Matthew de Heus prefers to acknowledge life’s under-the-radar moments.
The Bay City Americana singer-songwriter and bassist thoughtfully unveils those hidden milestones on his new hit-worthy anthology, Greatest Misses, out today.
“I had planned on having two releases. One was gonna be a new EP, but then I was gonna do what I initially called a Greatest Hits album, and it was almost self-deprecating,” said de Heus.
“I wanted to take some of the songs we had already done and put them on one album, so that people who wanted those could get them. I don’t reprint any of the old albums, they’re just gone … because that way if I ever do get famous, they’ll be worth a fortune.”
With Greatest Misses, de Heus assembles a priceless 15-track collection of multi-genre gems, including old favorites from prior releases and three new songs. Filled with melodic hooks, memorable lyrics and clever instrumentation, the album glides through country, power pop, jazz, blues and indie rock terrain.
“Traditionally, in pop music, and in the early days of rock and roll, you might put the same song on more than one album. That was part of it. Though I did want to throw those three new ones up front, I tried to still sequence it like an album, so it was a decent listen,” de Heus said.
“In way, this is almost like a second version of Silk Purses. Andy Reed called that my Goodbye Yellow Brick Road or White Album in the fact that every song is a different genre. Making the songs individually is one thing, but mixing and mastering them so they can sit next to each other on an album is another.”
The Milky Way and Bitter Rain
Throughout Greatest Misses, de Heus’ ear-catching tracks sit nicely and flow seamlessly together. The bluesy, Latin-fueled opener and latest single, “(You’re The) Milky Way,” chronicles a growing attraction between two prospective lovers.
Enamored acoustic guitar, reflective bass, radiant electric guitar, soft drums, intimate percussion and lounge-style synth reveal a star-crossed romance.
de Heus sings, “The midnight sky is a deeper shade of blue/It’s the perfect canvas to paint my plans for you/Masters and ancients felt the same way/It’s the kind of situation that makes a man pray/If my dreams are the moon and stars/You’re the Milky Way.”
“I saw video on YouTube from a pop band called Lawrence, and it just was them in a garage doing this scatty-rattin’ type of song they called ‘Gracie’s Song.’ I sent this to a friend, and I thought to myself, ‘Man, I don’t have any kind of Latin feel,’” said de Heus.
“It was before work one day, and I came up with this descending bassline that was just kind of standard Latin fare, and it had nothing to do with the song I heard. I thought to myself, ‘Well, what do I sing about?’ And then I realized this is a song about a dream girl … so I had to have something a lot sexier.”
de Heus also conveys that sensual feel in a new lyric video for “(You’re The) Milky Way,” which includes romantic images of the cosmos interspersed with a dancing love interest.
“I just put that together as a placeholder video. I have a real video being shot right now for it. I like doing that with these things now … you get noticed a lot more when you have a video for your song,” he said.
“I’ll probably create some more simple lyric videos for some of the older songs, even though four or five of them already have live action videos.”
Outside of “(You’re The) Milky Way,” de Heus searches for a connection closer to home on the new java power-pop anthem, “Song About You.” Buoyant electric guitar, bouncy bass, jingly tambourine, pounding drums, crashing cymbals, sunny acoustic guitar and jittery percussion echo de Heus’ caffeine-filled correspondence with a friend.
He sings, “Morning coffee/It’s 5 a.m./I’m up early, and I’m at it again/Ain’t exaggerating/I got nothing to prove/But in a moment of mercy/I find the right groove.”
“It’s talking about somebody you message every morning when you have coffee. A lot of people have that person they always check on through Facebook. You know … whoever’s first … chirp like a bird and make sure they’re still alive,” de Heus said.
“I also went through a phase of writing coffee songs, and this was one of them. I’ve got another one called ‘Coffee for Two’ that will show up on another album. It’s like a jazz song, and it’s a duet.”
After his caffeine pick-me-up, de Heus adopts a mellow mindset on his jazzy rendition of Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Right Round.” Relaxed electric guitar, subterranean bass, intermittent cow bell, thumping drums, shiny cymbals and sultry trumpet answer the call for mind-blowing love.
de Heus sings, “All I know is that to me/You look like a lot of fun/Open up your lovin’ arms/Watch out, here I come.”
“If you listen to this version of ‘You Spin Me Right Round,’ it’s a completely a different take. You should hear it the way the band does it, it’s nuts. We turn it on its head as a three-piece rock band. When that song came out, I had one reviewer who said it was superior to the original in every way,” he said.
de Heus continues to demonstrate his musical superiority on the contemplative “Bitter Rain,” a countrified perseverance ballad drenched in somber slide guitar, hammering drums, glistening cymbals, driving bass and lingering organ. He sings, “All those wasted years/All that hell I paid/I slayed so many sorrows/To get to this day.”
“There’s melancholy and hope in it; that’s the way that I put that song. Everybody’s been through heartbreak, and everybody gets better,” said de Heus, who originally included the track on 2018’s Silk Purses and 2020’s Mercy Me. “‘Bitter Rain’ has a good story behind it for another day, but that’s a fun one to sing and a fun one to play.”
Greatest Hits and Catfood Sandwich
For Greatest Misses, de Heus compiled and remastered the tracks with Andy Reed at Reed Recording Company in Bay City. The remastering process allowed the frequent collaborators to bring a cohesive sound to the album, which takes inspiration from childhood influences and past greatest hits collections.
“A lot of my influences are from my parents’ record collection, anywhere from Herb Alpert and Waylon Jennings to Johnny Cash. That’s all in there. My mom liked easy listening, including Charlie Rich and Frank Sinatra,” said de Heus, who grew up in Oscoda.
“Greatest hits albums used to be a thing, certainly in the record club era. If you were working on a limited budget, that’s how you got the songs you liked. Sometimes the artists we picked up on were already dead, so we decided to buy their hits because we were kicking around songs from the ‘60s and ‘70s.”
de Heus also kicks around an expansive canon of originals and covers with his live band, Catfood Sandwich. He performs every Sunday night with bandmates J Blum (vocals, guitar, various instruments) and John Scott (drums) at either White’s Bar in Saginaw or Bemo’s Bar in Bay City.
“J and I are the singer-songwriters in the band, and we’ll bring our own solo material in and work it up for the band. J’s been on some of the recordings with me and played guitar on some of them,” said de Heus, who co-formed the band in 2017.
“He also played the saxophone on ‘Never,’ and he did the guitar solo on ‘Gray.’ The songs have to be something that you can do in a three-piece band. Some of them are e a little bit elaborate for that.”
In the meantime, de Heus is focused on writing, recording and releasing new material, including two albums.
“I’ve talked with Andy Reed about doing a synthesizer-based country album. There’s no pressure for what we’re doing because we’re all very realistic about the range of results. And the result we want is a good-sounding record,” he said.
“I’m also working with my friend Rick Gellise to do a swing album with easy-listening tunes. We’ve worked together a lot before on things like ‘The Logical Conclusion’ and the big crooner songs like ‘Blue Moon’ and ‘Sea of Love.’ I’ve got a song called ‘All My Best Dreams Look Like You,’ and I’ve got that ‘Coffee for Two.’ We just want to do that together and maybe put 10 or 12 songs on an album.”