Music links friends and heroes; Vertical Horizon's latest CD a rush for Matt Scannell.
Matt Scannell is in a good place - a good place in his personal life and, more importantly for his fans, a good place in his professional life as the singer, guitarist and songwriter for Vertical Horizon.
And, brace yourself, Scannell's writing from a good place, also, which has nothing to do with the fact that he got out of Worcester some time ago. In fact, the Worcester native speaks fondly of his old stomping grounds and is planning a sort of homecoming Wednesday night at Borders Bookstore, Route 9, Shrewsbury.
"I loved growing up in that city," Scannell said from his Los Angeles home. "I absolutely loved it, and it's such a part of who I am." Vertical Horizon began as a duo when Scannell met fellow guitarist and singer Keith Kane in 1991 while both were undergraduates at Georgetown University. They scored a deal with RCA records, as well as the No. 1 smash "Everything You Want," before taking a breather from the limelight. Now, Scannell and company are back with "Burning the Days."
As a songwriter, the 39-year-old Scannell - who grew up in the Tatnuck Square section of Worcester and attended Flagg Street and Bancroft schools - said he has always been comfortable writing from "the perspective of the darkness" but a bit reluctant to write from "a place of real positivity, hope and love." That is, until now.
"Some of the hesitancy about really positive, upbeat, happy, up-with-people kinds of songs is I don't buy it," Scannell admitted. "If you're feeling great, if you're happy or if you're in love, some part of you is afraid that it's gonna go away. And that, to me, is the little lynchpin for me. That's where I tap in to it. I try to hold onto that slight bit of concern and fear because it gives some jeopardy. If there's no jeopardy in a love song, then I have no interest at all."
Scannell is quick to point out that while "The Lucky One" is a happy, upbeat song, the new disc still has some darkness in there, and "Welcome to the Bottom" is as dark as anything he has ever written.
In addition to revealing a new, slightly more positive outlook in life, "Burning the Days" is a very personal, very Worcester story more than 25 years in the making and all culminating with Rush's drummer Neil Peart making an appearance on the record. When he thinks of Rush, Scannell can't help but think of his "childhood buddy" and "best friend on the planet" James Levine, who lived next door to him (and played in bands together) growing up.
"We would get the new Rush record and go over to his dad's turntable and we start spinning and looking through the artwork and obsessing over every little moment. We had the tour books. We had the posters. He had a huge poster of Neil Peart's drum set up on his wall. They were it. That was the band."
Backstage at a Rush show several years ago, Scannell spotted Peart's rehearsal room. Scannell wrestled over whether or not to swipe the drumsticks, but the little angel on his shoulder won out over the little devil. As Scannell was leaving, Peart's drum tech walked by, and Scannell sheepishly asked him if he could have the drumsticks. Amazed that he asked and didn't just take them (like everybody else), the drum tech gave him the drumsticks and let him sit down at Peart's drum set.
"I go home, have my drumsticks. I'm so excited," Scannell said. "A couple of months later, I wake up in the middle of the night, and I miss my buddy James. I want my friend back in my life."
Despite having a "little bit of a falling out" in their adult years, Levine was always in the back of Scannell's mind. So out of the blue, Scannell called Levine to patch things up with him, and he went to see him in Westboro around Christmastime 2005.
"As I'm getting ready to go, I'm thinking how can I tell this guy how important it is to me to have him back in my life? What can I do to say it all without saying anything? So I said to myself, the only thing I have that can show this is these drumsticks from Neil Peart," Scannell said. "And I hand him the drumsticks and he looks at them and freaks out."
After the holidays, Scannell went back to California and, through a "strange series of events," found himself at Peart's house. While Scannell was thinking about what to say, Peart said, "I'm a huge fan of your work" and later said, "We should write a song together" - a song that would become "Even Now" on the new Vertical Horizon disc.
Next, Scannell made the inevitable phone call asking if Peart would play drums on the record, and Peart said, "Well, no one else can play drums on this song."
In addition to "Even Now," Peart plays drums on the leadoff single, "Save Me From Myself" and "Welcome to the Bottom."
Scannell now considers Peart one of his best friends, and it all goes back to his childhood friend in Worcester.
Vertical Horizon (performance and signing)
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Borders Bookstore, 476 Boston Turnpike (Route 9), Shrewsbury
CUTLINE: Vertical Horizon, pictured on the cover, is out with a new CD, "Burning the Days." Matt Scannell, the band's singer, above right, is pictured with Rush drummer Neil Peart, who performs on several songs on the CD.
PHOTOG: Submitted Photos
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Oct 22, 2009|
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