The gentle instrumental music created by acoustic guitarist Matt Millecchia is a result of paths taken by few others. Instead of playing the more common fingerstyle method on acoustic guitar, Matt performs his beautiful melodies using a flat-pick. His delicate playing belies his background as a former punk-rocker. When composing, Matt starts with improvisational ideas, but then sometimes spends years refining the melodies and arrangements utilizing the precision and structure found in his alternate life as an engineer who helps measure one of the most powerful lasers in the world.
On his debut solo album, Silhouette of a Season, Millecchia (pronounced mill-ECK-ee-ah) is produced by legendary acoustic guitarist William Ackerman, a Grammy winner and founder of Windham Hill Records. In addition to being a best-selling solo artist himself, Ackerman also is one of the most-respected producers of contemporary instrumental music having produced many highly-successful acoustic guitarists (Alex de Grassi, Michael Hedges, Lawrence Blatt), pianists (George Winston, Liz Story, Scott Cossu, Philip Aaberg, Karen Marie Garrett, Fiona Joy Hawkins), and folk-singers (John Gorka, Patty Larkin). Millecchia traveled to Vermont to record in Ackerman’s legendary Imaginary Road Studios.
Millecchia’s album contains a dozen original tunes -- four showcasing Matt on solo guitar (with no other sounds overdubbed) and the balance featuring him with various combinations of top musicians -- Ackerman sitting in on guitar on two tunes, Michael Manring on bass, Eugene Friesen on cello, the late T-Bone Wolk (who worked extensively with Hall & Oates) on bass and accordion, Derrik Jordan on electric violin and percussion, Jeff Oster on flugelhorn, Steve Schuch on acoustic violin, and Samite on flute. The music on the CD, Silhouette of a Season, can be purchased at Millecchia’s website (mattmillecchia.com), at various online sales sites such as amazon.com and CDbaby.com, and at many digital download locations including iTunes.com and Rhapsody.com.
The reason Millecchia plays guitar with a flat-pick (occasionally supplemented with additional notes simultaneously plucked with his middle finger) is due to his background as a rock’n’roller in a variety of different types of bands. As a teenager, he co-founded the hardcore-punk-rock group The Darbys which released an album (Love is Hate) and opened for Naked Raygun, Government Issue and The Circle Jerks. A few years later he played in the psychedelic-metal band Diesel Weed that played on the same bill with Urge Overkill. In college he switched to a “drone-metal” sound with Mechanism 101, a group which released a CD (Storyteller) and played the famous New York City nightclub CBGB’s. More recently he played what he calls “instrumental math-rock” in the group Darchitekt (“complicated time signatures and lots of notes”). But when he wasn’t rocking, Matt kept developing his acoustic-guitar style, and, in fact, played in acoustic folk group Reflexive Repetition which released two CDs (Ends and Two Tragic Words). To hear Matt’s more rocking-acoustic style, check out the track “Chaos” (not on his solo CD) at mattmillecchia.com/bonus-chaos.
Matt has always balanced his creative abilities in music (composing and playing) with his aptitude for science (math, physics and engineering). For example, in high school he was playing and recording with bands, and took three years of Advanced Guitar Classes (acoustic); while at the same time he had the rare honor of receiving both the Math and Physics “Student of the Year Award.” While attending West Virginia University, Millecchia wrote and recorded the soundtrack/score for a college theatrical production while also teaching guitar to 20 students a week; meanwhile he worked in a physics lab while earning his Bachelor of Science degree in physics followed by his Masters degree in solid state physics. In addition, Matt attended a summer music session at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, and took private lessons including music theory and jazz performance.
Millecchia has been a working musician on a regular basis since he was in his early teens. But after college, he also has pursued a career in science. He currently is a Senior Laboratory Engineer at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics where their research goal is to perfect water-based fusion energy for potential wide-spread use. Matt designs and builds instruments to measure one of the most powerful lasers in the world and its fusion targets that implode with great heat and power.
Beyond his interests in music and science, Millecchia also has been an avid student and teacher of martial arts. He has a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Shorin-Ryu Karate and a Black Belt equivalent in Kung Fu, plus training in judo, aikido, boxing and more.
Matt was born and raised in Morgantown, West Virginia, where the first musical act to grab his attention was KISS (although the first concert his family took him to was Jackson Browne). In grade school Matt fluctuated back and forth between guitar and drums until settling in on electric guitar when he was 14. At first he learned to play songs by Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne and the Scorpions, but soon Matt became immersed in the punk-rock and hardcore scene (Social Distortion, Ramones, Sex Pistols, Clash). He practiced electric and acoustic guitars equally in high school and his senior year he became captivated by the sounds of the Windham Hill label (his future producer Will Ackerman as well as guitarist Michael Hedges and pianist George Winston). In college Millecchia broadened his tastes to include classical guitarist Christopher Parkening as well as classical composers such as Mozart, but Matt also continued to listen to rock acts such as Pantera, Jane’s Addiction, XTC, Pantera, Tool, Metallica and Pink Floyd. Over the years Millecchia also has been inspired by a wide range of acoustic guitarists including Leo Kottke, Norman Blake, Mason Williams and Nick Drake, as well as numerous primarily electric players such as Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Pete Townsend, David Gilmour, Slash, Andy Summers, Bob Mould, Jerry Cantrell, Tommy Emmanuel, Al Di Meola, Kaki King, Billy Corgan and Dave Grohl.
On the Silhouette of a Season CD, Millecchia plays Alvarez-Yairi and Froggy Bottom guitars. He uses both standard tuning as well as open tunings in C, D and G.
As the title suggests, the CD uses nature as a loose theme for the music (the album cover has four pictures depicting the seasons). “With nature, you can have a little bit of mist falling on your face or you can be in the midst of the absolute violence of an earthquake or hurricane,” explains Millecchia. “Nature has wide-flung extremes that are not easy to capture in music. The closest you can get is to re-create, through artistic sounds, the feelings you receive from nature, like when you look at a lake or a river, the sun or the moon, or a person or animal. Those are special moments in my life that inspired some of these compositions.”
Matt was either outside or near nature when he wrote most of the tunes on this recording. Some of the pieces are directly tied to nature -- “I wrote ‘Mist’ while sitting by the Monongahela River at night watching the mist rising on the water;” “’Acid Lake’ came while I was looking out over Cheat Lake, one of the most polluted in the country because of the mining-acid draining into it;” and “I composed ‘Georgia Springs’ while sitting under a tree by a lake in Georgia while I was on spring break.” “Antietam Spring” was given its title by Will Ackerman and was named after a tiny pool of water that both Union and Confederate soldiers drank out of during the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. “Sphynx” was inspired by Matt’s cat and the pet’s favorite pose. “August Eclipse” was originally two tunes, one about the sun and the other about the moon, that Matt melded together. The moon also influenced the composition “Moonset” while a particular time of year is captured in “Summer Tears.” “Dream Garage” received its title from the building across the road from Ackerman’s studio (Millecchia spent the night there). “It’s a picturesque setting with lots of tall pine trees on the property,” states Matt.
“Recording the music was a powerful experience because of Will’s input,” remembers Millecchia, “but also because I carefully structure my compositions and then we brought in first-class musicians to improvise solos, accents and textures around my guitar parts. The combinations of the sounds brought the music to a new place with added feelings and dimensions.”