Matisyahu, a Hasidic Jew and a reggae artist based in New York, incorporates the strong ties he has to his faith in his lyrics; all the while blending tones of hip-hop and rock into what has become his distinct style. His third album, Light, is the follow up to his 2006 breakout album Youth. Light was released in August after a two year gap, the longest Matisyahu has ever spent recording an album. Now in the midst of a multi-continental tour in support of the album, Matisyahu will be stopping in Montreal to preform at the Olympia Theatre.
Q: The music of Light is influenced by a number of genres, but what influenced you lyrically?
A: A story called The Seven Beggars by a Hasidic Rabbi, Nachman of Breslov. It’s basically about a king who gives his son a kingdom and tells him that one day, he will lose it. When the invaders came, the people of the kingdom fled and two children got lost. Together, they meet seven beggars. Each has something that is seen as a weakness: one’s blind, one’s deaf, but in the end, they realize each weakness is actually a strength. There are a lot of Kabbalah and deep ideas in the Jewish spiritual tradition [in the story].
Q: Did you make a conscious decision to write hopeful songs on this album?
A: That’s just a part of the kind of person I am. I didn’t sit down and decide I wanted to make a hopeful album. It’s just an organic result of my personality.
Q: You have said you wanted to “rediscover your natural voice.” What do you mean by that?
A: Everyone’s voice is different. I was influenced by Bob Marley and Sizzla in the beginning. In the last four years I listened to different things and tried to incorporate them. It’s like a guitar player &- they have different tones they can use. Early on, I had trouble keeping by voice.
Q: How would you describe your experience working with a group like Dub Trio?
A: I don’t know if you knew this, but two out of three [members] are Canadian. They are an amazing band. No one can do what they do with dub music, which came out of Jamaica in the 1970s. Their feel and style is unique. Last winter, we did an improvisational show in Brooklyn. I was moved by their music and their style. It felt good for them too, being an instrumental band with no vocalist. I said, “Let’s take my songs, old and new, but not reconstruct them.” I would say, “I don’t really love the feel of this,” and they would develop the songs based on what they thought.
Q: How did the deal with NBC to use your latest single, “One Day,” in their Olympic advertisements come about?
A: I’m not really sure, I guess they heard the song and liked the message. I think the song illustrates the Olympics. The whole idea is that people come together for this one event, and the basis of the song is to come together, so it feels great.
Catch Matisyahu Nov. 29 at the Olympia Theatre.