Hasidic Jewish reggae star Matisyahu on soundtracking the Winter Olympics: 'I'm a hockey fanatic'

If you’ve watched network television in the last week, you’ve undoubtedly seen NBC’s ads for the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, featuring star athletes Shaun White, Apollo Ohno and … the music of Matisyahu.

The artist formerly known Matthew Miller is perhaps as well known for hits like “King Without a Crown” and “One Day,” used above—as for combining the previously anomalous worlds of hip hop, reggae, and a strictly practiced Jewish faith. Currently in the midst of a months-long tour to promote his August release Light that wraps with eight sold-out nights in New York in December, Brooklyn-based Matis took time out from a stop in Omaha to speak to EW on the phone about the recent gold-medal twist in his career. Read it after the jump:

EW: So how did a Jewish reggae guy end up as the official soundtrack to lugeing, curling, and freestyle skiing? It sounds very Cool Runnings

Matisyahu: I think basically NBC heard the song, and they were really into it and felt that it was going to be good thing for the Olympics, the whole idea of the song being unity and coming together, so they reached out to us.

And I hear you were big hockey fan when you were younger. Is that the extent of your winter sports experience?

Well, I worked on a ski mountain in Bend, Oregon, for two years, so I snowboarded and I broke my collar bone skiing when I was a kid so… what else, though? Hockey was really the sport I grew up playing that I loved, I was a hockey fanatic, up every morning at 5 o’clock to practice before school; then eventually I got kicked off the team, because I had a reputation for being a pothead. When I was in Vancouver for a show recently, somehow it came out that I was doing this song for the Olympics and they were like,  “You need to be a supporter of the Canadian hockey team and abandon America.” so I gave them a word that I would back them [laughs]. I wanna skate for those guys.

International incident! Were you a big Olympics watcher growing up?

Nah, not really, but my mom was really into the figure-skating.

Ladies love watching the figure-skating. And gymnastics. We just do. Are you familiar with the song that Bjork did for the 2004 Olympics in Athens?

I never did, I should YouTube it. Was it cool? She’s so creative.

Well, it was almost more like performance art. Her dress was like a half a mile long. So will you actually get to perform “One Day” at the ceremony this winter?

I’m really hoping so, I haven’t found out yet. Maybe I’ll wear one of those piano jackets, but, you know, like half a mile long. Or something to represent the Canadian hockey team.

You are definitely getting your citizenship revoked. Are you ready for the bump in recognition this ad exposure might bring you? I picture more moms in the crowd..

Oh, I’ve already got a few… [laughs]

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Comments (5 total) Add your comment
  • alex

    damn straight he’ll be cheering for the canadian hockey team haha

    i’m not sure what the hype equivalent would be in america, but these are the olympics on home soil, and thats the one sport we have over everyone (usually)..

    CANNOT WAIT FOR THE PUCK TO DROP :)
    and not that the US arent big rivals for us (especially in womens), but can vs russia is the intensity i need to see.

  • Chris Catania

    funny interview! ;)

    “One Day” will certainly introduce Matisyahu to new fans and his recent tour has already been filling up venues with a very diverse crowd, which is always good for live music.

    http://christophercatania.com/2009/11/07/look-what-i-found-at-a-matisyahu-concert/

  • paul zabe

    are there any jewish alpine or nordic skiers in competition or on any olympic team

  • kvartiri varna

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  • Edson

    top 4 teams from 3 groups go to the quatrers. the teams that finished 5th to 12th play against eachother (5v12, 6v11, 7v10, 8v9) and the winner of each goes to the quarterfinals. quarterfinals is the best ranked vs the worst ranked. 2nd best vs 2nd worst. 3rd best vs 3rd worst. and 4th best vs 4th worst. Winner of best vs worst plays winner of 4th best vs 4th worst in the Semis. 2nd best vs 2nd worst and 3rd best vs 3rd worst play eachother in the Semi’s. Then winners of Semi’s play for Gold, and losers play for Bronze.References : ♣

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