by Porter Byers
This May, a three-day music and arts festival will take place at a secret location in New Hampshire. Art aficionados, dedicated fans, and the highly curious from the four corners of the globe will flock to an undisclosed seaside town to experience multimedia creativity in-person.
I am nearly hesitant to say the artist’s name. I feel as though I am part of an exclusive scene. Sure, he has been profiled in major newspapers, magazines, and blogs big and small. He has performed on television, to crowds, and someone even wrote a book about him. You may have come across his work on Spotify or YouTube when searching for a song about a very specific person, place, thing, or even a life event or emotion. But most people do not grasp the extent of his passion for creating, performing, and connecting directly with his adoring fans.
As much as his fans appreciate the ability, available for now at least, to text him or call him, it seems an imbalance that the whole world is not enjoying the work of Matt Farley on a daily basis. The man behind Motern Media, Farley’s hub for all of his output, spoke with Live Music Daily about his career and his approach to music and performing.
This wouldn’t be a story about Matt Farley without running through the numbers. By my count, which is surely low or outdated, he has released more than 23,000 songs under 74 different bands and pseudonyms. He has written, produced, directed and starred in 13 movies. He has written a book on his process that serves as an instructional and motivational manual for other creators. Although the practice has since ceased, he wrote an additional 2,000 custom songs for paying clients over the past five years. And don’t forget the podcast.
Perhaps most importantly, Farley is scheduled to host his sixth Motern Extravaganza. Night one will be a movie screening, perhaps even the world premiere of his latest endeavor, Magic Spot. On day two, his live ensemble, the Motern Manly Band will play at least 50 songs. The festival will wrap up with a beach party on Sunday.
While the familiarity many people have with his music extends to songs about cities and towns or toilet humor, his live performances feature work from his entire career, including what he calls his “no jokes albums.” Emotional numbers like “Nice Dress” and “Tours of Duty / Tours de Force” can be heard alongside “Last Poop of the Night.” Farley says “about 1 in 10” songs in any given set are poop-related.
But Farley doesn’t tour. “I’m trying to start the revolution of staying home…I’m a big fan of pilgrimages.” Like people go to New Orleans for its jazz or Chicago for its blues, he prefers his fans come to him . A short drive from the New Hampshire coast, Farley hails from Danvers, Massachusetts, where he had a residency before the pandemic. Their last show was on Leap Day 2020 following a wild performance at nearby Tufts University the night before.
“I don’t want to be playing in clubs for people who don’t know who I am and try to win over a crowd.” He wants his performances to be a destination. “If you’re going to visit New England, there’s probably a Motern show while you’re visiting you should go check it out.” Not surprisingly, he also won’t be doing any livestreams for his fans around the world. He appreciates the human element in music and believes it should be shared in-person by performer and audience – so much so that he doesn’t know or care what brands of equipment he uses in his home studio.
Growing up on easy listening, some of his first loves were Barry Manilow, Air Apply, and Billy Joel. He’s seen Dylan over a dozen times. “I have this innate love of sweet melodies that I can’t undo.” This inspiration is audible throughout his work, like his band The Big Heist’s “A Thousand Times” or “You Don’t Get Me to Kick Around No More.”
If you’re looking for a broad sampling of the depths and heights of his catalog, check out the 9 ½ hours of music available on the Official Motern Media Playlist. Most of his songs average 2 minutes in length, though he did once record a 23-minute song called “Doorknob” about unfinished projects.
Above all, Farley is constantly moving forward, an ambitious man whose goals and challenges he sets for himself are reflective of his work but extend beyond music or movies. How long can he bear to wear shorts after winter starts before switching to pants? How high can he throw a ball directly above himself and catch it with the same hand? Can he complete two 20-mile walks each week no matter what?
“I revel in failure a little bit…I embrace grandiose dreams.” We spoke ahead of his fifth festival this January, when only 7 people had purchased tickets. “Frankly that’s a miracle,” Farley said. “I am going to lose a few hundred dollars on this but it’s totally worth it to perform for a small group of people who actually want to hear my songs.”
As fans of live music, we couldn’t understand that sentiment any better.