Q&A with Westchester Resident and Musician Matt Turk

Talkin’ Turk: A local musician goes from recording with a legend in Fishkill to sitting in with celebs in the South of France.

Hastings resident Matt Turk is one busy singer/songwriter. One day, he’s off doing background vocals on a Pete Seeger record (September’s A More Perfect Union), the next he’s off scoring a documentary (The Lion of Judah), and, after that, he’s taking a trip to Nazareth, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem to act as a musical ambassador—and all while working on his own album of rootsy Americana music, which he’s about to start recording. We caught up with Turk to ask about his musical projects.

Tell us about working on A More Perfect Union. Pete Seeger is a friend and has always been a mentor. I try to learn from him different aspects of performance, storytelling, sharing, and getting people to sing. So doing background vocals for his album was such a sweet experience.

Do you have a favorite Pete Seeger song? There are so many, but I love the way he plays the twelve-string on ‘The Bells of Rhymney.’

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And what about your own music? I’m about to go out to LA and record my next album. I’m working with David Dobkin—we made my last album together, American Preservation, which was a collection of covers. He’s not just a music producer. He directs movies, too, and produces their soundtracks. He directed Wedding Crashers, and I met him doing a song for Fred Claus, his next movie after that.

How will this one be different from American Preservation? This is a much more personal record. After interpreting songs by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, I really made a point of looking inward.

Besides Pete Seeger,  is there anyone else you’re really into, or consider an influence? Sixto Rodriguez, who was the subject of the documentary Searching for Sugar Man. He’s a singer/songwriter from Detroit, and I had his music about 15 years ago, but then he kind of disappeared. There were great values in his music. He cared a lot about women and wanted to give them bigger leadership, and he also cared about childcare and education, which is also what I’m about—lifting up the working poor.

Does that make its way into your music? It does. For example, I have a song called ‘Satchmo’ that’s about a homeless kid. But it’s more about what I do. I’m one of ArtsWestchester’s roster artists, which means they send me places. I’ve worked with Sunshine Children’s Home and Rehab Center, the Elm Street Youth Center in Yonkers—places that really care about the community. Through a group out of New Jersey, I’m actually going to Israel. They’re sending American Christian, Muslim, and Jewish musicians to go over there and build their own community. We get to be the ice-breakers.

To keep up with Matt Turk, visit his website: turktunes.com

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