Talented, laid-back and personable; Matt Gerhardt is the quintessential island musician, living it up in paradise.
Before I ever saw him play and put the face with the name that was a fixture on marquees from downtown to Siesta Key, Matt was just another local, jogging past the porch where I play everyday.
Though one of the youngest fulltime musicians I’ve met on the scene, its evident why he’s in demand to play as much as he is, and refreshing to find it hasn’t gone to his head in the slightest…These days he waves as he jogs by.
I interviewed Matt on the porch at The Hub, one afternoon between gigs…
WPT: Where are you originally from?
WPT: Oh, you grew up here, so you’re a genuine local?
WPT: When did you start playing guitar and singing?
Matt: I started playing guitar at 18, I played composition jazz piano from the age of 4 on up until 14 and I’ve been singing all my life.
WPT: How old are you now?
Matt: I’m 28.
WPT: When did you start playing professionally?
Matt: At the age of 20.
WPT: Where was your first gig?
Matt: I think it was “Latitudes”, a little coffee place up on Stickney Point.
WPT: What kind of music did you play?
Matt: It was a 2-hour gig. I played mostly originals and threw in a couple of covers.
WPT: When did you start writing?
Matt: I started writing right when I first started playing guitar.
WPT: Who are your influences?
Matt: There’s a lot…Sublime, Jack Johnson, Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Hendrix…a lot.
WPT: Do you include originals in your shows?
WPT: Do you have your own songs available on cd’s and iTunes?
WPT: How many cd’s have you released?
Matt: Just one, entitled, “Matt Gerhardt and Undertow”
WPT: So undertow is your band?
WPT: Well, that leads me to my next question; are you totally solo now or do you play band gigs?
Matt: I play band gigs every once in awhile to mix things up.
WPT: How many gigs do you play per week?
Matt: 4 or 5
WPT: That’s a pretty comfortable schedule, and you live on Siesta Key?
WPT: What can people expect hear when they come to see you play?
Matt: A little bit of everything. A little bit of this, a little bit of that…I mostly stick to modern acoustic rock and classic rock, but it changes from venue to venue, depending on what the audience responds to.
WPT: How many songs do you know?
Matt: I have no clue. If I had to guess, I say 250-300.
WPT: If you’re like me, it rotates. Some songs cycle in and out and some stay in the set indefinitely.
Matt: Sometimes I get really hooked on a song and play it over and over until I get sick of it, but then six months down the road, I’ll think, “hey, I forgot about this one” and pick it up again.
WPT: People will sometimes request songs that have been off the playlist for years and I’ll say, “hmm, once upon a time I could have played that, lets see how far I can get through it.”
WPT: What’s your favorite thing about being a fulltime professional musician?
Matt: I’ve been doing this for eight years now and its something I always want to do, but not as my primary source of income anymore. I want to keep playing twice, maybe three times per week, when I get another job lined up.
WPT: What career do plan to transition into?
Matt: Eventually the health industry, you know, personal training and nutrition. I really want to get into the nutrition side of things and help people create healthy meal plans for themselves.
WPT: What are your career goals the music business?
Matt: I mostly want to get back into releasing videos on YouTube and start writing more originals, kind of get back into the fun side of it. A little bit less work and a little more fun.
WPT: So basically, you want to move off of covers and focus on originals full time?
Matt: I enjoy doing covers. A lot of the videos I do are covers, but I like to do abstract covers and put my spin on them.
WPT: What’s the coolest thing that’s happened in your career?
Matt: I played at Jannus Live with “Three Legged Fox”. Those guys are incredible. They’re fantastic on their cd, and yet so much better live. They’re really nice people and the venue is just…insane…it was a great show.
WPT: Jannus Live, of course, is a venue in St Petersburg, FL known for booking national acts in a club setting. What is it like to play in a facility experienced in catering to major label artists?
Matt: They have the area called, “The Green Room”, and you get passes to it for you and your band and they give you extra for friends. We had a few friends come up and…it was a good time.
WPT: Which local musicians do you go see?
Matt: We’ve been friends for so long and play together so often that Ben Hammond definitely tops the list. I go see Dana Lawrence & Kettle of Fish, Mike Tozier, Cort Farris and Kara Nally…we have great music scene and everyone’s pretty close.
WPT: What’s your message to your audience?
Matt: I love you and thank you for allowing me to do what I do.
Matt Gerhardt plays weekly on Siesta Key. See Siesta Sand Calendar for scheduling and for music and video, visit http://www.reverbnation.com/mattgerhardtandundertow
The Hub Baja Grill, is located at 5148 Ocean Blvd Siesta Key and features live music daily.
Mike Sales is a local singer/songwriter. For more information visit mikesalessings.com