Hires hones skills touring with Matchbox Twenty

Photo by REID ROLLSMatt Hires
Photo by REID ROLLSMatt Hires

Midway through his tour with the pop-rock hit makers of Matchbox Twenty, Matt Hires, a 27-year-old singer-songwriter from Tampa, Fla., is performing for some of the bigger crowds of his career.

“It’s been awesome so far,” Hires said last week from the tour. “It’s gone by really quickly and slowly at the same time. I think all of the shows have been sold out.”

Audiences for the Matchbox Twenty-Hires tour have ranged from 1,500 to 7,000. Demand for tickets in Baton Rouge prompted L’Auberge Casino to move the show to its outdoor concert space, The Lawn.

“I find it easier to play in front of 7,000 people than 150 people,” Hires said. “I’m not sure why that is. Maybe because once the crowd gets so big you can’t see the faces. It’s almost like playing in your living room.”

Opening act Hires gets 30 minutes on stage. The tour marks his return to performing following a year of making his upcoming album, This World Won’t Last Forever, But Tonight We Can Pretend.

“It’s been really good for me to get my performing chops back by playing these really awesome shows,” he said.

The acoustic guitar-strumming Hires sings and writes passionate, earnest songs. He released an EP, Forever, in February, featuring the single, “Restless Heart,” a prime example of his folk-pop style, one not unlike, for instance, Mumford & Sons.

“I enjoy Mumford & Sons,” Hires said. “We probably have a lot of the same influences — Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and older folk artists. So I’m cool with that.”

Hires’ influences also include Mississippi John Hurt, a classic folk-blues singer-guitarist he learned about when he was growing up in Tampa.

“I was into newer bands,” Hires said. “I would check them out and then see what their influences were. Then I’d go back and listen to Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and the Beatles. I keep following stuff back to the older blues and folk artists, like Mississippi John Hurt and Woody Guthrie. I really fell in love with that music.”

Hurt came from the rural, isolated Mississippi hill country town of Avalon. For a blues man, his singing and guitar playing, like Hurt himself, was unusually gentle and direct.

“There’s something about the simplicity of those songs and melodies,” Hires said. “Lots of the melodies could be used in pop songs today. They’re short and concise and in simple arrangements.”

Music supervisors at network television programs have embraced Hires’ songs. His music has been used in episodes of Cougar Town, Private Practice and, most of all, Grey’s Anatomy. The Jan. 24 episode of Grey’s Anatomy featured the Hires song “Forever.” “It was great because they played it at the end of the episode, the emotional height of the episode, and they played almost the whole song,” Hires said.

Writing from inspiration comes naturally to Hires.

“Yeah, I’ve always written songs that way,” he said. “Maybe it has something to do with influences or stuff I read. Maybe it’s because most of the time when I write songs it’s inspired by some kind of emotion.

“I’m not the most prolific songwriter. It’s easier to write when I have that inspiration. I guess that’s where the emotion comes from.”