About Very Close to Strangers

Very Close to Strangers is my first full-length studio album. While the songs were being completed and recorded, I got the idea to try an experiment with two good friends who also happen to be among my favorite artists. What kind of work might they create to accompany these songs? Shawna and Matt agreed to try it, and over weeks and months we met to talk about the music, the album, the themes. Matt eventually came up with six terrific short stories. Shawna made many sketches for the concept of the painting. Each are distinct works of their respective artists, but echoing the themes they heard in my album as it was being completed. In May 2013 we created a special live performance, during which Shawna painted the final work, live on stage, while I sang the songs of the album in sequence, interspersed with Matt reading his stories. The painting became the cover art for the album, with sections of it becoming art for each individual track.

–Matthew Black

Matthew Black

Matthew Black is a singer/songwriter who lives in Chicago. Very Close to Strangers is his first full-length studio album. His favorite ice cream flavor is mint chocolate chip.

Listen to the songs.

Contact Matthew Black.

Matt Lang

Matt Lang was raised in northwest Pennsylvania and now lives in Chicago with his wife and daughter.  For many years, as a child, he had a near pathological fear of gorillas, but he is doing much better now. 

Read the stories.


Shawna Bowman. Photo Credit: Angela Jimenez

Shawna Bowman

Shawna Bowman is a visual artist and has painted live at theaters, story-telling events, conferences and worship services around the country. Shawna works in oils and on large papers or canvas. Shawna also collaborates with not-for-profit organizations to help raise funds and awareness around issues of justice and poverty. She often uses her paintings to collaborate with communities to tell their stories and mark important milestones in their journeys.

See the painting.