Review: Matthew Frederick’s “Tell Me” Truly Wants to Know

Matthew Frederick
Matthew Frederick’s “Tell Me” is an honest and perfectly imperfect plea for forgiveness set to a rootsy, warm, classic Cymrucana backdrop.
Stream: “Tell Me” – Matthew Frederick


Just like the nature of a relationship, songs grow and change over time. Depending on the artist’s message, lyrics can be recast and musicality refashioned. Both can be said about Climbing Trees frontman, Matthew Frederick’s latest solo release, “Tell Me.”

In a conversation with Atwood Magazine, Frederick explained that “Tell Me” has “existed in a couple of different forms.” The first recorded version off 2015’s Live at Long Row (released on Fredrick’s own label Stay Little Music) blasts off like a piano riding a rocket. It’s frantic pacing, offset by Frederick’s rich and sincere vocals paints the picture of a well intentioned yet bewildered man who is desperately trying to put an important relationship back together. The song only slows down at the very end, indicating some space for the recipient of Frederick’s fervent apology to respond. We can only hope they responded in Frederick’s favor. It seems, he really is sorry…

Tell Me - Matthew Frederick

Tell Me – Matthew Frederick

Perhaps over time, with some experience, Frederick has learned a little bit more about the art of an apology. By playing the chords of his recently released 2019 version of ”Tell Me” as an arpeggio, gracefully drawing out each chord in an emotive waterfall, the pacing leaves more room to breath, think and feel. In changing the tempo and adding a few more instruments, this version of “Tell Me,” manages to carry with it more of a conversational quality. The folksie strumming guitars and gentle drum beat sound less like a piano strapped to a rocket, and more like two lovers having a “talk” while paddling together in a sunset-bound canoe on a smoothly lapping lake.

That being said, while the song’s tempo change effects the vibe of the song, it does not change the passionate sincerity of its message. Frederick’s lyrics still make it clear that he wants to make things right again.

Tell me what you want
Tell me what you need
And tell me if it’s true that we will never be
And tell me if it’s me
Or tell me if it’s you
Oh darling please I need to know what I can do
Matthew Frederick

Matthew Frederick

It seems that, like many of us, despite not knowing exactly how to handle this conversation, or even what he is apologizing for, Frederick is being absolutely honest in his not knowing. His truly passionate need to do what it takes to fix, even an offense that is unclear to him, is beautiful and even, romantic.

Oh, I’m sorry
And whatever it is, I won’t do it again
Oh, I’m sorry
But I’ve loved you since the dawn of way back when
Oh, I’m sorry
And I hope and I pray that this is not the end
I am sorry…

Though to some, it may seem insincere to apologize so intently for an ambiguous offense, according to a 2004 issue of Oprah’s publication O Magazine, “Apologizing doesn’t make us perfect, but it shows our commitment to be honest about our imperfections and steadfast in our efforts to do better.” Which describes Frederick’s intent to a T.

Tell me if I’m right
Tell me if I’m wrong
You should be within my heart where you belong
So darling please don’t go
I’m begging you to stay
Cos I know, I know things are meant to be this way
Matthew Frederick

Matthew Frederick

In most how-to articles about apologies, experts use lists to highlight the do’s and don’ts of apologizing. They usually look like this one, suggested by Marjorie Ingall for Health.com via the Huffington Post.

  • Name your sin
  • Acknowledge you screwed up
  • Make it about them, not you

and so on…

But.

What is more irritating than an imperfect apology?

A perfect one.

If, while apologizing you are checking boxes off a list in your head about how to best apologize, you can bet that the recipient of said apology is rolling their eyes, deeply, and thinking, “yeah yeah yeah…”

Emotional expression is almost never perfect. When passion, love, fear and other heavy vibrations start buzzing in your head and heart most people get tongue tied.  We babble, say things we wish we hadn’t said and leave out points we wish we had. It’s the nature of the beast.  However, if all of that verbal/emotional slurry is rooted in real love, honest intentions and lots of heart, it’s alright. You will most likely be heard.

We have all been in this scenario. Probably as both the apologizer and the apologizee. We do not necessarily need an apology expert (how did this become their speciality anyway…?) to explain what makes a good apology.

More than just following the steps, every good apology comes from the heart.  It’s impossible to either fake or a hide the heart in a sincere apology. If you are expressing true remorse with love, it doesn’t matter if you follow the rules or not. And certainly, if a heart filled apology is set to music well then, your apology will very likely be accepted and perhaps, appreciated.

Case in point: Matthew Frederick’s apology in “Tell Me” breaks the first rule laid out by most apology experts. He cannot name his sin and seems completely in the dark regarding what he has done. And while he does concede “whatever it is I won’t do it again” which follows Mind Tools’ apology regimen, “Step 4: Promise That It Won’t Happen Again,” the imperfect nature of Frederick’s real apology is, well, perfect, with or without checking all the boxes. And from the outside listening in, it’s clear that Frederick is willing to accept responsibility and make reparations for whatever damage he has caused.  All set to a rootsy, warm, classic Cymrucana soundscape that makes us hope that as the harmonica plays us out and Frederick harmonizes over shuffling tambourine shakes, the sun sets beautifully over the lake and the canoe holding our lovers shifts delicately as they kiss softly and make up.

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Stream: “Tell Me” – Matthew Frederick

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Tell Me - Matthew Frederick

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Ilana Kalish was a jazz fed baby, pop-synched child, emo-soaked teenager and indie-rocked coed. Between working at the friendly corner record store, singing in a garage (sometimes with a band) and sitting under trees while writing short fiction, Ilana also got her degrees in modern dance and creative writing from the University of MD in College Park. All of these adventures eventually resulted in www.skiptothis.com where she shares her adventures down the rabbit hole of the musiverse. A self-proclaimed neologista, Ilana is always dancing with words to music, usually while drinking coffee and smirking. As a writer for Atwood Magazine, Ilana hopes to make you smile and nod happily with her whimsy and impeccable (smirk) taste in music.