Matt Sharp has spent the past couple of years as far removed from his past as possible.
Wanting to "disconnect and cut all ties to the music world," he moved to the tiny town of Leipers Fork, Tennessee, about an hour outside of Nashville. His days consisted mainly of eating at Puckett's — Leipers Fork's only restaurant — and feeding a retired horse named Marshall.
"It was just wide-open landscape. I was left to my own devices," Sharp said. "I lived on Old Hillsboro Road, a couple miles down from a judge. He had a couple of buffalo that were his pride and joy. There was very little out there."
He had also set up a recording studio in his house, to "write and record ideas" for a solo record (see "Matt Sharp Preps Solo LP, Talks Weezer Lawsuit"). Burnt out from touring and recording with his two previous bands, Weezer and the Rentals, he wanted to make music on his own. In 2003 he released a four-song EP, Puckett's Versus the Country Boy, and then earlier this year he produced a somber, self-titled full-length. It's modest, lo-fi folk music that's a far cry from the big guitars of Weezer or the silly electronics of the Rentals.
"When I was 23 and Weezer was starting, I was really completely invested in what we were doing and believed in it," he said. "It was the kind of music that was the most honest thing I could make. And I just feel like that's what I'm doing now. And that's what I've always wanted to do."
Of course, honesty doesn't always translate to big success. For Sharp, being honest has essentially meant that he's had to start over. He now tours the country with his manager and friends, playing at colleges and indie record shops, a far cry from Weezer's arena jaunts around the globe, though on Thursday he played at Music Millennium, a Portland, Oregon, record store that he had previously played "eons ago with the Weezer guys."
It seems that no matter where Matt Sharp goes — from Leipers Fork to Portland, and pretty much all points between — he can't escape Weezer. And despite suing the band for publishing royalties back in 2002 (a matter that has since been resolved), it doesn't seem like he's really trying all that hard to avoid his Weezerian legacy. At a solo show in Fullerton, California, earlier this year, he was joined onstage by mercurial Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo.
"I've reopened friendships and dialogs with the guys in Weezer. The thing that is apparent to me is that since we went our separate ways, there's certainly been some sort of void in my creative life," Sharp said. "Since then I've thought about it, and I'm looking for people who can embrace different attempts at ways that might satisfy my needs."
In February 2004, about the same time Cuomo joined Sharp onstage, the two were getting together every Saturday afternoon and working on new songs. The goal was making a record together. And though Sharp speaks fondly of the sessions, he stops short of saying the songs will ever see the light of day ... and he's not sure he really wants or needs them to.
"Rivers is a person who is always searching for the answer to something, and he goes after that solution with all his might. And if for a moment he thought writing with me was the answer, he was going to go into it wholeheartedly," Sharp said. "If he could ever find the answer, he has a real good chance of making some incredible music. As for me, I'm just grateful for anybody that decides they're going to spend time with me at a show or listen to the music that I've made."