Matt Wertz on turning backyards into stages
While the pandemic shut down the nation’s music venues, the Nashville member and musician describes how he decided to keep live music alive with a series of performances in people’s homes
By Otamere Guobadia Images courtesy of Matt Wertz Friday 9 October, 2020 Short read
An empty canvas with all its radical potentials, the humble backyard – once reserved for five-a-side and trampoline stargazing – is by necessity our new amphitheatre. Enter Nashville-based indie musician and member, Matt Wertz, who is embarking on his Socially Distant *Yet Emotionally Close* Backyard Tour of America, and for a lucky and select few fans, autumn is to be soundtracked, live.
‘I spent a lot of lockdown sitting in my backyard in Nashville with my girlfriend,’ Wertz begins. ‘For the months of April and May, we had a beautiful spring and my yard was amazing. We just sat in Adirondack chairs, listened to music, and worked from our laptops. We basically had our own little Soho House in the backyard,’ he laughs. ‘Making Picante de la Casas and listening to bossa nova music, for us it was a very sweet time.’
Wertz’s time spent in his backyard proved inspirational. He thought about how he could export the charm that he’d been able to experience further afield. ‘I just started thinking, why couldn’t I play shows in people’s backyards in a safe way?’ he explains. Wertz sat on the idea, letting it ruminate while shelter-in-place orders continued to be in effect. Eventually, he recruited his girlfriend, along with his illustrator sister and collaborator Seth, to help nail down the vision for his backyard tour.
‘My friend released an album maybe a month and a half ago,’ he continues. ‘So we had a small gathering of friends in my backyard to celebrate him. I asked him to play a couple of songs and I felt this huge sense of relief hearing somebody play music. Hopefully that’s what his tour will provide for other people, too.’
Wertz’s backyard tour comes at a time when many people are deeply missing live music and all of the corollary intimacies that it offers. It’s also a time when many musicians who primarily rely on touring and gigs for income have seen these opportunities vanish overnight.
And perhaps the reason that Wertz’s backyard tour is so exciting is precisely because our backyards mean so much to us. Endless memories of sunny days, of an interconnectedness that feels so far off now; summer evenings viewed through the fog of love and alcohol. The backyard is a dreamscape. Wertz understands this. If music really is the food of love, play on, stage or no stage. Maybe we left home in search of something that has been in our backyards all along.