It doesn’t seem like it has been two years since Matt Bauer moved to New York. I don’t mean that the two years seem like less, I mean it feels like Matt Bauer never really left San Francisco. In truth, the past never really leaves Matt Bauer—we’re just lucky enough to have shared a collective history with him. Last week we chatted in anticipation of his Thursday night gig at the Swedish American Hall opening for Adam Stephens of Two Gallants.

[audio:] Matt Bauer – “As She Came Out of the Water” – from Hinah Session

Bay Bridged: It’s been two years since you left for New York–and now you’re touring quite a bit. Does New York feel like home?

Matt Bauer: It does and it doesn’t.  I love my neighborhood, Greenpoint, in Brooklyn and have lots of friends there and a big eight piece band. So music and friends, that’s home to me. But I probably still feel more at home in San Francisco. I’ve been away from Brooklyn on and off all year so it’s hard to say exactly what or where home is.

BB: How has living there affected your songwriting?

MB: I’m not sure if it has. I might not know for a while. I tend not to write about things that happened to me very recently. I try to but I think it takes me a long while before I can have perspective on something and write about it. Most of my songs end up being set in a reinvented version of places I grew up in Kentucky. Even though I lived in San Francisco for almost eight years, I don’t think I wrote anything that was set there until after I moved to New York. I have this song I’m working on that is mostly set on Valencia Street and nearby. I have been trying to get these Maria Louisa pastries from the Jocelyn Bakery into a song for probably four years and I think I finally did it.

BB: You told me once that you don’t like to fly and that you take trains when you tour in the US. How did you get to Europe last winter?

MB: I flew. I mean seriously, I did look into taking a boat and it’s insanely expensive. That’s how much I don’t like to fly. It’s not like I find it annoying or something, it’s that I am certain I will die. I have my brother Christian on call so he can talk me onto the plane. I don’t mean to be saying this in a weird confessional way. I guess it’s that when I talk to someone else who has the same fear, it’s comforting to me. I think it’s incredibly helpful to have a close friend to talk with to help calm you down–plus valium and liquor.

BB: Describe what that tour was like. Did you have a favorite show or city?

MB: It was insane. I haven’t experienced anything like it–a thousand people singing along to the chorus of a song, the venue cooking dinner for you. It was like some bizarre parallel universe.

Probably my favorite thing was being able to really spend time with Mariee [Sioux] and Alela [Diane] and her dad Tom. We are all spread out around the country and we got to see each other fairly often as we crossed paths touring.

BB: The new album [The Island Moved In The Storm] is fantastic. The word that comes to mind is “breathy” because of all the horns and “breathing” instruments, including voice. It is almost a meditation on breath, or an affirmation of the life process, which of course includes loss and death. How did you become interested in the story of the “Tent Girl”?

MB: My initial interest in the story of the Tent Girl (her real name is Barbara Anne Hackman Taylor) was in the mystery and strangeness – a young woman found dead whose identity was unknown for 30 years. But the reason it has stayed with me is that she was found near where I grew up and was last seen, according to some reports, in my home town. I guess I can really picture the places she last lived, the last places she saw.  When I would try to write about my own experiences growing up in those places, I would write about this character that was part me and part her. In the one picture of her that I can find she is just so happy with this amazing smile. I guess I can’t fully explain why her story has stayed with me.

BB: What were some of the things about growing up in Kentucky that shaped your music?

MB: The quiet and the amount of time alone. When I was little we lived at the edge of the woods in Eastern Kentucky. I’d spend endless hours wandering through the woods climbing trees, catching salamanders and crayfish in the creeks. The place that I named the album after, a bend in the Triplett Creek is a place I spent an enormous amount of time and a lot of my songs are set there. That’s where I re-imagine the Tent Girl being found in “As She Came Out of the Water” and “Are You the One?” Older songs like “Water Moccasin” are set there.  So I think the quiet, or the quiet those places gave me in my mind. They are both very calming for me, but almost overwhelming in their beauty.

BB: Do you have a steady band now or do you approach each show with different ideas of who will be playing with you?

MB: When everyone is available there are eight of us but we rearrange the songs depending on who is around. I’m touring right now with Jay and Alex Foot on upright bass and electric guitar. They are amazing players and great listeners. The trio makes the songs new to me all over again.

BB: What have you been listening to lately?

MB: Jolie Holland’s new record is killing me. Human Bell out of Baltimore is probably my favorite thing lately. The new Death Vessel. Lots of Gamelan music, my friend Dana Falconberry’s new record, Lavender Diamond, Bat for Lashes. I’ve been revisiting a lot of old Frank Black records and loving them. Sometimes I go a long time without listening to much but lately there’s a lot I’m excited about.