Phosphorescent’s ‘Revelator’ stands in uncertainty, holding on to hope

You should really LISTEN to this story. It’s way better with music.

WNXP’s Nashville Artist of the Month for April is Phosphorescent. The man behind that project is Matthew Houck. Over two decades he’s compiled a library of songs, some of the best are anthems, epic in scope and often dealing with melancholy. Most are written though from a standpoint of assuredness, like that wild-hearted character whose bones are steel in “Song for Zula.” The new album Revelator takes a different perspective.

Many of its songs dwell in uncertainty — with relationships, with the world at large and with his own identity as Phosphorescent. Recorded at his East Nashville studio and presented in his own words, Matthew Houck takes us behind the opening title track as well as it epic closer, “To Get It Right.”


“The root of it, if I’m being really, really f**king honest about it is that, yeah, taken as a whole, I had a real moment of doubt about this record. Like ‘What is this? And who in their right mind would listen to this record, much less make it?’”

I got tired of sadness
I got tired of all the madness
I got tired of being a badass all the time


“I don’t know how successful of a badass I have been but I do feel like there was, within this thing called Phosphorescent, definitely an intention of to kind of kick the doors down. You know what I mean? I know it’s weird because this is quite sensitive songwriter-y music or whatever, but I have always come to it from a pretty scrappy position I feel like. And also protective of it I think, in a way. It’s like something about a toughness that I held in my heart about it in some kind of way… And also being tired of yourself. Being tired of hearing your own (stuff). It’s all wrapped up into that. I do get tired of it you know?”

Now sooner or later
It’s just an empty elevator
Just the song of the revelator on every floor
Now, how can I get it right?
I don’t even like what I write
I don’t even like what I like anymore


“It took me a minute to figure out what this record was about and why is it so chewed up with like these dreadful, worried feelings. And I realized it was like ‘Well you wrote it during a worldwide pandemic.’ There are clear lines that your inside is telling you ‘Hey, here’s something that’s probably on your mind whether you’re focusing on it or not.’ Your back brain is always logging this stuff, tapping you on the shoulder. There’s several throughout the record that were affected obviously by the isolation and the worldwide worry of those pandemic times. Which, truly, I never sat down and went ‘This pandemic is on my mind. I’m going to write about it.’ It’s just not like that.”

I got my heart open wide
But the city been shut down


“To Get It Right”

“This record restrains itself the whole time until that that ending.”

“I don’t do rehearsing. We got this group together, five people and no one had heard the songs and I’d never played with two of them before. Everybody was playing by instinct. I didn’t know for sure that that song was going to do that (big, epic ending). There’s versions of that song, for example, that that just stayed in the low part. And just say ‘To get it right is hard to do.’ And it just ends. And that felt a bit bleak to me (laughs). I realized I’m just going to let the reins off at the very end of the record.”

To get it right is hard to do
To get it right is hard
To get it right is hard to do
But we get it right, yeah
It’s what we do

“To Get It Right”

“For such a bleak record, to me, it feels really strong. It feels really hopeful and, really, it does the opposite of what it’s saying it’s doing. Which is I have always felt that about sad songs. They sound so defeated and hopeless but they’re also somehow the most hopeful and strong things. It needed to end with a statement of that I feel like. Even though all of A is true, there’s also B you know? If that makes sense. And this is all part of that B I think.”