As best I can remember, I’ve been a fan of Matt Nathanson since around 2003. He’s an American singer-songwriter who’s got twelve studio albums and a rabid cult following, but he’s never hit mainstream radio. This is partly by choice, as he made one album for a major label in 2003 called Beneath These Fireworks, but decided that he wanted to remain independent and retain more control over his music.
If you know him at all, it’s likely because of the country duo Sugarland. They covered his song “Come on Get Higher” on their 2008 album Love on the Inside. Two years later they recorded the duet “Run” that appeared on Nathanson’s Modern Love album. Sugarland and Matt Nathanson sang it live at the 2010 CMA Awards.
I’ve seen Nathanson half a dozen times over the years, starting at the now defunct Rex Theater in Pittsburgh, a casualty of the pandemic. He’s energetic and puts his heart and soul into every performance.
But this is the story of the song he wouldn’t sing.
In 2008 he recorded a song called “Bulletproof Weeks” on his Some Mad Hope album. It’s a breakup song—the kind of breakup that leaves scars that never quite heal. I know I saw him tour Some Mad Hope, and I can’t remember if he sang “Bulletproof Weeks” back in 2008.
But by 2015, he was touring his new album Show Me Your Fangs, and he when he solicited requests from the audience, someone called out “Bulletproof Weeks.”
It’s a great song, and I wanted to hear it. But he got a look on his face, and he said quite candidly that he didn’t sing that song anymore because it was too painful.
And so we all moved on, and I figured I’d never hear “Bulletproof Weeks” live again.
But there’s a final plot twist. In my first concert since the pandemic, I saw Matt Nathanson last Thursday night at the Homestead Carnegie Library and Music Hall, the same venue I saw him when he declined to sing “Bulletproof Weeks.”
It was a tour that was celebrating the 15th anniversary of Some Mad Hope. He told the story of each song on the album as he sang them. The album was primarily the true life retelling of a torrid affair he had in 2005 that ended badly and nearly wrecked his marriage.
He said that back then he was a narcissist and an asshole, and believed he couldn’t change.
“But that was a long time ago,” he said.
And then he played “Bulletproof Weeks.”
As best I can tell (since he’s quite private about his personal life on the internet) he’s still married to the same woman and they now have a twelve-year old daughter.
He changed when he thought he couldn’t, his wife forgave when she probably thought she couldn’t, and I heard a song live I never thought I’d hear again.
When does a story end? How does it end? Are you at the end?
You just never know.