You can take the boy out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of the boy. Texas based songwriter, Matthew Logan Vasquez knows a thing or two about having to say goodbye to the Lone Star State, but the artist is happy to be making a return.
“Vasquezes do not belong in the snow. We are more of the sunshine, humidity, take it easy, go slow, drink lots of water or tequila kind of people,” he says.
He and his wife relocated to her native Oslo almost two years ago to care for her father suffering from Alzheimer's. The couple left their warm Wimberley home with their young son, Thor, for the frigid Oslo. The experience has been a challenge, but it has also strengthened the bond of family and respect for the unconditional support family members can provide for each other.
“My family and I have never been closer going through this experience and we are coming back really excited to finally put some roots down.” says Vasquez.
Living in Oslo has only reinforced Vasquez and his wife’s love for their Texas home. The singer recalls seeing friends when they come through Oslo on tour and catching a live show by Los Lobos admitting, “They played “Mas y Mas” and I cried.” Even though Vasquez says Oslo has treated them well, he and his wife are happy to be returning to Wimberley soon.
“To put it bluntly, central Texas has been a spiritual center of my life. It’s the only place I ever really saw myself feeling on the money out of all the things I wanted in life and I lucked out having an expat Norwegian wife feel the same way.” He continues, “It feels like home. When you land, you smell it. You feel the air and think ‘yeah this is about right’. This particular amount of humidity, this smell of the trees, the grass, the dirt and the smell of the water. It’s a thing you just know and I’ve always felt that way about that place.”
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Vasquez recorded his latest solo album, Light’n Up in their Wimberley home when his wife and son had already begun their journey to Oslo. The album is a naked reflection of what Vasquez was going through and a cathartic release of emotions. “It’s about that putting that period down, Just looking in the mirror and being raw. For me that’s how I emotionally get through stuff, that’s why I did it. I didn’t shy away from it, I leaned into it in fact.”
The title is a playful take on the heavy themes in the album, “It’s like I had to make the title sarcastic because I’m generally an optimistic person.” says Vasquez. Light’n Up takes listeners on the narrative journey from Wimberley to Oslo with Vasquez’s father-in-law's diagnosis immediately followed by his mother being diagnosed with cancer, which she ultimately beat.
The lyrics to the song “Oslo” are a perfect reflection of constantly being torn between two countries, a common experience for bi-cultural families, and the feeling that it’s never enough to cover all your ground. The song “I Love My Boy” is a bare bones piano track about missing his son written after Vasquez found himself alone in their house; no wife, no son and no cat just waiting to start a tour. “I was actually crying when I recorded it. My son hates that song! He loves so many songs but he hates that one cause he can tell I’m missing him.”
The album also features the light-hearted rockin' tracks “Trailer park” and “Vacation”. Both songs have videos matching the uplifting tone of the songs and Vasquez’s longtime friend and collaborator, Michael Parks Randa, directed both. “Trailer Park” re enacts a party Vasquez had with some friends and family once his album was complete and features his neighbor Frank who owns the local Wimberley watering hole, Frank’s Full Moon Saloon.
“Vacation” is a working mans rebellious release, counting down days on the cubicle calendar before the always-awaited vacation. The video features kids and adults of all walks of life grudging through their daily lives finding small moments of solace and joy throughout their routines. The video includes individuals with disabilities — an intentional move on his part as Vasquez and the director have worked with special needs individuals in the past.
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Light’n Up is Vasquez’s third solo release but fans might know him from other groups such as Delta Spirit and indie rock super group, Middle Brother. When asked about the difference between being in a group and out on his own Vasquez says, “It’s fun being the boss and I get to do the songs I feel like doing. The guys that I work with they are real talented dudes and it’s basically like they are hired gunmen to be in my band and they are all killers.”
Vasquez’s band does indeed have some killers in it. Brendan Bond, PR Newman and Houston’s own Judson Johnson will join him onstage. PR Newman and Austin’s Peterson Brothers will open the show at the Heights Theater. Vasquez counts many Houston musicians as good friends including Kam Franklin from the Suffers. “Mark Austin put us together and Kam is a force! I love her so damn much, she’s the best!” says Vasquez of the golden-voiced front woman.
For people who have only listened to the sometimes solemn Light’n Up Vasquez reassures them, “My life’s good. My life’s so good! As my dad says, I’m rich in love. I got good friends, I get great life experience everyday, I have a hot Norwegian wife and my son is cute, nice and beautiful.”
Matthew Logan Vasquez will be performing with PR Newman and the Peterson Brothers on May 25 at the Heights Theater, 339 W. 19th, doors at 7 p.m. $23