Have you heard the amazing music and lyrics of my talented friend Daniel Maté? If not, I am so excited to introduce you to him.
Daniel Maté is a musical theater composer, lyricist, sometime-librettist and singer/songwriter based out of Brooklyn via Vancouver, British Columbia.He composes on piano and guitar. Daniel’s theater writing includes: book and lyrics for The Trouble With Doug, composed by Will Aronson, a modern day adaptation of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis; music and lyrics for The Book of Jo-Beth with librettist Emily Kaczmarek, a modern day adaptation of The Book of Job (by God); and music and lyrics for a song cycle The Longing and the Short of It which received a workshop last year at Playwrights Horizons and a reading last month at Art Garage in Delray Beach, Florida.
This year he won the esteemed Kleban Award for Most Promising Musical Theater Lyricist. He is a graduate of the NYU Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program which is where we first met. Through various Facebook posts about our love for music as varied as Joni Mitchell and Megadeth, we eventually became friends and collaborators. I'm a fan and I want you to be, too. If you’re in New York, be sure to catch Daniel’s concert on July 15 (for more info, keep reading!).
Here's a video of me singing Daniel's song Misery Loves My Company, Daniel on keys:
When I asked Daniel how winning the Kleban has changed things for him, he acknowledged that it’s nice to be recognized but it forced him to say to himself “Okay Maté, let’s see what you can do now.” The first thing he did with the money was get a real piano. Then he quit his day job as a babysitter. Having the Kleban people recognize his potential felt like a clear message from the universe. “This thing you love doing that you do really well? Do that!”
When you listen to Daniel’s music writers like Randy Newman, Elvis Costello, and Stephen Sondheim spring to mind though he thinks of these writers more as inspiration than influence. His songs are funny, sophisticated, sad and self-effacing with hooky pop rhythms and alternative rock harmonics.
Actual influences are as varied as Joni Mitchell, Donald Fagen, Ani Difranco, Indigo Girls, Hall & Oates, Megadeth, Metallica, Soundgarden, and Wu Tang Clan. Through Daniel’s unique filter, these all merge and make perfect musical theater sense to the listener.
Here is our friend Jason Tam singing All I Want, Daniel on guitar:
Metal and Hip Hop have a certain theatricality that few contemporary musical theater writers have mined. Hip hop in particular has dramatically influenced Daniel’s lyric writing though he has written very few rap songs. He’s a master of internal rhymes, painting himself into lyrical corners quickly and then creating a musical release, a trick of a well skilled hip hop artist. Daniel feels that Hip Hop is another sort of brush in his musical/lyrical paintbox with which he can infuse his songs with a momentum and flow.
I asked Daniel what, to him, makes the difference between a singer/songwriter style song and a theater song. He replied, “What makes it a theater song is that an actor can elevate it”. He went on to say that the performer infuses the song with a sense of a character and that enhances the story telling, elevating it from just being "theatrical" to being Theater. Ultimately, this appreciation of collaboration is why he’s writing theater music. To connect. To feel that, even if one has written a song about loneliness or isolation or being a weirdo, the theater allows the song to reach out and touch people and allows the writer, the performer and the listener to feel included. “Here are some songs for all of us." Thanks, Daniel! We’re listening!
You can follow Daniel Maté on Twitter, Facebook or his website. And you can see him play his wonderful music LIVE with a band and special guests in his concert Song Moments on July 15 at the Signature Center on West 42nd. You can buy your tickets and get more info here.
Daniel singing Marry Me, America: