The High Key Portrait Series: Matt Cappy

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Matt Cappy | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Matt Cappy | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in biweekly installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

Philly brass-man Matt Cappy will be dropping his debut album Church And State from Ropeadope Records on June 16th. It’ll be available everywhere digitally, but you can grab an advance hard copy at his CD release party at 2300 Arena in South Philly on June 8th.

Cappy cut his teeth at Philly’s jazz clubs, but has since blown a trumpet on everything from R&B, neo-soul, indie rock and ska, hip-hop and jazz records. He’ll kick off a tour next month supporting compatriot neo-soul singer Jill Scott, and representing Philly as far west as LA’s Hollywood Bowl.

Matt Cappy | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Matt Cappy | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

THE KEY: Are you a Philly native, or Philly transplant?

MATT CAPPY: I am a Philly native — East Philly, that is, by way of Berlin, New Jersey, 15 miles east of the city. Berlin was a stop on the horse-and-buggy route to the [Jersey] shore, and used to be called “Long-A-Coming.”

TK: Did you go to high school in Philly? Tell me a little bit about high school, what do you remember first/most, when you think about it?

MC: I went to high school at Overbrook High in Pine Hill, NJ, Camden County. I remember it being a true “real-life” education, all walks of life and very diverse for a suburb school. Also had an award-winning music program. Our jazz band were NJ state champs many times over.

TK: How did you first get connected to the Philly music scene?

MC: I first connected to the Philly Music scene post-graduating from The University of The Arts. I knew some musicians playing at Wilamena’s (the old Zanzibar [Blue] at 11th & Pine) on Thursday nights and started sitting in. Some of the musicians playing there were a part of Jill Scott’s first band, and not long after I became a member of Jill’s band, “Fatback Taffy.”

Matt Cappy | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Matt Cappy | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

TK: Who’s your favorite Philadelphia artist, or which Philly artist influenced you most?

MC: I’ve had two trumpet mentors in my life who taught me and guided me from a young age through college. Both where first-call session and theater players in town and great teachers, and cared and were like second fathers: Joe Fallon and Rick Kerber. Both have passed on unfortunately, but I know they are with me in my musical journey, which they helped create.

TK: Where did you play your first show in Philly? How did it feel to be on stage that night, looking back on that show?

MC: My first shows in Philly were all due to The Freakin’ Cads, an original ska band i was a member of in the mid- to late-’90s. We played big shows at the TLA, Trocadero, Khyber, Pontiac Grille, Abilene’s and Y100’s Music Fest at the Camden Waterfront Shed. My first show was probably at The Middle East at 2nd and Chestnut. A bunch of these clubs don’t exist now.

TK: Which Philly music venue is or was your favorite to play at, and why?

MC: The Tin Angel, which just closed, was a favorite. Got to play one of the last shows with longtime friends Marah, who I’ve recorded with since 1999. I also really enjoy playing the Trocadero stage — love the height and the feel! Many great shows there, including “The Last Waltz” recreation a couple years back for Thanksgiving.

Matt Cappy | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Matt Cappy | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

TK: What did you love most about the arts scene in Philly?

MC: I like growing my music and trumpet brand in Philly. Great musicians to play with!

TK: What did you find most frustrating about trying to create, perform, or grow as an artist in Philadelphia?

MC: Like everything in Philly — including the arts scene — there is no gray area, just black or white. “I loved you!,” or “I think you stink!” [laughs] So humbling. But [it] can be used as a good growing tool.

TK: Which neighborhoods have you lived in? Which made you want to live there forever? Which couldn’t you wait to leave?

MC: I lived in the “Art Museum area.” I enjoyed it very much! Centrally located and a nice mix of neighborhood, business, museums. I’ve always wanted to live in Queen Village or Old City.

TK: How did you see the city change in your time living here? Has it been for the better?

MC: The city has changed SOOOOO MUCH!!!!  I say Philly has actually “realized itself,” and is just starting to grow up, really. I remember walking to Fergie’s pub when it just opened, on a dark 13th street, where between Walnut and Sansom some stuff was going down — I would just keep my head down and walk fast…

TK: What was your preferred means for getting around Philly – bike, walk, SEPTA, drive – and why?

MC: Walk or drive.

TK: PBC or Yards?

MC: Yards! Great stuff!

Matt Cappy’s Church and State is out on June 16th via Ropeadope Records. Grab a pre-order of the album here, and see Cappy live at South Philly’s 2300 Arena on June 8th. More info on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.

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