Matt Hires rocks new and old songs at UW-Eau Claire

Performing new features and old favorites, Hires and company lit up The Cabin

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Photo by Hillary Smith

Matt Hires led the four person group with vocals and guitar to a full house at The Cabin.

Barely a breath separated each song as Matt Hires and his three bandmates filled the room with the kind of music that reverberates in your chest.

The pop/rock style for which Hires is known was evident in the high-tempo show Saturday night. But the upbeat songs and relentless energy was balanced by casual conversation between Hires, his bandmates and the audience.

The Oct. 15 performance at The Cabin was the second time Hires has been to Eau Claire, prompting him to check if his pronunciation of “Eau Claire” was correct and asking the audience an age old question:

“What is a Blugold, anyways?”

Along with anecdotes of performances past and explanations behind song inspirations, Hires encouraged the audience to check out his most recent work.

Hires released his third full album “American Wilderness” Oct. 14. While his past music focused mostly on relationships, Hires said his new album wrestles with faith, culture and identity in America.

“I tried to explore a lot of new themes in the record,” Hires said, “and write songs in a way that I hadn’t really written them before.”

The first half of the show was comprised of mostly new songs. Hires said his favorite song on the album is “Don’t Let Your Heart Grow Cold” because it provides a place for his ideas to land, achieving a sort of resolution after grappling with tough topics.

After showcasing the newer material, Hires pulled out some classics to the delight of some audience members.

River Falls resident Norm Walker brought his two kids and a neighbor girl, all 10 years old or younger. They were originally planning on going to Hires’ Minneapolis performance, he said, but it was a 21-plus show so they decided to come to Eau Claire instead.

Walker said he likes Hires’ acoustic performances the best because it showcases his natural sound.

“To me, a good artist is an artist that sounds just as good live as they do in studio and sometimes, even better,” Walker said.

Abby Deneen, a sophomore nursing student at Eau Claire, had a similar opinion. She said her favorite part of the show was when Hires and company stepped out from behind the microphones to deliver an acoustic rendition of “Restless Heart,” one of his most popular songs.

“I love when bands do that because then you can hear the real song,” Deneen said.

Hires said he enjoys performing in smaller venues like The Cabin because it allows for more audience interaction and flexibility in the setlist.

Eau Claire was a halfway point for Hires and his bandmates along a five-week long nationwide tour for “American Wilderness.”

This album is a milestone for Hires in more ways than one: Of his three albums and multiple EPs, this is the first to be independently produced.

He advised aspiring artists to keep creating, no matter what obstacles they may encounter.

“Whatever music, or whatever art you’re making, make something that you are super stoked about,” Hires said. “Don’t worry about anyone else’s expectations or anything like that.”

“American Wilderness” and other music by Hires is available on Spotify, Apple Music and in some stores including Best Buy and Target.