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Matt Jewett’s emotionally charged songs strike a brooding punk-rock chord

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Playing live is a matter of life or death for Oklahoma folk-punk troubadour Matt Jewett — sometimes, quite literally.

“It’s not an irregular occurrence for me to have an asthma attack on stage,” Jewett said. “That’s not hyperbole; I’ve had to call out and ask the audience if anyone had an inhaler because I was about to die. I should probably start carrying one.”

Jewett — along with bandmate and drummer Baylor Judd — can’t help but get wrapped up in the moment. Their impassioned performances have been honed and sharpened through years of playing American Legion and VFW Halls in straight-ahead punk and indie-rock bands. No need for amplification; just the raw, personal narratives he’s weaving in lyrically.

Violent Femmes, Say Anything, David Bazan and Kris Kristofferson all have proven essential to Jewett’s musical approach and aesthetic at various points in various years. It’s soul-baring, existential stuff just heavy enough to demand a little levity in the finer touches.

“I couldn’t get away with saying the things I say in some of our songs without my tongue being firmly planted in my cheek,” Jewett said, referring to a song titled “It’s Not That I Hate You, I Just Want You to Die” on his new EP, I Wish That I Liked You. “It’s like, I understand this is way too much of a heart-on-your-sleeve emotion. Sometimes I use humor to disengage from it being so serious.”

That streak of dark humor has been alive since he first started writing songs about girls and hating his parents at 15 years old on a bass guitar. Now, it goes deeper and broader than that, more the whys and hows of emotion and not just the what.

But there’s a fine line between sappy and heartfelt, between simple and elementary, and for the past two years, Jewett has been focusing his creative energies on being on the right side of each of those.

“I’ve figured out what my wheelhouse is,” Jewett said. “I know what kind of songs I write — the songs I’m good at writing, anyway. I want them to be taken seriously enough, but not enough to have people be like, ‘Who is this douchebag?’”

A sensitive guy unafraid to crack a joke or let out a roar, Jewett files nicely alongside the genre-straddling likes of Kevin Devine or Jesse Lacey. He has found a niche for himself on a local scale thanks to Jake Morisse (Black Canyon) and Red City Radio introducing Jewett to their respective fan bases.

He’s looking to expand that sooner rather than later, not only locally but across the Midwest. I Wish That I Liked You — comprised of songs that he has been wanting to release for well over a year — is being celebrated at Saturday’s release show with Brooklyn pop-punk act Chumped and Oklahoma rockers Lotta Tuff.

Jewett’s eyes will then be set on extensive national touring — at the very least up to Chicago and back, but ideally up to 70 dates through 2015.

That is, if Jewett doesn’t die on stage before then.

Print headline: Bleeding heart, Local singer-songwriter Matt Jewett’s emotionally charged songs strike a brooding punk-rock chord.

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