Matisyahu, the no-longer-Hasidic reggae superstar, will bring his first acoustic tour to Tucson on Wednesday, Jan. 30, performing at the Rialto Theatre. The concert will feature acoustic renditions of tracks from his latest album, “Spark Seeker,” in addition to some fan favorites.
While in Santa Monica earlier this month on a pre-tour break, Matisyahu took a few minutes to answer questions about the tour, his musical career and his inspirations. The tour, which began Jan. 19 in Miami, Fla., will take him to more than 20 venues nationwide before moving across the Atlantic for a short stint in Europe.
“This show will not be like my others,” said Matisyahu. “Instead of it being a rock concert, everyone will come, sit and listen to the music.” His new collection, “Spark Seeker: The Acoustic EP,” to be released Jan. 29 on Amazon and iTunes, will include six acoustic variations of songs from “Spark Seeker,” which was released in July 2012 and was his fourth full-length album. The iTunes version of the EP has an exclusive bonus track, “Silence,” from Matisyahu’s third studio album, “Light.”
“I enjoyed making the six songs from ‘Spark Seeker’ into acoustic tracks, yet some lent themselves more toward the different composition style than others,” Matisyahu noted. During the composition of “Spark Seeker,” Matisyahu and producer Kool Kojak relocated from Los Angeles to Israel to find new inspiration, a different direction, and to use what Matisyahu likes to call, “natural and organic Middle Eastern instruments.”
The introduction of Middle Eastern instrumentation on tracks like “Sunshine,” “Tel Aviv’n” and “King Crown of Judah” creates a spectacular fusion with his typical reggae sound. After speaking with Matisyahu it is easy to see why the sound of his music changes as often as it does. “I live life day by day,” he explained. “I draw influences from everything in my life, whether it be the Torah, or a word or phrase or idea that comes into my head.” His diverse background in music matches those words, ideas and phrases with catchy reggae, rock, hip hop and electronic beats that make his music cross-cultural and loved by many.
It has been just over a year since Matishayu’s controversial Twitter post showing his shaved face. The act was his literal and symbolic departure from Hasidism. Last month he told CNN, “Eventually I began to regain trust into my own intuition and my own sense of right and wrong. I began to realize that there were a lot of things within that lifestyle that were actually holding me back … I can choose how I want to worship God.” For those questioning Matisyahu’s religiousness, fear not. “Judaism is just such a huge part of who I am. I don’t think I could separate that at this point,” he said.
It should be no surprise that fans are supporting him through his transformation. “Spark Seeker” peaked at number 19 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and Matisyahu is excited to continue making music. “After this tour I’m going back to working with my band, Dub Trio, who I often tour with,” he told the AJP, “so those sessions will produce more rock sounding music, but after that we’ll just have to wait and see what comes. No matter what though, I will be making music.”
Mat Friedman is the owner of Revolution Entertainment in Tucson.