Matthew Davidson (Twain) performing at the Beachland Ballroom. (

Crafting Humanist Gospel Tunes : Chatting With Matthew Davidson of Twain

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Twain is the moniker of New York City based singer and song writer Matthew Davidson. Under that mono-syballic stage name, Davidson has artfully crafted a discography of deeply human bedroom pop, releasing completely DIY soul-searing sets of tunes since 2010 or so. Twain’s lyrics bounce with a sort of optimism colored ever so  slightly by weariness, the instrumentation often sparse — taking on a voice of it’s own.   

Davidson is performing at the 2017 Nelsonville Music Festival on Friday, June 2 on the porch stage at 6 p.m. and again on Saturday, June 3 at 1:30 p.m. on the porch stage and at 5:15 p.m. in the no-fi cabin. WOUB’s Emily Votaw spoke to Davidson about the beginnings of Twain as a project and being a bi-coastal American with an affinity for humanist hymns.


WOUB: Could you tell me the origin tale of Twain?

Matthew Davidson: I don’t know why it became my moniker, but I’ve written under that name for quite some time. It mostly consists of me on a laptop computer and playing some shows around southern California, in cafes and little dive bars. It was sort of born in San Diego, in Arizona, in the Southwest. And even though I haven’t lived there in so long the mysticism of that place is still in the music, for sure.

WOUB: Are you originally from the southwest?

Twin: I was born in Roanoke, Virginia. I moved to California when I was 10 years old and spent some formative years there, and that’s what took me down to SoCal. I spent a lot of my youth going back and forth, so, ostensibly, I’m from both coasts, I suppose.

WOUB: Could you tell me about your writing in general? What are some of the emotional and literary spaces your writing often goes?

MD: I was in the band Spirit Family Reunion for a while, and the chief songwriter started to write new songs that were so beautiful – they were deeply religious that were totally unaffiliated with any personification of God. They were basically just praising life. I realized that that was a place I wanted my music to go. I do embrace more of the doubt side of that sort of spirituality or whatever you want to call it. I like any song that worships being alive, that seeks truth. Those are the themes that I turn to internally, at least, I don’t know how often I communicate that, but that’s what I’m after.

WOUB: Could you tell me about the recording and writing of the Alternator EP? Did you actually record it while waiting for your alternator to be replaced?

MD: Those recordings were made prior to that experience, actually. They were recorded in a car, a Ford Conversion van that a recording engineer I know has. For a while he had it set up with a few reel-to-reel recorders. So I made the EP in the van, and I hadn’t released it yet when I found myself breaking down in Iowa on my way to New Orleans. I didn’t have enough money to finish the job on the car, so the EP seemed like a nice way to solicit some assistance to help me get back on the road.

WOUB: Have you been to Southeast Ohio before?

MD: I’ve never played in Nelsonville or in the area, but I’ve travelled through a lot. Mostly to Cleveland; the Beachland Ballroom is one of my favorite venues in the country. I have a lot of childhood memories in Cleveland because that is where my family would congregate for holidays; in a little suburb outside of Cleveland. I don’t know the south of the state too well but I’m looking forward to getting a new perspective.

WOUB: Are you working on any new material?

MD: Yes, actually we finished a record over a year ago and have been struggling to release it. Everything I have put out so far has been independently released, and this is the first time we accepted that we need a lot of help. We are really close to making the record happen, and with any luck it will be available in the fall.