Matt Skellenger: “I don’t think it matters how many strings you have”

Matt Skellenger
Matt Skellenger

Swallow Hill Music Instructor Matt Skellenger has an alter ego.

By day, Matt is an understated but enthusiastic music teacher sharing his knowledge with students of all ages. By night, he’s a master of the electric bass. Whether it’s jazz, soul, funk, rock, or post-rock – usually it’s a little bit of everything – any band with Matt holding down the low end is in extremely capable hands.

Matt’s musical prowess will be on full display on Friday, November 9 at 8 p.m. when he leads the Matt Skellenger Group in Tuft Theatre.

Matt recently shared some of his thoughts with us on playing the bass, what his bands have been up to, and how growing up in a musical household influenced his philosophy on teaching.

Your concert in Tuft Theatre on November 9 is billed as The Matt Skellenger Group, what can the audience expect to hear that night?

We perform all original music written by myself. I will be joined by a fantastic group of eclectic musicians: Adam Bartczak on Trombone and Conch Shell, Dave Miller on Drums, Tabla, and Ghatam, Matt Reid on Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Cornet and Effects, Andy Skellenger on Tabla, Cajon, and Udu, and Glenn Taylor on Pedal Steel Guitar.

You grew up in a musical household where you and your siblings were encouraged to play instruments and explore music. How did that upbringing influence you as a music teacher?

I think it taught me about making music inclusive and accessible to everyone. Growing up in an environment where there were instruments around that we were encouraged to play made me want to share my musical experience with more people.

With access to multiple instruments, what was it about the bass that appealed to you?

I had a friend growing up that got a bass for his birthday. I went over there one day and tried it out, and on the car ride home, I told my dad that I wanted to be a bass player. It was one of the clearest moments of my life. I think the bass chose me more than I chose it!

Four strings? Five strings? Or does it not matter?

I think it is more about what instrument do you feel most comfortable playing. For some people it’s a 4 string. For me it’s a 5 string. My second bass was a 5 string, and so I just got used to having the extra low notes. As long as you can make music with it, I don’t think it matters how many strings you have.

You are a member of several active bands with The Matt Skellenger Band and the Grown Ass Man Band instantly coming to mind. How do you keep those projects distinct from one another? Does an idea from one band ever cross over into another?

I think the styles of music are different enough between the bands that it makes it pretty easy to have distinction between the different projects. Having said that, I think because I have a unique playing style, some of it crosses over between the different bands.

I believe you were recently in the studio, or are about to head into the studio – what are you working on? When can we expect some new recorded material?

We are in the process of mixing our 4th record with this group. We recorded all the tracks last month at Mighty Fine Productions with the amazing engineer Colin Bricker. The previous 3 records were also recorded there. We are shooting for a release party in early 2019, but nothing has been solidified yet. We will be performing some of the new music at this concert.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I am really proud of the music we have created, and I am grateful to get to play with such awesome people and musicians. I really feel like we have a unique sound that can only be heard coming from this eclectic group, so I really hope people will come check it out! Also Tuft Theater is such a great listening room. We always love the opportunity to play for such an intimate attentive crowd!

See the Matt Skellenger Group in Tuft Theatre on Friday, November 9 at 8 p.m.