Mike Ragogna: When you perform in front of audiences, do you feel that connection between you and them?
Matisyahu: The other night, I went to see this band called Tortoise. While I was watching, I had this experience of myself watching them play. Some people were moving, some people weren’t, the music was cool, whatever. And there was one of the players–there was something about him that kind of resonated in me. There was this kind of presence he had, he was just ‘there,’ you could see that there was something going on inside of him, that he felt he was there in the room with the people. It kind of woke me up a little bit. Through that experience, I was able to come into their music where before that, I kind of felt distant from it. Then I went to see my friend Aaron play where there were literally 25 or 30 people in a small, small room. He’s part of a trio and they were really rocking out, totally in their own world. I didn’t need them to be present with me since they were so present with each other.
For me, it’s always this constant battle and search when I’m out on stage as to where and when do I really open myself up to the people that are there. How do I let myself feel present in the space, and how do I allow myself to get into the music and interact with the band members. When you’re doing one, it’s hard to do everything. But eventually, every night, there comes this point where it all comes together–the presence, the music, the band members, the audience–and all those walls get ripped down and it’s all just one. It’s unity. It’s almost like there’s no more performer and listener, it’s like everyone is sharing that experience. That’s the ideal, to get to that place, and that’s what I aim for. I think it’s possible to get to that place where the whole show, every night, is that moment.
MR: In the documentary icons among us: jazz in the present tense, filmmaker/producer John Comerford focused on capturing that moment within jazz music, and you can absolutely feel the “lift” when everything falls into synchrony.
Matisyahu: There are those musicians out there where that’s the focus, then there are those who aren’t even thinking about that. But I guess people in their own ways are looking to break down the barriers, and there are all kinds of methods of doing it, from stage diving to telling your audience to put their hands up in the air, to trying to have a more ‘inner’ experience with everybody.