Evansville native Matt Clark is at the top of his game. Newly married, he carries himself like a man who has found his center. Wander into the recently renovated Cavanaugh’s at Tropicana Evansville on one of the “14 or 15” times he plays there a month, and you’ll feel it, too.
The Harrison High School and University of Evansville graduate sings and tickles the ivories at the Piano Bar, bringing a unique and time-tested vibe to well-known hits to help you ease into your evening. “I’ve been doing Cavanaugh’s since they opened the Piano Bar in 2002,” he muses. “As long as they keep asking me, I’ll keep showing up.”
The Piano Bar at Cavanaugh’s has live entertainment nightly and is open evening hours seven days a week. Clark says he sees a free-flowing parade of faces and characters and he does his best to accommodate requests. There have been dozens of special moments, says Clark, although one stands out.
“My mom had just passed away, and I had a raging cold,” he says. “Folks started filtering into the bar and I was doing Elton John’s ‘Tiny Dancer.’ I looked up and the piano was surrounded by people singing along with me and holding up lighters. I think it was my mom saying hello.”
His typical day is not what you associate with a musician and part of his appeal. He has worked in finance and mortgage industries for 20 years, and also worked in media sales. He recently started emerson 37 Advertising, an advertising agency in Newburgh, Indiana.
“I generally get up about the same time everyone else does,” he deadpans. “The gigs end about 11 p.m. I’d be staying up that late anyway.”
Of course, it wasn’t always that way. He led the stereotypical lifestyle for years. “The band thing was different — 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. and getting home at 5 a.m.” He smiles warmly, “I was younger then.”
Clark is regularly joined by local music legend Bob Green on the saxophone. Clark says he loves the simplicity of the solo and duo life.
Clark started piano lessons at six years old and later began performing at youth clubs and bars at 17. Now 56, the Evansville native has been a working musician for nearly 40 years.
His parents had other ideas.
“They only wanted me to play in church, but eventually they quit complaining.” In a nice twist, he has had a regular gig playing at Methodist Temple, 2109 Lincoln Ave., since 2004. He also performs three nursing home shows a month.
For more information about the Piano Bar at Cavanaugh’s, visit tropevansville.com/nightlife/piano-bar-cavanaughs/.