A 21-year-old musician wanders around Hong Kong with his guitar strapped to his back. He is in search of an open mic night. Despite his many hours of searching, he ends his journey without much success and finds himself in the midst of flute recitals. Feeling defeated, he walks back to his abroad dorm and opens his laptop. He begins to compose music on GarageBand, which brings him back to the jam sessions he had in West House on the Vanderbilt Commons. His name is Matt Anderson, but he goes by Sgmaniak. Although it was not the way he had seen his start as a musician, Sgmaniak had found his sound.
Anderson, whose stage name is Sgmaniak, is a senior studying Computer Science at Vanderbilt. Although music is not his major, Anderson fell in love with music at a very young age and began teaching himself.
“My mom didn’t want me to play piano; she wanted me to play basketball and stuff. So, I was on the Domino’s football team when I was little. But I really wanted to play piano, so I made my mom sign me up for classical piano lessons, but I never practiced for those. So I started playing guitar.”
Against the advice of his guitar teacher, who told him he would never be good enough, Anderson continued to hone in his musical skills through teaching himself how to play guitar and compose music.
Part of what makes Sgmaniak’s sound so unique is that Anderson blends many different techniques from jazz, funk and electronic music while still keeping true to his rock music foundation.
“I try [to bring in] lots of improvised elements and funky elements from jazz and hip-hop; lots of powerful narrative and storytelling elements of rock music, and then I try to tie it together with electronic sounds and new, fresh sounds.”
His stage name, Sgmaniak, is pronounced “S-G-Maniac.” When asked about the story behind it, Anderson explained that he had always had the unique name.
“Originally, back when I was starting to play guitar, I really liked rock bands like AC/DC. Their guitar player, Angus Young, has a red SG. It’s like a devil horn guitar, and sixth grade me thought that was the coolest thing. So I got one of those. It was one of my first guitars. So, yeah, from then on, I was like, ‘Sgmaniak!’”
Additionally, Anderson remarked, “There’re, like, seven Matt Anderson’s alone at Vanderbilt,” so Sgmaniak embodied both his unique sound and style.
As well as blending genres, Anderson employs new software to add another dimension to his music.
“There’re a lot of people who would be afraid to use software plugins when they’re making music because they want real analog, you know, the people that love vinyl records. I think that as a computer scientists and a software developer, it’s opened my mind to using these software plugins to get new sounds.”
As he leaves campus, Anderson, who got his musical start at Vanderbilt, remarks on how important it is for young artists to have readily available instruments, especially drum sets.
“It seems kind of silly, but, once you put a drum set in a room, it becomes a practice space or a place you can record in, and there are no drumsets on this campus. I remember that in West House, someone set up a drum set, and just because that was there, seven bands formed.”
Now, Sgmaniak is set to release his first album and music video as well as headline his first concert. He is forever grateful to the Nashville music scene, describing it as “a very tight-knit community where everyone wants you to succeed.” Even though he started his music career on his own, Anderson now is supported not only by his fellow musical peers, but the Nashville music community as well.
Sgmaniak is having his first concert on Tuesday, Oct. 3 at The End.