Despite ugly weather and frosty temperatures, my boyfriend and I made our way to Spot Coffee on Sunday with a goal in mind ? to hear Sophomore Matthew Cross play his guitar. We weren’t disappointed.

Cross plays masterfully, and drew the audience into the music using his skill and some self-deprecating humor.

He versatilely switched genres, including music from Radiohead, Jeff Buckley and James Taylor. Every few songs, he played his own compositions, and would graciously accept requests from the audience.

Cross didn’t even blanch when such shoutouts included Michael Jackson and Black Sabbath. He jokingly strummed some, and then went back to his set.

After listening to him perform, I decided that I should try to get inside his head and better understand him and his music.

Schroeder: How long have you been playing? When did you start?

Cross: I got a guitar for my 14th birthday. I was mad that my best friend Jack Butts had one, and could do something that I could not.

I started playing seriously my senior year of high school?jamming during lunch, before school, after school. I even skipped class to jam.

By the way, the last thing I heard about Jack was that he dropped out of college to start a Creed cover band. I don’t think that’s the truth. I hope it’s not!

SS: Which guitars do you play? Have you named them?

MC: I play an acoustic/electric Ovation model. It’s the one I play the most, and have around most of the time. It’s “Old Black,” as I affectionately refer to it, ’cause it’s old and it’s black. I just bought a ’77 Gibson, a Les Paul Custom. It’s tentatively named “Phyllis.”

SS: Did you take lessons?

MC: No. Self taught.

SS: Who are your influences?

MC: Jeff Buckley and Nick Drake. I’m kind of scared to say Stevie Ray Vaughan, since I’ll never be able play like him. He’s ridiculously good. I pick up tips from him when I’m playing.

SS: How do you start to compose music?

MC: I guess like it starts with most people. I felt depressed, and it was about breaking up with a girl. I grabbed my guitar, started playing and writing spiteful words. Such was born my first song. Sorrow probably births the majority of music.

SS: And that’s the one with the line, “So go on with your love and your happiness/And fuck till you can’t even speak/Cause you know you’ve found the love of your life, or at least for the next two weeks,” right?

MC: Yeah, it’s called “Least.” She really liked sex. I was inordinately proud of that line.

SS: Do you often compose songs about relationships?

MC: Sometimes it’s about a story I like or want to tell. Sometimes ? this might be a copout ? I’ll take how I’m feeling about something and really exaggerate it.

I once took the concept of being drunk and trying to get one of my friends to hook up with me and turned it into a song about rape and suicide.

I can only write when I’m in a certain frame of mind, usually around 5 a.m. Cigarettes and coffee impede the process, so I try to stay up naturally. I’m also quitting smoking to make my voice better.

SS: What’s the best gig you’ve played so far, overall?

MC: I’m kind of inclined to say Spot this past weekend. It’s my current personal favorite?there was a good audience, playing went well, and I got paid well. I’m looking forward to playing there again if they’ll let me.

SS: How do you sum up the experience of playing the guitar?

MC: Optimally, it’s like good sex in that you lose yourself in it. It’s hard to explain, but anyone who’s had good sex knows. And when you’re done, you’re glowing.

It’s better than good sex even. You don’t have to worry about having a child or getting a disease.

SS: Are you going to make music a career?

MC: I’m going to try my damndest. It’s all I want to do. It’s all I care about. It’s my one love. One love. That’s it.

Schroeder can be reached at sschroeder@campustimes.org.



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