WHO IS HE? He’s the enchanting wizard of rhythm. Wait. That’s Beck. You can call him “the next Bob Dylan” all you want, but Bob Dylan never even approached this vocal aptitude (and I’ve been vocal in my defense for Dylan’s vocals). Some say he’s got a “Dylan-esque croon.” I can see that I guess.
Anyway, it is highly improbable that ANYONE will ever be the next Bob Dylan period. It’s more likely that there will be a next Michael Jordan than a next Bob Dylan. But I digress, and I’ve now said “Bob Dylan” enough to hugely increase my SEO. His name, by the way, is Kristian Matsson and he’s 5’5. The Washington Post described him as “less a towering titan than an ex-jockey on his way to audition for Grease.” He says he chose the moniker, The Tallest Man on Earth, because:
“I needed a great name. I needed that name to force myself to write good enough songs and make good enough performances. If the songs weren’t good enough, or the crowd didn’t like me, then the name would seem stupid. To make that name seem right, I have to try and be amazing.”
And amazing he is. “The Wild Hunt,” a good strum style example:
He grew up among the placid lakes, dense woods and rolling hills of the Dalarna region of Sweden, northwest of Stockholm. He says that coming from such a beautiful place, and growing up riding his bike through those woods “stays with you.”
STYLE and INFLUENCES: Matsson’smusical style is described a LOT of ways. He first heard Bob Dylan at fifteen, and became slowly exposed to early American folk, such as Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. But he is careful to say, “I don’t consider my work to be a part of any tradition. This is how I play. This is how I write songs.”
Matsson had classical guitar training in his youth, but says he “never really focuses on it” and that by the end of high school he even “got bored playing guitar because it was like math.” In his early twenties, he discovered open tunings listening to Nick Drake. Open tunings allowed him to focus on singing and perform intricate music.
“I’ve always tried to pick the guitar like the old blues guys, like Skip James, Son House, Booker White. Try as I might, I never succeeded in playing like them. But, all of a sudden, one night I realized that I could use the energy of those songs to fill my own songs. I made one song, then another one came, then another one. It was effortless, like I finally found my way to make music.”
A Swede playing the blues? It works. His songwriting and delivery–his performance–is as authentic as they come, more than the sum total of his influences. Just listen to the picking here: