Time is a curious thing. It’s there and then it isn’t. One minute we’re giving time away in reckless fits of youth, and then another, well, we’re clinging to that minute too tightly to do anything with it. It’s the age-old story of life and death. And it’s the present-day story of Matt Whipkey’s forthcoming album, Underwater.
“I think I probably took for granted the idea that maybe I’d always be young,” Whipkey says cautiously, as if listening for a hint of Death’s wiretap on his phone line. “It seemed like there was always next year. One day you’re 33.”
Born from the emotional asphyxiation he experienced during and after the production of last year’s Penny Park: Omaha, NE: Summer 1989 album, Whipkey says Underwater is an audio-biographical account of the darker moments of his early 30s.
“A lot of things happened personally that I had not dealt with for a while,” he confesses. “Then all of a sudden they hit me in kind of a rush.”
That cascade of melancholy, which eventually broke open Whipkey’s floodgates of repression, he says, inspired a 10-song odyssey through the bitter winds of last winter. Whipkey says his introspective journey brought him to the studio almost immediately, which strays from his decade-long formula of grueling preproduction rehearsals.
Though, that’s not the only honesty he says he’s salvaged during the recording process. Underwater, which is slated to come out this February, will attempt to mirror reality though Whipkey’s use of organic instrumentation. And its lyrical content will voice real names, as opposed to the eponymous hero, Penny Park, who pervaded the veteran songwriter’s last effort.
“The songs are a lot more personal,” Whipkey says. “I like the idea now. I hope down the road I’m not like, ‘I shouldn’t have used those people’s real names.’ But for the moment, I’m okay with that.”
Whipkey won Artist of the Year and Album of the Year at the 2013 Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards for what he calls his “double-vinyl ode to a former amusement park,” or “Penny Park,” a pun on the now-extinct Peony Park. But he’s no stranger to the award. The musician also achieved honors in 2008 and 2009 as part of Brad Hoshaw & The Seven Deadlies.
“It’s more fun being the main guy winning them,” he says while laughing.
Because accolades don’t necessarily equate to monetary gains, Whipkey admits he relies on guitar lessons and musician residencies to supplement his income. In terms of his band, the unsigned artist says he funds all of his own studio sessions, but relies on crowd funding to distribute his albums.
Whipkey says he encourages fans to donate to his Kickstarter through Nov. 18 to preorder a tangible copy of Underwater.
“I want to make it really stick. I guess at 33 the idea of international celebrity and fortune is pretty silly and unrealistic,” he says, exhaling a deep breathe. “I want to make this work just as a good, solid career, and there’re ways to do that.”