Matthew Sweet can’t tell a lie. He would love a Top-40 hit.
After garnering critical acclaim but bouncing from one record label to another, the alternative-pop singer-songwriter finally found a permanent home two years ago with Zoo Entertainment.
His “Girlfriend” album may have been the best pop record of 1991, but it was a draining experience. He poured his heart and soul into the songs, exploring mixed emotions over a bitter divorce and the elation of falling in love again.
“Girlfriend” sold more than 400,000 copies, but contrary to what people might think, Sweet said, he didn’t get rich from it.
“I’m able to pay the rent now, rather than be behind,” he said during a recent tour stop in Minneapolis. “I got out of debt and paid off my ex-wife.”
Much of Sweet’s music is timeless, guitar-driven impeccable pop. Very accessible … but pop radio has yet to embrace him, even with his latest on-par album, “Altered Beast.”
“I guess I would really like a Top-40 hit,” Sweet said, chuckling, “because that would mean I’m really making some money and maybe buy a house some day.
“If you get a regular job in the world, you can work toward that and know you’re going to get it, but, for me, I kind of have to hit the jackpot or I’m treading water.”
Sweet’s not complaining. He’s just saying that a musician can only live so long off the great reviews. With that in mind, Zoo is releasing “Time Capsule” to Top-40 radio as the followup to the modern-rock track hit “The Ugly Truth.”
“When you really listen to what Top 40 is,” Sweet said, “it’s hard to imagine – for myself – to being on it. Although I think I have things poppy enough to do it, I’ll certainly sound different from the rest of them.”
The public and critical response to “Girlfriend” and “Altered Beast” have been overwhelming. After stints in Europe and Australia, Sweet is criss-crossing the States well into late November.
“I will say that having success can create a lot of problems,” the Nebraska native said. “In one way, it solves the deepest problem I had, which was I wanted to be able to make records.
“I’ll tell you who it’s distanced me from is all my friends. I have so little time to devote to staying in touch with everybody. When I do see them, it’s very briefly backstage somewhere. It’s been harder on me with personal relationships.”
He will also tell you that he’s paid his dues. By surviving the romantic turmoil and past record company rejections, he’s beaten the odds.
“If you have a long career, it goes up and down, whether you’re financially successful or not,” Sweet said. “I’m always ready for whatever happens because I hang in there. I knew that, over time, good things would happen.
“It turned out to work for me, because I keep making records.”