Hotamighty! Matt Walsh is in the groove with a variety show of crazy characters, werewolf roadies and music videos for his latest album, Burnt Out Soul—a solid release recorded at the legendary Columbia Studio A in Nashville, Tennessee.
Clocking around 1,000 viewers each week, Walsh’s variety showcase, The Friday Nite Gamble plays more like an R-rated Hee Haw than The Lawrence Welk Show— if Hee Haw was filmed in an attic in High Point. Centered around musical guests, The Gamble splashes comedy skits with album spotlights, stories from the road, and a chug-along or two. Episodes are filmed live over Facebook, starting at 7 p.m., and rebroadcasted on Walsh’s YouTube channel.
“I thought my identity was being a musician doing concerts,” Walsh explained of the show’s origins as a response to COVID-19’s impact on live music. “The shutdown had me worried,” he added, “but then someone told me, ‘when it comes down to it, you’re an entertainer.’ That helped by leaps and bounds.”
As a host, Walsh pulls vibes of Johnny Carson, with nods to The George Jones Show blended with his own twang of absurdity and an eye for production, cultivated from long walking the line between serious musicianship and ridiculous personas.
“They’re two different things in my mind,” he explained of the duality. “I can turn one off and the other on, but enjoy the freedom of blending them sometimes in music videos.”
And all the time on The Gamble.
Along for the onscreen ride is the co-host (and drummer) Raymond “Hitman” Brooks. Characters in the “Gamble Universe” include Walsh in a manner of roles, Pete Skjaerris (Walsh’s actual cousin) as “Crazy Cuzin Pete,” and Michael Simmons as a slew of personalities including “Rickie Dickerman.” The production team is rounded by Kelly Newman and “Gamble MC” Tony Prestwood. Jesse Ryan Eversole is scheduled as the featured guest for the Nov. 13 episode.
Beyond that, the show remains unscripted. “It makes it exciting,” Walsh noted. “If I plan on something wild, I don’t share it, not even with the rest of the crew; I just surprise them. Everything is unfiltered.”
Unfiltered and spirited, thanks to sponsorship from Clubtails — a cocktail in a can— and the show’s official team drink. Walsh is also the current champion of the “Johnny Bootlegger Challenge,” a segment that involves chugging 12 ounces of the Dayglo malt-beverage semi-affectionately known as “bum wine.”
Hard-drinking comes easy to Gamble regulars like Buddy Hardwood, reported former sheriff, and current executive at Full Bloom Records, the label behind Walsh’s releases. Hardwood’s also the feature of the short film Werewolf King, which follows a similar arc to the Joe Exotic saga— but with a North Carolina touch and, as the title implies: werewolves.
In Walsh’s world, werewolves are real. Though, as highlighted in his film, Werewolf Roadies, they make a terrible crew.
“They hate work,” Walsh said about lycanthrope laziness, “so the shutdown has been great for them.”
Werewolves may hate work, but Walsh doesn’t— with the shutdown being pretty good for him, too. Admitting a disdain for the road, Walsh likened his preference of studio work to The Beatles.
“I’m honestly happier creating music in the studio and making films,” he noted.
The success of those films, paired with The Gamble, helped hedge bets toward releasing Burnt Out Soul without tour support.
“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever recorded, yet somehow it retains a culmination of the best parts of everything I’ve done musically,” Walsh continued with The Beatles references, “if I had a Sergeant Pepper’s, this would be it.”
Recorded at Columbia Studio A in Nashville— the same used by Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Ray Price, Johnny and June Carter Cash, and Patsy Cline— Burnt Out Soul features eight tracks of timely topics, befitting the artists who’ve graced the gear before.
“The early ‘70s API console we used was stationed in Studio A after recording The Band’s ‘Last Waltz,’ and Peter Frampton’s ‘Frampton Comes Alive,’” Walsh said, reveling in technical awe of vintage equipment in the legendary space, “to know I made my album using that same console blew my mind.”
The session itself was a tight two days that came on the wind of just two week’s notice, resulting in a record both diverse and focused. For the trip, Walsh tapped venerable Greensboro drummer Chuck Cotton. For material, he pulled from experiences reflecting life choices, the hereafter, the madness of hate, and pushing limits.
“I have a bad habit of not going to bed when I should, and fall asleep sitting up a lot,” Walsh explained of “Don’t Shut My Party Down,” an upbeat number inspired by his girlfriend’s joke, “she told me I wasn’t going to let anything shut my party down.”
Filming for the accompanying music video is underway.
“It’s over the top,” Walsh explained of the concept, “but I hope it’ll make people think about how we’re often programmed to treat each other badly.”
Continuing to roll, Walsh intends to make a music video for each song on the album, with three songs left to go. He’s also begun developing a Buddy Hardwood biopic and will head back to Nashville in December to record new material.
But first, he’ll wrangle a new episode of The Friday Nite Gamble, featuring Jesse Ryan Eversole, live over Facebook on Nov. 13.