With his upcoming second solo record, Stratosphere, Matt Sorum knows that he's throwing his audience a curve. From the steel-guitar flavored, Americana-tinged opener The Sea to the elegiac piano-and-strings-laced ballad Josephine to the dramatic, church organ-driven title track closer, it's a stylistic country mile from the widescreen hard rock of Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver and The Cult, all of whom have been powered by Sorum's robust, world-class drum chops.
"I've always loved singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, people who can take you right inside their feelings," he explains. "All the songs on this album started out on a piano or acoustic guitar, and I think that's what gives them an intimate sound. I wanted to do something that was straight from my heart, something that I could feel confident about singing at this stage in my life."
While Sorum admits that it might take a minute for some of his fans to adjust to the sight of him strumming a guitar and fronting a band (he calls his new outfit Matt Sorum's Fierce Joy), he notes that singing doesn't come unnaturally to him. "A lot of times, I was the only guy who could sing in key except for the lead vocalist," he says. "Backgrounds and harmonies would usually fall on my shoulders. My mom was a vocal coach, so I grew up being surrounded by singing.”
Sorum recorded Stratosphere in his home studio during the bulk of last year with an ear toward creating a sustained album experience. He hopes, in some way, that the disc might harken back to the records of his youth. "People are over-stimulated these days," he says. "They jump around and can’t focus on any one thing anymore. When I was a kid, listening to a record was so important. My entire day was built around it. There's something deeply human about those albums. They were made by people together in rooms, cutting to tape – listening to them, it's like you were there. If I can try to give somebody that same feeling with my music, then I've really succeeded."
Matt Sorum's Fierce Joy's Stratosphere will be released on March 11th. You can pre-order the album at this link. On the following pages, Sorum runs down his picks for 10 "life-changing" albums.