Tree of life 

Orlando singer-songwriter Andy Matchett at the crossroads

click to enlarge JASON GREENE
  • Jason Greene

Andy Matchett & the Minks


with the Pauses, the Darling Cavaliers, Potsie
7 p.m. Saturday, April 16

House of Blues, 

407-934-2583

hob.com

$5

It’s lunchtime on a Thursday on Mills Avenue and a striking woman named Dinah holds local singer Andy Matchett’s hands in hers. She runs her fingers over his palms imperceptibly, her blonde hair tightly gathered in a ponytail that runs down her tanned neck. She relaxes when she finally looks into his eyes. No wonder: Matchett resembles the baby-faced Charlie Sheen of the ’80s. His slight grin gives her permission to give him the bad news.

“You’re lonely,” she says, clipping the last word off at the tail. Now that she’s allowed herself to be absorbed by him, she begins the job that Andy and I have come to her for. Dinah’s a psychic. Her office overflows with semi-spiritual tchotchkes – crystal balls, colored quartz, a Buddha statue. She’s survived 25 years at the same location without the need for a dog-and-pony show. She wears a crisp white polo shirt and watches the Food Network between clients. Matchett, despite his penchant for lyrics like, “When life needs me to screech through the tunnel to heaven / I won’t fear it,” has a cordial disregard for the supernatural. They’re perfect together.

Matchett can be something of a psychic himself. Outside Dinah’s office, he confidently 
tells me that I have a son and a daughter, and the son is older. He holds his hands up for a millisecond, as if receiving signals from the ether, then points to my car where a flowery baby seat and a blue, no-nonsense booster chair reveal themselves in the light. OK, he’s observant. Dinah said as much. “You pay attention to people,” she offered moments before, “but you give too much of yourself.” She must have heard his album.

Released last summer, Matchett’s debut full-length, The Apple Tree Circle, constituted a sea change for the 31-year-old husband and father of two. Growing up on, yes, Apple Tree Circle near Universal Studios, he never felt like he belonged in the college-rock world he admired (the standard suburban angst without a cause) and the feeling extended to his highly acclaimed Tallahassee band, Monorail. (He went to Florida State University.) Upon moving to Orlando, Matchett developed a reputation as a musical special guest-star, filling gaps where needed in his friends’ bands, including the now-defunct XOXO/Mother Night. In recent years, he says, he’s faced a creeping self-awareness regarding his station in life. He tries to balance his day job as a trucking company salesman with his nightlife on stage, but with a family to provide for, the latter seems less and less likely to sustain him. He remembers his parents at the same point in their lives. His father was a science fiction writer, his mother an artist. He remembers the turning point for them. It wasn’t pretty: They destroyed almost all of their work. Matchett saved one piece of his mother’s art. It hangs on his wall.

“My parents were very creative,” he says later that night over a beer at Little Fish Huge Pond in Sanford. “And at some point they resigned [themselves] to more of a consumerist lifestyle, and I didn’t want to be a part of that.” He stops himself and laughs. “I didn’t think I wanted it. Put it like that. Even my wife – she was living on a floor doing nothing but painting when I met her. Now she’s a mom and she’s passionate about that. This love pulls you back into the circle, whether you like it or not.”

He thought about his own children: What can they hold onto before it all falls away like some remembered past life that Dinah might describe for a client? “You were a rock star once, and happy.”

Matchett recalls one moment with total clarity where the two – the family he has now and the musician he might’ve been – were mutually exclusive. He takes a sip from his bottle of Holy Mackerel and a puff from his cigarette and says, simply, “March 12, 2002.”

He launches into a captivating retelling of the day he received a call from an Atlantic Records A&R rep proclaiming interest in Monorail. The band was on the road on their way to SXSW. At some point, Atlantic suggested that they tweak their sound to be more commercially viable and Matchett balked. He wonders, today, why he did. After all, their sound, he realizes looking back, wouldn’t have required much tweaking. And he could have been making money.

There was one other mitigating factor: On the exact same day as that call, he met his future wife. For all of his hindsight regret when he remembers that A&R rep, this part of the story makes it crystal clear how he feels about his choices: He lights up, sits up straighter in his seat, grins wider and spins a fantastic yarn of serendipitous romance that isn’t practiced so much as it is embedded, vivid. It’s a tale of glances and second chances. “She was there on the wrong night, and we were playing instead,” he concludes proudly.

There was never a choice. The band canceled their SXSW appearance, waved off their major-label courtier and eventually disbanded. Matchett never left the girl’s side.

“I feel like there was this race between family and career, and career didn’t quite make it,” he says. “It really feels like it’s time to close it, but at the same time, this is the most comfortable I’ve ever felt as an artist.”

The Apple Tree Circle, produced by the inimitable Justin Beckler, has its share of rollicking anthems that sound suspiciously like something from MTV’s 120 Minutes in the ’90s: power-pop with existential yearnings crunchy enough to not sound like they just came out of a department store. There’s that, for a couple of tracks, at least. But from the midpoint to the end – in fact, hit “repeat” and watch how it bleeds into the first track, as well – those are for Andy Matchett. And for his wife, to whom he recalls a recurring nightmare. And for his daughter, his “daylily.” And for his parents, who threw it away for reasons he’s afraid to understand too clearly. So naked are his songs that it can be embarrassing to listen to. In some sadistic way, he probably knows this. That’s why he dribbles out confessions in torturously slow couplets: “The way / you look / and think / and fuck / are nice,” he smirks on album closer “Blind Owl.”

It’s for the Minks, too, but in a different way. He admits that Dinah got it right when she said (or read) that he has problems managing people. It’s why he avoids management at the trucking company in favor of being on his own in sales. And it’s why he doesn’t mind the slightly Pips-esque feel to having his name at the forefront of his band’s moniker while his band members – guitarist Roger Docking, pianist Kelly McGuire, bassist Abraham Couch, drummer Patrick O’Neal and Yvette Kastor on strings – share the term “Minks” – which happens to be his wife’s family name. Although he genuinely likes his band – he won’t work with anyone he doesn’t mesh with – he’s not interested in repeating mistakes of the past and competing for the spotlight.

“Why do people see you?” Matchett asks Dinah. “What do they get out of it?”

“Curiosity,” she says, peering over his shoulder at the journalist taking notes. The session is technically over, and she wants to know how she did. “So what do you do?”

“I work for a trucking company during the day and play music at night.”

She nods. She mentions a vision of Disney, of Matchett with a rat-pack fedora on his head for no reason.

“There are five people that are very impressed,” she offers. Matchett hopes that’s not all, as this week’s gig – at Disney’s House of Blues, ahem – is no closet space.

“You’ll make the music work,” she offers, and he should be relieved. Instead, he just nods. Maybe he will. Maybe that door closed long ago, on March 12, 2002, when something more powerful than Dinah was at play. Either way, he has an album to give to his kids, and for the time being, he gets to be a rock star at Disney, fedora or no. Maybe there’s something to these readings, he thinks. Dinah bursts his bubble.

“Your throat chakra is fantastic.” Matchett looks at the journalist.

“Ready to go?”

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