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Matt Berninger

Musician

Matt Berninger is the vocalist for The National, a group that formed in 1999 and has performed at small clubs, large festivals, and for President Obama. Their seventh album, Sleep Well Beast, is out September 8, 2017. Its lead single, “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness,” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Alternative Songs chart in August 2017. It was their highest charting song to date. (Fittingly, we spoke to Berninger previously about being patient in your creative pursuits.)

What is it like having a No.1 song after almost two decades? Also, do awards really matter?

I’m definitely happy about it, but I’m not entirely sure what it means. It’s a little like being named prom king 20 years after high school. It feels nice, but I don’t expect it to change the course of my life. I’m also not entirely sure what it means on a practical level to have a No. 1 song. There are so many different charts and formats and territories that I can’t keep up. All I know is that it’s not on the same chart as “Despacito.”

What is it like having a No.1 song after almost two decades? Also, do awards really matter?

Awards used to matter. I remember being at summer camp when I was seven and being so happy to get any kind of ribbon or a badge. I just liked the object—the commemoration of something. One night I was in my bunk homesick and crying all night so I got taken to the counselors’ cabin. They were all up playing cards and drinking. Some of the female counselors were in their pajamas which I couldn’t believe I was seeing. They were all probably 16 years old but they seemed like the Rolling Stones to me. They gave me a badge for missing my mom and dad so much.

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