Introducing Mat Kearney
Singer/songwriter Mat Kearney, yes that’s Mat with one “T,” originally from Oregon, has spent most of his career living in Nashville, Tenn. Whether it is TV shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Friday Night Lights” or even co-headlining with Ingrid Michaelson, his music can be heard everywhere. Kearney just recently released his third major label record, “Young Love,” on Aug. 2 with the first single, “Hey Mama,” and is preparing to release another single and music video in the near future.
Saturday, Oct. 29 on an oddly cold and snowy October evening, Mat Kearney sat down with The Temple News backstage at the Theater of Living Arts on his tour supporting “Young Love.” Accompanied by the sweet smell of incense, courtesy of Travis, Kearney’s tour manager, Kearney talked about his past, what it’s like to tour with friends and what artist he’d love to open for.
The Temple News: For our readers who aren’t familiar with your history, what got you into writing and performing music?
Mat Kearney: I didn’t actually start writing music until I was a sophomore in college. I was an English major so I wrote a lot and had this poetry driven side to my music. I would steal my roommate’s guitar and ride my little beach cruiser over to these racquetball courts. I would sit there, for a couple hours, and play the only three chords I knew. I would just start writing songs. I was so bad at covering other people’s [songs] that I wanted to write my own.
TTN: Originally from Oregon, what brought you to Nashville?
MK: I was going to college [in Oregon] and I had started writing a few songs and then I met this guy who was a producer. He had a studio in his garage. One day he’s like, “Hey, I’m picking up and moving to Nashville to set up shop. Do you want to help me move across the country?” It was supposed to only be for the summer, but we set up a little studio in this apartment [in Nashville] and by the end of the summer, I was done. I didn’t leave. I’ve been there ever since.
TTN: How do you think Nashville has affected your music?
MK: Nashville is such a songwriting town with all the country influence and really, the industry of songwriting. There are so many songwriters there–country, pop and whatever kind of [music] influences the way you look at songwriting structure or quality of songs you write. Apart from the vibe and the beats and all that, [Nashville] causes you to focus on the lyric melody and the story you’re telling. That’s really had a huge influence on me.
TTN: Speaking of beat driven music, a lot of your earlier music (i.e. the “Bullet” EP) included beats, as well as, verses sung in spoken word. After your second record, “City of Black & White,” you seemed to abandon that, going for more of a Bruce Springsteen-inspired sound. Now, with “Young Love,” we see a return to your earlier style. Talk about that transition.
MK: I think creatively as an artist you tend to want to do the opposite that you maybe did before. So we made this kind of hip-hop influenced singer/songwriter music on “Nothing Left to Lose” in our basement. Then the next record, we rented out this really amazing, beautiful studio and I made more of a band record where you had a bunch of friends involved and yeah, I was really going for a Springsteen, more adult record sound. I guess on this record [“Young Love”], I never stopped doing the real beat driven spoken word stuff [live] but I guess I just got hungry to try and return to that [in my records.] So we started going down that path and then all the sudden it took over and I was like “We’re gonna really do this.”
TTN: Where did the title of your new record, “Young Love,” come from?
MK: I don’t know, I just think it came out one day. I started trying to write a song one day, called “Young Love,” and I was just like “Young Love” that’s such a good phrase. It seemed to sum up what the record was about, you know? A lot of the stories on the record are kind of like butterfly in the stomach, and falling in love, then there’s also dealing with falling in love with someone and the scary aspects of dealing with your own baggage and your past. There’s all of those things happening in this album and I don’t know, “Young Love” just seemed to sum it up.
TTN: In the past, you’ve toured with everyone from Keane to recently, Owl City. Are there any bands or musicians that you’d like to tour with in the future?
MK: Oh yeah, there’s a lot of bands I’d like to tour with. I’m really into… ah, what have I been listening to these days? I’ve been listening to a lot of hip-hop. I’m into Kid Cudi, I like his first record a lot actually. As far as touring–who would I like to tour with? I love that band Noah and the Whale. They’re really, really good. It’s like Tom Petty electronic music or something. I’d love to open for Adele one day. I really love her music and have been a fan of all her records. It’s fun to see her explode and do as well as she’s doing. We were label mates on Colombia and I would always do a little cover of hers. I’m just a fan of that style of music. Really beat driven, beautiful voice, song-driven music.
TTN: Your opening band, Nashville-based Leagues includes a couple members who actually perform with you, as well. How did this tour come about and how is it been touring with Leagues?
MK: It’s fun bringing your friends out on the road. I think that some of what keeps you sane on the road is who you travel with, you know? As much and important as the creative side is, I surround myself with amazing musicians, really you’re looking for friends that you can share life with and eat great dinners together and challenge you. It then becomes a community. So I think that yeah, Leagues, of course I love their music but when I found out that Tyler, who has played with me for six years, and Jeremy, who has played with me for awhile and their lead singer, Thad, who has been a good friend of mine for forever and I have been a fan of his solo stuff, [were starting a band,] I was just like, “Hey, do you guys want to come out?” And now they’re on the bus with us and it’s like a big happy family. Most days it’s fun
TTN: What can we expect from you in the new year?
MK: We’re about to add West Coast dates. We’re getting ready to gear up for a new single, which I’m really excited about. “Hey Mama” has been amazing but I’ve kind of been waiting for “Ships in the Night” to get a chance to go for it. I love that song, so we’re shooting a video and we’re getting things going.
Lucas Ballasy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.