Matisyahu: Making Music that Moves
Beliefnet interviews the reggae singer on his fans, his music and the connection he shares with it all.
BY: Jennifer E. Jones
“I guess my whole life somehow I felt prepared. Something like this was going to be the case. I was either going to be an outcast or I would be appreciated by people,” he says. “I always knew I was different and that people had opinions about me. I guess I learned as best as I can to shield out a lot and live my life from within.”
Living from within is what has always set him apart. While rap stars boast about money and rock stars pin over love, Matisyahu sings about Yahweh. In the mid-2000s, he was known for performing in the traditional black hat and coat. He says he has an ever-evolving relationship with Judaism that is expressed in his songs.
“In 2004, when I started recording my first CD, I was coming right out of yeshiva. So I had spent two years completely immersed in the Hasidic culture, disconnected completely from the secular world – movies, music, people,” he recalls. “Now it’s been five, six years of being on the road and living my life. So when I came into it, I had this protective layer around me.”
He pauses. “I think in general as you get older and have more experience you open up more and you explore. It’s more of an organic evolution. [I’m] trying to appreciate the small moments and the little things. The people that I meet that are really touched by the music really affect me.”
Touring offers Matisyahu a chance to meet those people. He tells me about the night prior to our interview when he was in Charlotte, Virginia.
“I was signing autographs. It was over an hour, maybe more – just people telling me their stories and how they like the music,” he says. “Yesterday, we had a boy who died. I think he was 19; he died in his sleep. His favorite song was ‘I Will Be Light’. He was a big fan. They made his soccer jerseys, because he was good soccer player. They made jerseys that all said, ‘I Will Be Light’ on them. His mom came to the show, and we dedicated the song to him last night. It was pretty cool.”
Sometimes, a connection with a fan leads to something more. Recently, he launched Elijah’s Song after a chance encounter with a special young fan.