Former Weezer bassist and Rentals frontman Matt Sharp will release his debut solo album in March. Sharp — who sued Weezer over songwriting royalties in April — is without a solo deal, but he’s entertaining record company offers. The self-titled disc is a departure from Sharp’s previous bands and comes nearly four years after Seven More Minutes, his second record fronting the Rentals, the band that began as his Weezer side-project and became a full-time gig after his departure from Weezer in 1998.
“The biggest recognizable difference is sonic,” says Sharp, who describes his more acoustic, ambient approach as “somewhere between the solo records of [Talk Talk’s] Mark Hollis and Hope Sandoval. There are no electric guitars or bass or drums or synthesizers. But my feeling about music has never changed — I’m always trying to make the kind of music I’d like to hear from other people.”
Conceived and recorded over three years while Sharp lived in a small house in rural Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee, an hour outside of Nashville, the thirteen songs on Matt Sharp were realized with the help of guitarists Greg Brown, formerly of Cake, and Josh Hager, who first joined up with the Rentals for a 1999 tour of Japan. “Greg’s the best guitar player I’ve ever worked with — he’s like Johnny Marr to me,” Sharp says. “Strangely enough, I met Greg and Josh through Rivers [Cuomo, of Weezer]. Josh played with Rivers for a millisecond while he was in Boston. Rivers had boasted about him, and Josh was the one who really pushed me to do this record.”
Along with a change in sound, Sharp has changed his approach to the music business, which is to have no approach at all. While out of the limelight, Sharp severed most of his ties to the business. “I don’t even have a manager or a lawyer,” he says. “I think I’ve burned nearly as many bridges as I could, and it was really intentional. I didn’t want to think about units or product, or any of those things while I was writing. I had no radio or MTV — or a television at all, for that matter — so I could see what I’d come up with without outside influences.”
Sharp just wrapped up a solo acoustic tour in Boston two weeks ago. Having never toured under his own name and without a record to support or familiar material — with the exception of a few Rentals’ songs like “Friends of P” — Sharp was pleased to perform in small venues with packed houses. “The response was just insane,” he says. “People have been so receptive, and thankfully nobody’s shouting out fucking ‘ooh wee ooh’ [from Weezer’s 1994 hit “Buddy Holly”] or some shit, so it’s nice.”
Sharp’s next gig will be a benefit on December 22nd at Tamarind Theater in Los Feliz for Honduran immigrant Carlos Ramos, who is afflicted with ALS. The performance will help to raise money to support the Ramos family and fulfill Carlos Ramos’ dying wish of visiting his family in Honduras. Sharp will resume touring in the new year.
As for Sharp’s reflections on Weezer: “When we went through what we went through together my head and my heart and my soul were completely invested in the band,” he says. “I don’t want to soil any of those memories, because we met so many beautiful people on the road, and those records meant a hell of lot to me. But the more I think about it, the more I really think about the not so good part of those times.”