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Fans rediscovering a ‘new’ Vertical Horizon

UNDER THE SUN 2013: SMASH MOUTH; SUGAR RAY; GIN BLOSSOMS; VERTICAL
HORIZON; FASTBALL
♦ 6 p.m. July 20
♦ Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake-Cook Roads, Highland Park
♦ Tickets, $27-$65
♦ (847) 266-5000; ravinia.org

Maps

Updated: August 20, 2013 6:10AM



It was 2003 and it was raining and Vertical Horizon front man Matt Stillwell was walking around the streets of Chicago depressed.

Fresh off the success of his band’s breakout single, “Everything You Want,” this was the day that Vertical Horizon would release its highly anticipated follow-up album, “Go.”

“Clive Davis had just taken over RCA Records, and we knew he was not a fan of our band and certainly didn’t like me or our music much,” recalls Stillwell of the fateful day in the trajectory of the band.

“We knew this album was going to virtually end up stillborn. I remember walking around to seven different record stores that day and finding only one copy of the new album.”

So Stillwell went where most people in Chicago go when they are a tad depressed and uninspired: to the museum.

“Here I was, surrounded by all of this magnificent art [at the Art Institute of Chicago], and I realized that I needed to pull it together,” he recalls. “I realized that here on this day and at that museum, people took the time to make this art, hang it on the wall and wait for people to come back to it.”

And that’s just what has happened to the music of Vertical Horizon.

The band that was once awarded the coveted most played single of 2000 from Billboard, has found its loyal legions of fans coming back to its music in 2013. Currently out on the Under the Sun 2013 tour with retro favorites including Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, the Gin Blossoms and Fastball, Stillwell says the current state of the music industry plays right into the hands of bands such as his.

“It feels right for us to be pushing again,” says Stillwell of the band’s latest album, “Echoes from the Underground,” due later in 2013.

“This record was all about chasing inspiration. If something inspired me, I wanted to follow it. I didn’t want to think about what had come before or what we were supposed to do. I wanted to get back to that feeling that I had as a 13-year-old kid when I thought it would be the coolest thing in the world to be in a rock band and tour the world. I wanted to connect back with that kid.”

Although following that innate inspiration led Stillwell down paths that resulted in music that might not completely fit the expected boundaries of what Vertical Horizon has done in the past, Stillwell says it’s one of the most artistically pure albums the band has put out in front of their fans.

“The whole record covers a lot of ground stylistically,” Stillwell says of the record.

“We tended to always be this mid-tempo, guitar-driven, pop-rock band, but in recent months, I have also been inspired by electronica, for example, which resulted in songs that didn’t come out of a typical rock band format.”

This new freedom within his songwriting allows Stillwell to forget all about that depressed guy walking around Chicago on a rainy day in 2003.

“I used to have to live my songs in order to write them and, as a result, I was really unhappy,” Stillwell says.

“I can now tap into those emotions without leaving a trail of emotional wreckage behind me.”

Tricia Despres is a local freelance writer.



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