Matt Hensley Gets Real

By Leslie Krouse

What makes a band truly remarkable? Insightful lyric, Memorable melodies, Blow-your-mind live performances? The truth is that it takes all of those things along with a boundless enthusiasm, an infectious energy and a supreme devotion to the fans. With this rare combination, a band may ascend past good, or even the record industry’s Holy Grail “marketable”, and reaches sublime. Drawing on the hardships and joys of their own lives and a musical history ranging from old world Celtic to modern day punk rock, the seven members of Flogging Molly do just that, and they do it with a charm and an ease that makes them one of the most accessible bands performing today.  I spoke with Matt Hensley, as he drove through the rain in Council Bluffs, Iowa.  Back on tour, after leaving the band in 2007, I was curious to see how things were going and what was next in this San Diegan’s life.  Here’s a little enlightenment into the effects of what life has to bring us, and the choices we have to make to achieve the ultimate goal, happiness.  Matt has definitely found his way.

RIS:  You’re back on a whirl-win tour all over the world, tired yet?

MH:  Not at all, I’m having a great time.

RIS:  You left the band back in 2007, why?

MH:  Because, I have a seven year old son, I was in the band since before he was born, and ever since he was born part of me always felt a little guilty for not being there, so eventually it got to me.  We have a pretty hard core touring schedule; all those things brought me to a place where I kind of lost my mind for a little while.  For all the right reasons in the world, but still, I bailed for awhile.  I took a really good look at what’s important in my life.  I still miss my son, actually my son is sitting next to me, because he’s going on tour with me while he is still out of school, that’s half the solution right there.  I just came to the conclusion that this is absolutely what I need to be doing, and as much as I’m into my son, hopefully he will understand; he does understand that this is what his old man does.   Everybody’s life has their own ups and downs, and this is just the way he’s going to be brought up, and how he lives.  I’m stoked he plays the drums and he’s into music, and I know eventually he will start his own damn band and keep the music flowing. So it’s all good.

RIS:  Now that you’re back on tour again, are you still happy with your decision?

MH:  Absolutely, to leave makes coming back that much better.  It’s 100% of your heart and soul that knows this is where you belong, and where you’re supposed to be.

RIS:  Your new CD ‘Float’ has been your most successful so far.  Topping at #4 on Billboard’s top 200, and #1 Independent album, what do you attribute the success to?

MH:  First of all, I believe as musicians, and song writers we get better at our craft as we go along. I hope that has something to do with it.  We tour very heavily, and are constantly growing our fan base, by constantly going all over the world, and putting the music in front of them.  I think it’s a combination of all those things.  I think personally I’m becoming a better musician myself, and how we relate with each other because we’ve been playing together for so long, it just gets tighter and tighter over the years.  I think just over time, little by little we just keep trying to get more and more people into what we’re doing, and now 12 years later this record comes out, and it seems to have this effect, so I’m super stoked.

RIS:  Now, lets get to the other side of Matt Hensley.  You have a lot of stuff going on.  You just signed with MACBETH, are you designing a shoe for them?

MH:  Yes I am.  I’ve got the drawing on my computer, and I should have a sample in a couple of weeks.  I just shot my ad for them about 10 days ago.  I’m really happy to work with them, this is a really beautiful fit for me, and I feel I have a great home with these guys.  They are right down the street from my house, they have a recording studio as well, so I can go and record my own solo stuff if I want to, it just make so much sense on so many different levels, it’s great.

RIS:  Your restaurant in Carlsbad, Hensley’s Flying Elephant Pub & Grill, How’s that going?

MH:  It’s going good, actually the horse races are kind of hurting me right now, but I guess that happens every year, so it is what it is.  But, overall it’s getting better and better.   I had the concept of doing the pub there, but that didn’t necessarily mean that I was an expert restaurant owner.  I’ve had to learn a lot of rotten lessons and a lot of hard things by making the mistakes, so I’ve had my fair share of kicks in the face over this.  I just try to learn from my mistakes, there not dodgy mistakes, I’m not lighting the place on fire, and people are not being poisoned or anything, but you think about owning your own bar that you can just walk in say I’m the owner, give me a free pint, this is great, the truth is it’s not that easy, it’s a lot of hard work.  I live in Carlsbad, and there are not that many places that have this vibe, my pub is all the things that matter to me in my life, music, skateboarding, and art, it’s all over every one of the walls.  It’s a little bit of a different vibe for North County, it’s more of a place you would find in New York, L.A. or downtown San Diego, and because I live there, I just feel like I wanted to bring that vibe there.  I like to go somewhere like that when I get home, I mean it’s mine, but I like to go there.

RIS:  You’ve been a Rockstar, Pro-Skater, Restaurateur, Clothing Designer, and now Shoes Designer, What’s next?

MH:  I hope I don’t have any more genius ideas, because there’s only one of me.  I’m pretty over booked right now.  The only thing I’m trying to do is to stabilize all the things that I’m doing, and just try to get better at doing them.  My clothing company Innes is starting to do a lot better, after 12 years we are making the best stuff we’ve ever made in my life.  With that too, I’ve gone through the ups and downs, I was a skateboarder that doesn’t necessarily mean I know a damn thing about making skateboarding clothes and or any of that stuff.  When I started that company I just wanted to make punk-rock skate clothes, because that’s what I wear.   I totally ignorant to the fact that everyone around me wasn’t into that, or wanted to look like that, it’s a hell of a way to go out of business if you’re not thinking about that, so I’ve had to compromise a bit in some areas, but for the most part it still maintains that look.

I have to say I’m extremely impressed at how this incredibly talented man balances everything in his life.  His apparent devotion to everything and everyone that’s a part of his life is inspiring, we could all learn a lesson from Matt that if you work hard, stay true, never give-up, and always follow your dreams, and eventually it will all fall into place.  And to his son Oliver, keep practicing on those drums, and you too will have thousands of people cheering for you some day, just like your dad.  Good Job Matt.

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