Matt Nathanson dishes on the love songs that still make him swoon

Breakups are often inspiration for good love songs, and love gone awry inspired Matt Nathanson’s latest album, “Sings His Sad Heart.”

Nathanson, 45, who will perform a sold-out show Feb. 16 at the Cat’s Cradle, calls in from Orlando to reveal his favorite love songs and his most important ingredient when writing songs. Nathanson, known for his hit “Come On Get Higher,” also chats about the girl he fell in love with from North Carolina and how she inspired him to move to Tar Heel country.

Q: You’re not just a singer-songwriter, you’re a huge music fan. What have you learned about some of your favorite recording artists and love songs from producers you’ve worked with?

A: Michael Stipe almost never used the word love in a song. Yes, he used it in “The One I Love,” which is one of the darkest love songs ever but aside from that, he didn’t use the word “love” in R.E.M. songs. A producer once told me that he suggested that Stipe use the word love in a particular R.E.M. song since it fit perfectly but Stipe declined.

Q: Who has written your favorite rock love songs?

A: American Music Club. Mark Eitzel has written some amazing love songs. The same goes for Red House Painters. There’s nothing like a love song that will make you wince.

Q: What’s the most significant element when writing a love song?

A: Honesty. Melodies are so much fun. You can get caught up in chord changes when writing a song but they are secondary to honesty.

Q: What’s your favorite love song right now?

A: “You Missed My Heart.” I love Phoebe Bridgers and that song. But you know what I just listened to that killed me? Doris Day’s “Que Sera Sera.” That song owns me.

Q: What love songs from your hair metal youth do you still play?

A: Anything that starts with a ‘G’ chord. Skid Row’s “I Remember You” still holds up. Dave “The Snake” Sabo wrote some great songs. And who can beat Sebastian Bach’s vocal?

Q: What is one of your favorite love songs that will surprise us?

A: Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You.” That song is airtight.

Q: Who is your favorite rock band?

A: U2

Q: How many times have you experienced U2?

A: About 73 times.

Q: No way!

A: Well, maybe about 60 times but in that ballpark. There’s no band like U2. Yes, they’re different than they were during the ‘80s and ‘90s. They’ve evolved and they’re still great. I have so much respect for them.

Q: What’s your favorite U2 love song?

A: “Promenade,” if that counts as a love song. That feels like a love song to me. The lyrics Bono wrote for “Achtung Baby” kill me. The lyrics from that album were honest in a Tom Waitsy sort of way.

Q: How many of the heartbreaking songs from “Sings His Sad Heart” were mined from personal experience?

A: I like writing songs from personal experience. Write what you know. Again, it goes back to honesty.

Q: Have you ever written a love song about a girl from North Carolina?

A: I was in love with a girl from Charlotte. I met her while I was going to school with her (in New Hampshire). She was so cool that she inspired me to want to go to college in North Carolina. I wanted to feel the impact of where she grew up since she was so artsy and cool. I applied to a bunch of school in Chapel Hill but didn’t get accepted. But it worked out in the end for me. I’m fine with the path I’ve taken.


Who: Matt Nathanson

When: 8 p.m. Feb. 16

Where: Cat’s Cradle, 300 E. Main St., Carrboro

Cost: Sold out

Info: 919-967-9053 or catscradle.com