that point. But this past January I wrote my first song on the piano, and it felt really good."



At the piano in Newtown, Check "had a bunch of songs before I knew it. It happened organically, and then the whole thing took on a life of its own. I wanted to do some recording, so I talked to a producer friend who told me what equipment I needed to buy. I spent May, June, July figuring how to record the songs and then just did it. It's the first time I played producer with my own music, so to speak. I had no idea whether it was going to work or not. I'm just happy I saw it through."



The songs, meanwhile, were inspired by "those romantic experiences that don't work out. Typically, I've rarely written about the girlfriend I was serious with. There's one song on here about my last serious girlfriend, who I went to India with...That just came out of me. The others are more about fleeting romantic encounters that didn't work out. These (songs) were just inside of me, waiting to come out. It's the first time in a long time I've written music that was for myself, about myself."



As he brings out "The Condesa Queen," Check is back in New York, looking for new day jobs in Jewish education as well as working on new music, for himself and for Joanie & Matt. "I hope I'm inspired to do something like ('The Condesa Queen)' again. I'm not really the kind of artist who will say, 'I'm going to do this' and then create the project. It's a much more organic process. I'm just being positive and putting good energy out there and doing my best to continue on and make things work and write really good music. And from that, we'll see what happens."



Matthew Check celebrates the release of his new album, "The Condesa Queen," with a performance at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9 via Facebook Live.

Web Site: http://matthewcheck.bandcamp.com/

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