Aidin Vaziri | Matt Nathanson remembers having a terrible realization before he started writing his new album, “Last of the Great Pretenders.” He’s sitting in a diner on Clement Street, looking a bit like a trucker in his sherpa-lined jacket and flat-bill cap. He’s grown out his hair and beard but still radiates the kind of enthusiasm that makes it hard to believe he turned 40 this year. Two decades have passed since he put out his first album, “Please.” To hear him tell it, that’s nearly how long it took the San Francisco singer-songwriter to figure out he had done it all wrong.
“I had a song called ‘Wedding Dress’ that, to me, is one of the darkest songs about being married,” says Nathanson, reciting some of its pained verses. “Here’s a song about my almost divorce, and people start playing it at their weddings – they’re playing it as they walk down the aisle. So I thought, I didn’t do a very good job as a songwriter. I don’t want to be misinterpreted when I’m writing about the struggles in my life.”
Nathanson, who performs a free in-store concert Tuesday at Amoeba Music, was on a decent streak. He had toured with John Mayer, Maroon 5 and the country duo Sugarland, with whom he recorded the single “Run.” His romantic-leaning folk-rock songs had appeared in television shows such as “CSI,” “One Tree Hill” and “The Bachelor,” and his cover of the band James’ song “Laid” was featured on the “American Wedding” soundtrack. He even had something approaching a hit in 2008 with “Come On Get Higher.”
“I had success on a certain level, and things were good,” he says. “But I was super unsatisfied because of how I was perceived. I was giving off the wrong information.”