Matthew E. White (photo by Shawn Brackbill)
Matthew E. White is en route. On the tail end of a recent national tour promoting his sophomore effort Fresh Blood, the local singer-songwriter is in transit from New York City on the afternoon of April 7, with a date that evening at the Rock & Roll Hotel in Washington, D.C. The tour concludes in the next few days; after that his next appearance will be in Glasgow, Scotland, to kick off a three-week stint in Europe. But before crossing the pond, White has one last stop to make: home.
Marking the end of his U.S. tour, White will headline a show at the Broadberry on Saturday (April 11) at 8 p.m.. “The last [tour] ended in Richmond too,” he says in phone interview from the road. “It’s a nice way to end the thing, kind of a homecoming show.” Though the return is a transient one for White as he sets his sights on Europe, “home” is more than a calm, refueling pit stop before more sonic globetrotting.
“I talk about Richmond every night,” says White, whose two albums, 2012’s Big Inner and Fresh Blood, released March 10, have both met widespread acclaim, catapulting him to international ears and even a March 17 guest appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman.
“I played 150 shows all over the world for Big Inner,” he says, “and I have another 150, probably, for this tour, and every night I say, ‘We’re from Richmond and we have a great thing here.’ ”
A more than 10-year veteran of the city’s music scene, White grew from roots in jazz studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, founding the “avant-garde” promotional company Patchwork Collective and, in 2005, the eclectic, post-jazz ensemble band Fight the Big Bull. In its heyday, the group played regularly around town, frequenting the former Cous Cous, as well as Balliceaux, with its recordings garnering spots on two of NPR’s best-of-the-year lists in 2010.
“That really opened up my mind,” says White and in 2011, Spacebomb Records was born. Based on White’s notion of “starting a record label based on a house band,” Spacebomb began in White’s attic, where his solo debut Big Inner would eventually be recorded with members of Fight the Big Bull.
Released in the summer of 2012, Big Inner made its way onto several best of the year lists, bringing praise for White from the likes of Rolling Stone and the New York Times, which dubbed the album “a dramatic pop-gospel record that hits extremes of the mood spectrum.”
White’s label has since expanded from the attic to the upgraded digs of its Shockoe Bottom studio, “Spacebomb East,” where the tracks of Fresh Blood were laid down, again with the help of Fight the Big Bull. But apart from White’s recordings, Spacebomb also serves as a hub for several other Richmond-based artists, among them Natalie Prass, whose self-titled debut in January has already received stellar reviews.
“My thing from the get-go was to facilitate opportunities for people,” White says. “That’s what Patchwork was about, that’s what Fight the Big Bull was about, that’s what Spacebomb is about. … The idea is to create an import/export situation where more musicians that are Richmond-based are able to leave the city and have jobs playing music. That’s what we want.”
With Spacebomb rising and the reach of the city’s artists ever-growing, White is glad to return to the Richmond spotlights this Saturday: “I don’t look out to the audience and see close friends or close collaborators anywhere else.”
Here's a preview, recorded at the Broadberry, with White performing "Fruit Trees" from his album Fresh Blood.