The Tallest Man On Earth
The Tallest Man on Earth. Quite the misleading name, actually. Especially for a man whose physical appearance contradicts the stereotypical Swedish stereotype of a tall blonde. No, this Swedish folk singer/songwriter stands five-foot-nine with brown hair and sings with a whimsical confidence that is evidenced by the ironies of his stage name. The Tallest Man on Earth may be Scandinavian, but he has the soul of a true American folk musician.
Born in Leksand, a small town in central Sweden, Kristian Matsson was just like any other young music lover. He began playing guitar when he was young, first dabbling in classical and then stopping when it became too monotonous for him. At fifteen years old, Matsson was introduced to the extensive musical catalog of Bob Dylan and although Matsson is always the first to shoot down any comparisons between the two, it’s safe to say that Dylan was Matsson’s greatest musical influence. Within thirty seconds of listening to The Tallest Man on Earth, the similarities to Bob Dylan’s style jump right out at you. The simple, yet intricate guitar riffs and melodies, the distinctive and almost out-of-tune vocals, as well as the emotionally charged and self-aware lyrics of love, loss, and personal growth are all present. Maybe he was born in the wrong country in the wrong decade, maybe not. Either way, the elements of traditional American folk music run through Matsson’s veins.
But it’s not all tradition from Matsson. He is just one of many Swedish artists to draw upon American styles of music and put a personal spin on it. It’s important to realize that Matsson’s music is not just Bob Dylan reborn; he is also a modern artist. His songs are original and musically unique. Just listen to his 2010 album The Wild Hunt, which is my favorite. Each song is a window into not only The Tallest Man on Earth as an artist, but also as Kristian Matsson as a person. Matsson opens up to his listeners and reveals his true self through his music. Many songs come with themes of running away and Matsson sings with such a deep, tortured honesty. Matsson seems to interpret Dylan, inflecting his music with his own Swedish roots. Please listen this album. It plays through so well from start to finish. His singing and playing are so bright, even when the musical themes turn dark. The Tallest Man on Earth is a spry and sophisticated artist that is a pleasure to listen to.
In interviews, it’s refreshing to see Matsson’s modesty. He answers questions in such a matter-of-fact way, almost with a sense of uncomfortability. It’s like he’s trying to steer the attention from away from himself and toward his music. Matsson is not here to talk. He just wants to play and to sing his music. Matsson is so passionate about his own creativity. He strives to make himself better with each subsequent performance and album. For example, Matsson presents his vocals with way more confidence and strength on his later works than on his earlier ones. His career, which really took off in 2008 when he was able to go on tour with Bon Iver, is blossoming quickly. The Tallest Man on Earth has become a recognized name for any independent music fan and if you’re not a fan of the genre I still recommend that you check him out. His studio releases get better as he matures as an artist and we can definitely expect big things from The Tallest Man on Earth in the future.
By David Cooper