New York singer songwriter Matthew Siskin has released an intimate album, Trust, under the moniker Gambles. Its intensity is amplified by his heartfelt lyrics and the fact that his only musical accompaniment is an acoustic guitar.
Does the sparseness of the music direct the way you write lyrics in that your words are very exposed?
It’s not so much a choice and more just the way it happened. I started to write by singing and then writing down the words I spoke. I only use a guitar because I wasn’t playing in a band or anything and was alone most of the time – in the end I’m glad it turned out this way. I like things direct. I like a kick to the chest, and I like getting things off my chest. So I guess this is just the way I’ve learnt to do things for now.
Were people like Leonard Cohen or Damien Jurado influences on you?
I don’t really know Damien’s music but Leonard Cohen has always been an influence for me. Not even so much musically at first but just the way he wrote Beautiful Losers. At times it makes no sense but in there you can find all these hidden gems.
The whistling at the end of I Cry Out seems a little incongruous but was that a hopeful device?
I don’t know. I always smile at the worst moments. I think that runs deeper. I didn’t whistle to lighten the mood or anything – I think I did it just because the song needed it, and if my hands were busy strumming, well, I guess the whistle just sort of happened naturally.
Has there been a catharsis through this album and do you now see your life differently?
Completely. I am in a very different place. When I wrote them, it was the feeling of being locked away from someone unable to speak and then suddenly someone says: “OK they will take your phone call.” I moved through things by making this record, for sure. It’s not all sad and black clouds. I’m a pretty happy guy these days, if a little moody at times – but who ain’t?
Do you feel that musicians always exist in cliques in order to survive?
I’m not sure if it’s survival. We all need to relate to other people. If I drove a cab, I’d probably be friends with other cab drivers. People flock to those they find a common thread with. I am lucky to have the friends I do – musicians or otherwise – because they keep me alive.