The package may be different, but Matisyahu says the message is still the same.
Prior to last year's "Spark Seeker," his four studio album, Matisyahu shed his traditional Jewish Hassidic garments and dyed his hair yellow for a more secular appearance. But he says that hasn't changed the purpose of his music.
"It's an evolution," explains Matisyahu, 34, who was born Matthew Paul Miller and raised in White Plains, N.Y., joining the Lubavitch movement and changing his name when he was 19. "It's a continuation from where I left off in terms of content. It's similar themes that I deal with in most of my songs -- about self-discovery, about the redemptive process and about spirituality and all of those different things.
"The musical aspect of it is sort of this blending between a Middle Eastern kind of organic, very mysterious, earthy tones and sounds with a crisp, pop, urban, fresh, more of a hip-hop feel to it. It's got a lot of stuff in it."
Key to the sonic direction, Matisyahu adds, is Kool Kojak, a Brazilian-American producer and songwriter who worked on the track "Sunshine" from Matisyahu's previous album, 2009's "Light," and took on a more extensive role for "Spark Seeker."
"AFter we wrote 'Sunshine,' whenever I was in L.A. we continued the relationship and I would work with him and we would write songs," Matisyahu says. "We were just having a great time in the studio, having a lot of fun and just really enjoying the process. Before long we had seven, eight songs done, and then Kojak mentioned that he wanted to go to Israel, he'd never been there before.
"So we went to Israel and took a studio for a couple of weeks and had a whole bunch of Israeli musicians come in and we wrote a recorded a ton of music over there. We brought that back and decided this was going to be the next record, so we finished it together. It wasn't planned, but it came together very organically, which is always what you hope for."
Matisyahu performs at Back To School Palooza, sponsored by the anti-bullying organization Defeat the Label, at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 2, at the Crofoot Ballroom, 1 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac. Tickets are $28.50 in advance, $30 day of show with a $100 VIP level. Call (248) 858-9333 or visit www.thecrofoot.com.
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