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With the release of his latest single and a tour several years in the making, this is proving to be a busy summer for singer-songwriter Matt Nathanson.
Nathanson’s latest single Headphones debuted in June just days before the kickoff of his summer tour with Gavin DeGraw. The co-headliners will perform tonight at the Toledo Zoo.
“It’s neat to have a song [to play on tour] that no one knows outside of my immediate fans,” says Nathanson, who is known for his blend of rock, folk, and pop. “Headphones, for this tour, is the song that I really like to play.”
The inspiration for the upbeat tune, he says, is the safety he finds in music.
The chorus reflects that sanctuary: Everybody wants to be with me/ I got all I need/ I feel invincible/ My headphones on.
“It’s about how music saved my life, and saves my life on a daily basis,” Nathanson says. “It makes you feel safe and fearless.”
Headphones also gives Nathanson a little more flexibility in concert, because it’s a rare tune on which he’s without a guitar. “I get to wander,” he says.
Headphones, which features LOLO, is just the beginning of his 10th album, which is slated for a fall release.
After gaining notoriety for his 2007 album Some Hope, which featured the multiplatinum hit Come on Get Higher and follow-up albums Modern Love and Last of the Great Pretenders, Nathanson is taking a new approach.
In the past, he finished touring and then devoted time to writing and recording. This time, he says, he’s been recording a lot while on tour. It gives him the option of trying out new material in front of fans.
“I’ve been doing a lot of the songs and creating as we go,” he says. “It’s kind of a new way for me to do an album.”
Nathanson, who has toured with country-crossover group Sugarland and American Idol runner-up Kelly Clarkson, prefers not to be pigeonholed into a specific genre.
While he says he isn’t likely to perform with Slayer anytime soon, he recognizes that “there aren’t as many borders as there used to be.”
“I feel that, more than ever, music listeners are more open,” Nathanson says.
Nathanson and DeGraw have known each other for years, and while they’ve always talked about hitting the road together, the tour didn’t quite come together until now.
Nathanson calls the pairing — along with addition of opener Mary Lambert — a “good match.”
“His fans have totally embraced me and my fans have totally embraced him,” Nathanson says.
Despite a grueling schedule of writing, recording, and performing about 50 concerts in a roughly two-month span, Nathanson seems to be genuinely enjoying himself.
“Most [of the venues] have been outdoors, and we’ve played some beautiful places,” he says. “It’s neat to be able to have these huge beautiful places be all ours.”
During a recent interview, he raved about playing scenic outdoor venues such as the Oregon Zoo in Portland and the Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre in Salt Lake City. He also says he’s taken regular bike rides as a way to take in the scenery.
“If you’re going to do two months on the road, do it in the summer,” he says. “It’s long but it hasn’t felt brutal, because it’s like camp with an electric guitar.”
Matt Nathanson and Gavin DeGraw, along with guest Mary Lambert, will perform at 6:30 tonight at the Toledo Zoo. Tickets range from $35 to $49.50 at the zoo box office, TicketMaster outlets or ticketmaster.com.