[Originally Published 5/24/2012]
It appears that Merriam-Webster is going to have to revise another word in their dictionary. perseverance-(noun)see BLACK SUNSHINE’s Matt Reardon. After three long years, several record deals, and a staph infection that nearly cost him his leg the extreme skier turned rock ‘n’ roll frontman bursts onto the scene with his latest band BLACK SUNSHINE. Recently Away-Team’s Jason Rybak had the chance to sit down with Matt to discuss BLACK SUNSHINE’s inevitable path to becoming this planet’s next big, bright stars. However, you may need to grab a cold beverage and pull up a chair…this is no short journey!
AWAY-TEAM: Congrats on the upcoming release of your new album, and your current tour. You guys rocked tonight.
MATT REARDON: Thanks, dude! Tonight was cool, it was a good show. It was nice to be on the big stage.
AWAY-TEAM: Like I said before, to see the response…and the fans standing outside of your merch tent for hours, that was awesome.
MATT REARDON: I mean the response, the only thing that’s being spun on the radio around here is “Once in My Life”. Everybody in the front knew the words, I was just amazed. That’s the coolest compliment you can get as an artist, to watch people sing your songs.
AWAY-TEAM: Yeah, I mean that is what you do this for…that’s what you’re looking for as an artist.
MATT REARDON: Oh yeah, and even the songs that they didn’t know, they were just all… everyone was all into it. It was cool.
AWAY-TEAM: And that was the same thing with me, I had really only heard “Once in My Life”…and that’s a great song, but your other shit just rocks. I was blown away.
MATT REARDON: We wanna have an album that takes you on a journey. But, you know, I’m a huge fan of this latest SHINEDOWN album. It comes out and fucking kicks you in the teeth. It makes you just like… after the first two songs you’re like, “Holy shit man!”. It gives you a breather and it picks back up again, and that kind of quality musically where you can take people on a journey in their lives…
AWAY-TEAM: Was that the driving force for enlisting Bob Marlette as a producer?
MATT REARDON: I think Bob saw a lot of potential in my vocal chords, like he did with SHINEDOWN; I’ve had that comparison with them quite a bit, and that’s a big compliment.
AWAY-TEAM: You’ve got huge vocal control, never having seen you live before, I was quite impressed.
MATT REARDON: Thanks man. We just did like fourteen shows in a row. We were doing radio at like seven in the morning. I can’t believe they’re (re: vocal chords) still working out good, I’m still learning all the time but uh…working with Bob was a situation where I just kind of knocked on his door pretty much, and found a way to sneak in the back door, and you know… just talked him into giving me a chance. I kept sending in demos, and finally I sent him “Once in My Life”, “Burn to Shine”, and “Tears” and he was like “Okay, what label are you on? Let’s do the album”. ‘Cause I kept getting record deals, and then the deals would fall apart, and record labels would fall apart and…
AWAY-TEAM: You know I had read that, that you’d had about three years of…
MATT REARDON: Mmm,hmm.
AWAY-TEAM: …meetings and trying to land record deals?
MATT REARDON: I had several record deals in that process. But, I also had several record deals that just wouldn’t do anything, because it just didn’t have the people behind it, and the right energy, and the right kind of mindset that, you know the music business doesn’t work so good without that. And we wanted someone like Kevin Zinger, and a good radio guy like John Kuliak, and just people that were forward thinking and wanted to step outside the box and shake things up a bit.
AWAY-TEAM: So, uh, how’d you all meet?
MATT REARDON: “Toast” (drummer Matt “Toast” Young) and I… I moved from Vermont to Lake Tahoe, I was on a mogul tour and I ended up in this tiny town of Truckee, CA and I was on a open mic one night and “Toast”, who was on drums was like, “Dude, you’ve got a great voice”. I was playing acoustic and singing like some TESLA song or something like that, and he was like “I have a band”, and he was just starting. I knew he was the drummer, and he invited me to play guitar with him. And I was in a band at the time, called FUNGUS, with Shaun Palmer who’s kind of like a Shawn White, I guess I could say. Shaun Palmer’s got his own video game, and I was his guitarist. It’s one of these things where I was a pro skier, he was a pro snowboarder, our bassist was a pro skier and we just had this whole family style thing going around the local scene. “Toast” and I bonded really, really good, and we played off and on; and he went out and became a drum tech for like the best drummers in the world…and I always had a lot of respect for him. He didn’t give up on his dreams. He always wanted to be a drummer on the pro level, and he had every bit of talent to do so. Here he was working with Josh Freese, and Matt Sorum, and Brian Tichy.
And then umm, the bass player… I had a record deal in Arizona where they moved me back from Germany, and it was this Christian rock deal where they threw a bunch of money at us, and I moved back there and I met Chris Serafini from being out in the clubs and I was a big fan of this producer who had a band called LET GO and he was the bass player for that, and I was like ‘That guy can flat out play’. He’s a good hang, he’s a good mountain biker; “Toast” is a great snowboarder and skier. That was just umm… over the period of years meeting people like that.
And then I was shit-faced drunk down here in Florida in Miami, I’d just finished doing seven days of recording with KK Downing from JUDAS PRIEST and Yngwie Malmsteen. They just randomly found my voice, or my demo on uh, a Union management desk, you know Union Entertainment they handle NICKELBACK? And uh, it was real random, when we finished the record, I was just kind of baffled. I had just gotten a job to headline Laguna Seca Raceway for Red Bull, and my guitar player that I had been using just got the job for Miley Cyrus. And they were like “Dude, you should go down to the Keys. There’s this kid that plays violin, he plays drums, he plays guitar, he plays bass. So I drove down there, and went into Dirty Harry’s, I think it’s called. And he was in the house band, he was playing like violin…and he had been on tour with the Van Zandt‘s as a multi-instrumentalist. And just solid, just good people, good southern style; and I flew him out two days later. We did a gig like ten days later in front of 7,000 people. That’s ultimately the story behind each and every person.
And then once we got the record deal there was no like…I mean, I listened to some of the people in Hollywood…they were like “Dude you need a dude with tattoos”, so I was working with a couple different people so the look was right and then I was like ‘fuck this man!’ I want family style and good people, and now we all own the business, and we’re all like business partners together, and umm…yeah it’s EASY!
AWAY-TEAM: That’s gotta be a great feeling. Essentially you are running a business, and to be able to do it with your “family”? That’s great!
MATT REARDON: We wouldn’t be doing this if I’d had listened to all the fuck-heads in Hollywood sayin’ “Oh he’s gotta look like this, he’s gotta do this” I mean umm…
AWAY-TEAM: (sarcastically) Yeah, there’s gotta be the look.
MATT REARDON: Yeah, but there’s also a feel that you can’t buy.
AWAY-TEAM: And a voice that goes along with it, and you’ve got that voice.
MATT REARDON: You know it’s funny, we were almost signed by Universal/Republic, the like top rock radio guy was like “I have the band that we’re gonna sign”. He ended up signing like eight bands that did nothing and they spent millions of dollars on them. And it’s kind of nice because that certain gentleman is in our camp now working our stuff at radio independently for us. And the one guy, there was two, but the one guy at the end of it all was like “Well they’re over thirty, it’s too radio friendly, and I don’t hear a hit”, and that same guy just heard it and he didn’t know, he only knew my last name…that same guy heard it under BLACK SUNSHINE and was like “This is a hit!” And he heard the same song, same shit-different day, two and a half years ago…
AWAY-TEAM: Under REARDON? (the name of Matt’s former band)
MATT REARDON: Yeah. And he said it was too radio friendly and he didn’t hear a hit, and I wrote that down. I was like ‘That’s the dumbest shit I ever heard in my life.’ It’s good though we’re working with good people, we have a good team. This is Uncle Vern (points to Tour Manager Vern Stratton), he and I have stuck together through and through. He takes a lot of shit!
AWAY-TEAM: So the debut album…
MATT REARDON: Mmm-Hmm
AWAY-TEAM: It’s been out there that it was the product of a horrific accident you suffered while you were skiing…
MATT REARDON: A couple of songs on it, yeah.
AWAY-TEAM: Tell me about that, how was the recovery, and all the surgeries and all of that? How’d that go?
MATT REARDON: I didn’t really have a horrific accident, to be honest with you. If you’ve seen a poster of what I do, or you know what I do, if you’ve seen the videos…
AWAY-TEAM: Yeah, yeah.
MATT REARDON: So, I went into a hospital to get a routine procedure, I was down in New Zealand, and when I went into the hospital in France I contracted a staph infection from the hospital. Which then became, you know, I went from like hero-to-zero where it was a little bit like umm, I woke up the next day and they’re like “We might have to amputate your leg, if this spreads any further. You have a serious problem with a staph infection”. A staph infection, you get in a hospital. They sew you up and then you get it from being in the surgery room, and I had like the worst strain that you can get. And there’s one anti-biotic called Vancomycin, that saved my life, and they opened me up like seven times and they cauterized everything, so I lost all the nerves in my leg, and umm, they burned everything to the point where I was like I had this gimp leg with no muscles. I couldn’t ski again, I couldn’t walk again, the right way and I ended up finding the right doctor. Took a second mortgage out with my parents to help pay for it, and I ended up getting like eleven surgeries, and an artificial meniscus, and grew my own cartilage in a Petri-dish for a year and they put it back in. So it was like surgery-after-surgery-after-surgery. That was just to where I could walk correctly, and you know, I couldn’t even push in a clutch in a car. I wasn’t supposed to be able to ski again, or run, or walk and I’m just fine. So it was a long process, and very character building but I’m actually skiing better now than I ever have in my entire life.
AWAY-TEAM: So you seem to be a bit of an adrenaline junkie…
MATT REARDON: (laughs) I like a challenge.
AWAY-TEAM: What’s the bigger rush, jumping out of a helicopter? Or taking the stage?
MATT REARDON: It’s really, you know, it’s a lot in the same. When you’re in Europe doing the freaky shit with the helicopters, it’s like when I get down to the bottom I’m just so jacked! It’s the same when I walk on stage, but it’s kind of funny I’m getting really comfortable with walking out onto bigger stages. And it’s cool, ‘cuz I’m understanding the energy that you can control and translate out into a crowd. And we’re just learning the big stage, I’ve done some bigger stages in Europe, but tonight was like a big pinnacle for us. And they’re just two different animals, those two things; but they’re one and the same you know what I mean? I don’t know how to describe that really. You know, when you ski a big face in Alaska or a first descent, and you have an avalanche chasing you, you just cheated death, you beat Mother Nature and you kind of feel larger than life. You get the same feeling when you walk off after nailing a big show.
AWAY-TEAM: So I understand you worked on a movie soundtrack? Mount Saint Elias? Tell me about that.
MATT REARDON: It’s a buddy of mine who is one of the world’s best mountaineers…we used to be on a team together for about eight years, this guy Axel Naglich, he plotted to ski the longest ski run in world’s history. The place where you do that is Alaska so you can ski down the fjord to the ocean from 20,000 feet. It’s a dangerous, gnarliest, and one of the guys that taught me how to play guitar; which I wrote a song about him on my first album, which has been kind of an anthem for people that have passed away, which is called “White Room”. He died on that mountain, and I knew about the mountain from that. Then Axel contacted me, and I’d worked with Red Bull before he said “Hey man, I’d like you to… ‘cuz you know me, I’d like you to write a song. Because we’re gonna spend all this money on Nothing Else Matters from METALLICA with the orchestra…Do you think you could do something like that?” I was like “In my sleep, no problem”. So I submitted a few things, and then, they were like “Alright”, and then Red Bull was like “Fuck it, let’s hire the Vienna Orchestra”. I happened to be in France, doing a film at the time, they flew me to Slovenia…and we worked with a composer there and mapped it all out…and then they liked that first thing, which was an insane type of ballad, kind of crazy, it’s called “Second to None”, and then, then they were supposed to license CREED’s Higher, and they were like “Let’s have Reardon do it. He sounds like CREED.” So then I wrote a song called “Higher Ground” and then uh, they produced it and they liked it, and they just kept taking more. We just won Sundance for best sports documentary. It actually has won, almost every film festival that it has entered. If it hasn’t won, it got second place; and only once it got third place. That’s out of like, seventy different film festivals worldwide right now.
AWAY-TEAM: That’s some heavy shit man. So when you write a song, does it go back to your sports roots?
MATT REARDON: With this guy, I know him, but… does Jack Johnson sing about surfing? No, he sings about life, you know, the trials and tribulations, and what you go through. And I knew what was going through his head, ‘cuz I’ve done some gnarly shit, but, nothing like what he did. Because what he did was gnarlier than Mt. Everest times ten. He did it with skis on his back, and he did some fuckin’ crazy shit. But umm, it’s one of those things where you just tap into your own energy, and what feels best.
AWAY-TEAM: You can put your energy into somebody else’s?
MATT REARDON: Oh Yeah, I’ve been submitting country music, lately. Because I like country. It came across my desk and somebody was like “Can you write a country song?” I was like, ‘of course I can’, I started out in Louisiana I grew up on Hank Williams Jr. It’s about real stuff, real things that are happening in life, not just some pissed off music, ya know?
AWAY-TEAM: Growing up in Louisiana, how the HELL does a Louisiana boy end up becoming a world-class extreme skier?
MATT REARDON: (laughs) My aunt and uncle lived in Connecticut, and my dad was starting over, again for the second time in his life. He had his partner embezzle all his money, so me and my dad shared a room, shared a bed in my aunt’s house. I finished high school, he was getting back up on his feet; and my uncle took me to see a ski movie, I was like ‘I wanna do that, I’m gonna do that’. He took me skiing, and then I got hooked, and I bought a pass, and I was detailing cars for a living in high school, and bar backing. Got a job, and worked, worked, worked…didn’t get into the college of my choice, was trying to go to UVM, and then umm, I ended up getting a bar back job and joined the Killington Mogul Team. I trained in aerials…
AWAY-TEAM: What part of Connecticut?
MATT REARDON: I graduated from Avon High School.
AWAY-TEAM: Are you kidding me? I used to work in Avon all the time. I’m from Holyoke, MA!
MATT REARDON: Right on! (punches fist)
AWAY-TEAM: Matt, thanks for your time, and good luck. I know you’ll go far.
MATT REARDON: Thanks dude, I appreciate it.
From battling the forces of nature, to becoming a natural force in the rock ‘n’ roll world, Matt Reardon and Black Sunshine are ready to unleash an ass-kicking on our eardrums. Are you Ready??? For more information on BLACK SUNSHINE, Tour dates, music samples and details on how to pick up a copy of their debut album, head over to BlackSunshineBand.com.
AWAY-TEAM’S Jason Rybak with Matt Reardon.Special thanks to Matt for his time, Uncle Vern for making it all work, and to James at Kerosene Media for setting us up with this opportunity.