Posted On 13 Mar 2015
Tag: All Access, All Access Music, All Access Music Group, Artist Interview, Billion, Biz Markie, Bruce Springsteen, Bruno Mars, Calvin Harris, EDM, electronic dance music, electronic music, electronica, Eugene, Graceland, Hip Hop, Just Kids, Kanye, Kanye West, Logic, Mat Kearney, Motion, Music, music interview, Nashville, Oregon, Paul Simon, Rap, The Fat Boys, Tribe Called Quest
“Two kids with wet cement living down in their souls, they say what gets carved when you’re young stays there when you’re old” says Mat Kearney on the title track of his 4th full length album JUST KIDS.”
“There’s something incredibly vulnerable about middle school for me,” says the singer and songwriter. “We’re really impressionable during that period. The cement’s still wet, so to speak, and a lot of things later in life are born during that season.”
JUST KIDS is full of nostalgia and youthful energy written almost as a love letter to his northwest upbringing in Eugene, OR. “A lot of my family has moved to Nashville, where I now live, which is awesome for me personally but it severed some the physical roots I had to Oregon. I found myself writing a lot of songs about my hometown and how it shaped me today.”
For the first time, Mat brought a laptop and a portable studio on tour with him. He wrote in between shows, and he recorded everywhere from Los Angeles and Sweden to his home studio in Nashville, personally producing a lot of the songs and also enlisting the production talents of MDL [Maroon 5, Justin Bieber] and longtime collaborator Josh Crosby.
“I set up to explore by myself,” he explains. “I literally made fifty tracks, and I spent hours alone doing things I wouldn’t do if other people were around. To experiment like that and take the reins as a producer was very different for me. I was out in the wilderness, making music full of swagger that I wanted to play in my car for friends.”
“I picked up my guitar, and the song basically fell in my lap,” he goes on. “It was so simple. I wanted to bring in some 90’s influences and make it groovier than people would expect from me. I was inspired by Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’, and it puts a love song in the context of Nashville where I live.”
Meanwhile, “Billion” bounces with a distinct energy as he paints a vivid picture of true love. “It’s really about the idiosyncrasies of the person you love,” says Mat. “You can either be annoyed by them or celebrate the things that make the person you’re with unique.”
Throughout moments like the poetic “Ghosts” and nostalgic “Los Angeles”, he summons a style that’s equally rooted in singer-songwriter storytelling and rap bombast. “I kept asking myself, ‘what would it sound like if Paul Simon and Kanye West were in a room together?” he admits.
Mat confidently slides into his own space, building on a bevy of accolades and achievements. His last album, Young Love debuted at #1 on the Billboard digital chart and #4 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. In addition, Young Love was the first album to oust Adele’s 21 from its resident iTunes #1 spot in 2011. His music has been featured in countless television shows and films ranging from Soul Surfer and Parenthood to The Closer, NCIS, 30 Rock, and Vampire Diaries. His 2006 major label debut Nothing Left to Lose has sold over 450,000 copies, while 2009’s City of Black & White hit #13 on the Billboard Top 200. In between it all, he supported everybody from John Mayer to Keane on the road.
Ultimately though, Just Kids will prove to be his most impactful statement to date. “It’s the most honest record I’ve done,” Mat leaves off. “I tried to bleed each lyric as opposed to just writing songs. I wanted it to be filled with undeniable moments you don’t forget. In that way, it’s like childhood.”
All Access Music writer, Nicole DeRosa had a chance to ask the talented singer-songwriter a few questions while he’s on tour. Read more in their Q&A below!
Hi Mat! Where does this interview find you today? What’s on the agenda today besides our interview?
I’m actually rehearsing at sound check in Nashville for my upcoming tour. There are so many moving parts that I’m going a little crazy!
For those not as familiar with you and your music, how did you get your start in music? Who or what was the catalyst for you?
I started as a writer. I didn’t play music until late in life. I was a literature major in college and would steal my roommates guitar and write these simple songs with the few chords that I knew. My friends really liked the songs so it gave me enough courage to go for it.
You released your fifth studio album, Just Kids in February of this year. What did you learn between albums that you felt you wanted to infuse into the new album?
I really wanted it to be hard hitting and have a lot of swagger. I think you can hear all my hip hop influences in Just Kids. I also wanted it to be gut wrenchingly honest.
Can you share with me what your inspiration was for your current single, “Billion”?
“I kept asking myself what song would Kanye and Paul Simon write if they were in the studio together.”
Who are your musical influences?
Paul Simon is the king! I love Bruce Springsteen’s writing, but I grew up on 90s hip hop like Tribe Called Quest.
Do you remember the first album you bought for yourself?
The Fat Boys or a Biz Markie single.
What was the first song you fell in love with and why?
It was probably Graceland by Paul Simon. My dad would play it driving around Eugene. I remember thinking it sounded so cool!
Who would your dream collaboration be with, living or dead?
Paul Simon! Am I repeating myself? Him or a new rapper dude named Logic. I would also love to work with Bruno Mars. He’s so crazy talented.
Who is in your current playlist? Any artists, musicians or genres we might be surprised to find in there?
“I have actually been listening to the new Calvin Harris record, Motion. EDM is interesting to me. I also listen to a lot of old country; living in Nashville, its kind of mandatory.”
What’s on tap next for you, Mat? What are you most excited about in 2015?
Playing shows and playing Just Kids on the road! My band is amazing! I can’t wait to get out there!
Learn more about MAT KEARNEY, including upcoming tour dates, visit his website HERE .