Matisyahu: My Relationship to Judaism Has Grown and Changed

Categories: Q&A

Mark Squires (Press photo)
Matthew Paul Miller, otherwise known as Matisyahu (translated to "Gift of God" in Hebrew), has been putting out his blend of traditional Jewish themes, reggae, beatboxing, alternative, and slightly psychedelic rock since 2004.

From the beginning, he was known for his signature beard and Hasidic garb, and strong Jewish faith. Four albums later, he's moved to L.A., left his yarmulke by the wayside, and dyed his hair blond. While he still may be religious, he says he felt locked in by the Hasidic life, and felt he needed to expand to discover his own truth. Which, coincidentally, has worked quite well for his musical style.

Currently on tour after finishing up his fifth studio album, Matisyahu is ready to take his career, and sound, to the next level.

Up on the Sun talked with the artist once called by Esquire "the most intriguing reggae artist in the world" about being inspired by his son, the virtue he wished all humans possessed, the Alabama Shakes and his first concert.

So you're recording your next album with Joel Hamilton right now, correct?
Yes, with Joel, the Dub Trio, Aaron Dugan, Rob Marscher and Mark Guliana. We are entering our final week of recording now at Studio G in Brooklyn.

You said on Twitter that it is going to be very different from Sparkseeker, which was really well received. I talked with you at the release of that record, and I love how positive the album is. Can you tell me about the inspiration behind "Sunshine"?
"Sunshine" is about my oldest son Laivy. He came out blond like sunshine, and both me and his mother have dark hair. The second verse is about when I learned to sing. I had been living in a car with no money and had stopped speaking. It was then that I heard a man sing a song in the park, Rastaman Chant, and I realized the words were biblical and I had some strong connection to it. It's about returning to meet your younger self and acting as his guide.

Tell me about this new one you are working on.
Like my last record, it's not what I planned and it came together very organically. I was in NY and went over to meet my good friend/bass player/ musical soul brother, Stu Brooks of the Dub Trio, and he played me a track he had been working on. I immediately got inspired and wrote and recorded the song right there. We brought in Dave Holmes and Joe Tomino of Dub trio and began writing and recording at my home in L.A. Then we brought Joel Hamilton in to help produce, engineer, and mix. They have worked closely with him before and we are all friends.

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