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Folk-rock musician plays the Mill

BY JORDAN MONTGOMERY | FEBRUARY 02, 2012 7:20 AM

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Matthew Santos was nominated for a Grammy award in 2009 for his collaboration with Lupe Fiasco on the song "Superstar," but Santos doesn't feel responsible for the song's success.

The folk-rock singer will perform at 9 p.m. Friday at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St. He will play music from his past albums as well as music from his latest album, Quickly Disappearing, which was released Tuesday.

During the creation of past albums, he said, he was often reaching out, trying to stylistically find a musical niche in which he felt comfortable.

"Quickly Disappearing is more of an exploration of my roots and my initial musical influences," he said.

Graham Burris plays bass for Santos in the studio and often when he is on the road. Along with playing bass on Quickly Disappearing, Burris helped produce the album in the main studio and his own project studio.

The new album features recording techniques not typical of pop music, Burris said. To make it more organic, tracks were recorded as the musicians played together in a room, and not all of the instrumentals were digitally perfected.

"[Santos'] last album was kind of riding the way of mainstream and pop success," Burris said. "Not so organic and very poppy. Quickly Disappearing is the opposite; it is an abandonment of all those things. It is how he started playing."

At a young age, Santos got into music the way most kids do. After showing some interest in music, his mother made him play the piano. He learned his way around the piano and began to experiment with music more.

"I would improvise on 'Heart and Soul,' " he said. "I would modify it, experiment with new sounds. When I picked up the guitar, I began by just learning a few chords, and before I knew it, I was writing songs."

While his musical beginnings were typical of most young musicians, he, unlike most, stuck with music and studied musical composition at Columbia College in Chicago.

Though Santos studied musical composition, Burris says his vocal talents are what amaze him.

"The first and last thing that you'll notice from his music is his voice," he said. "He has a great voice. And it's unlike many voices you'll here. It voice reminds me of a solo cellist, and he uses it as a tool to tell his stories and sing his songs."

Along with his musical and vocal talent, Santos said he also enjoys painting, and the two media often influence each other.

"Being able to visualize a setting has helped me with music," he said. "The visual setting mixed with the musical backdrop always adds so much more emotional potency for me. So when I imagine a setting, the music comes out so much clearer."

During live shows, Burris said Santos takes control of the room.

"Every time I see him play with just him and his guitar I'm like, Damn."


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