In a world where the airwaves are dominated by a small percentage of musical talent, whose songs are often looped on an almost exhausting repeat, it is refreshing to unearth something undiscovered. The success of streaming music platforms has allowed creative exhale for artists and in turn, a breath of fresh air for the rest of us to inhale.
Matt Brown is just such a diamond in the rough. His music is a vibrant blend of soul and pop, mixed with authenticity and powered by guitar driven melodies.
“I met Matt Brown on an annual music cruise that I go on every year called Sail Across the Sun. I have always been a music lover, but prior to meeting Matt I mostly listened to ‘top 40’ and whatever was popular. After meeting Matt I began listening to Matt’s music on Spotify non-stop! Eventually I listened to “Matt Brown radio” and started hearing other independent singer/songwriters whose music I have fallen in love with. Matt has completely changed the way I listen to music! As long Matt Brown is making music, I will be one of his BIGGEST FANS!”Connie Buhlke
We met Matt Brown because Connie shared his latest single, Like a Religion with us and of course now we want to share the wealth with you. When we sat down with him he told us, “My main goal in all of this is to have a piece of authenticity in every song I make. I only want to create material that I love.”
That sense of genuine, soulful expression is tangible in the songs he writes. Read on to find out how his passion for music and DIY work ethic took him from a promising career as an analyst, with job offers from Amazon and Starbucks, instead across the country to Nashville.
The Feature Story: Let’s start at the beginning of your story. I read that growing up, you would play music with your dad. Did you know then that you would like to pursue music as a career, or would you say that those times were a catalyst for your career now?
Matt Brown: I didn’t know at that time that I wanted to pursue music as a career. All I knew was that music made me feel something that nothing else did. Watching my dad play guitar and hearing music around the house definitely became the catalyst for my path in music. I spent those younger years collecting and absorbing the rhythms and melodies I heard from the records that were always spinning in the house. I’m so thankful my parents exposed me to so much good music growing up.
TFS: Tell us a little bit about your journey as an artist from college to where you are currently?
MB: In college I studied finance and was on a path to work for Amazon or Starbucks as an analyst. During my time at Seattle University, I was constantly playing guitar in my free time. I bought my first guitar at 20 years old before moving to Seattle. It’s the first thing I did when I woke, and what I was doing before and after class. It’s all I wanted to do. Some of my best memories are sitting in my room in college against my amplifier, feeling the vibrations of the guitar coming from the tweed amp. I always loved to sing, but it was during this time that I began to write my own songs. I guess the guitar became something I could hide behind, allowing me to feel comfortable singing. There was a Battle of The Bands competition my senior year. I had just met a drummer, Ryan Root, who was also a songwriter. We started writing songs specifically to play at the competition. We had an immediate songwriting synergy and the writing process was fast and fluid. We knew we had something special. It was at this time I started to question my path in finance. I just couldn’t ignore what was happening in my soul. We won the Battle of The Bands contest which became the start of my music career. I turned down job opportunities shortly after graduation and moved back to Portland, Oregon to begin writing and crafting songs with Ryan Root. He and I are still best friends today and have written over 200 songs ranging from artist songs to TV & Film placements. I made the move to Nashville in 2013 to get uncomfortable and grow more as a writer. Ryan made the move about 3 years later.
TFS: What is the creative process like for you when writing music? Is it collaborative, introspective? Based on life experiences, etc.?
MB: The writing process is quite random for me. If there is a pattern, I would say a lot of my song ideas come while drinking coffee driving down the road. I have a plethora of voice memos in my phone that mostly come from driving somewhere. Sometimes the idea is a lyric, song title, melody, or beat I hear in my head. I think perhaps seeing the world in motion inspires all these ideas. Ryan Root is an excellent title guy. Sometimes I’ll have a lyric or melody idea and he’ll spit out a title. This usually paves the way for a song. We’ve learned to “get out of the way” when one of us in on a roll with an idea. In other words, we don’t want to limit the momentum of the song for the sake of having more of our own ideas in the song. In my opinion there should be no rules or formulas to songwriting with the exception of length for radio. I think you can say anything if it’s said in the right way. I don’t like to limit my songwriting to only what I’ve experienced. Songwriting can be imaginative and story-telling too. There’s really no limit.
TFS: From what I can see, you’ve been releasing a song a week for the last couple of weeks. Are you working on, or finishing an album? Any plans to release more?
MB: I try to work on new material every week. As streaming has taken over, we’ve been focusing more on single releases in hopes to compile them into an Ep or Album. People don’t seem to have as much patience listening to an entire album, so our strategy is to release single songs and promote them with video and other content. We still plan on making Albums and Ep’s, but the release methods have changed due to streaming.
TFS: Let’s talk about the two songs out now. What can you tell us about the writing of these and the story behind “Summerblood” and “Like a Religion”?
MB: Like a Religion came from Ryan and I talking about the failures and frustrations of love both in the world today and in our personal lives. It’s a song that’s about the daily decision making that love requires in order to keep it alive. It’s about being honest with your weaknesses and the realization that we fail daily.
Summerblood started with a drum beat. We decided one day to write a song starting with just a drum beat. The song grew into a sultry sounding tune filled with young- blood nostalgia. Summerblood is a song about the adrenaline of young love in our veins. It’s a song about a time when life was more simple, and when it was easier to fall in love. I associate that time with summers from my teenage years. We wanted to write a song that mixed nostalgia with something modern and fresh.
TFS: I understand that you’ve done the videos for these yourself? How much work and time goes into creating the music and then the video?
MB: So much of video content is viewed through a cell phone these days. Content is so short lived and requires more frequent releases. That being said, we decided to do more DIY videos and content in order to keep up with our frequent releases. It’s hard to justify spending thousands on professional video content when you release so often. Ryan has invested into videography equipment for the iPhone that allows us to create more professional video content. There’s a ton you can do now with the cameras on our phones. We’ve challenged ourselves to get creative with what’s in front of us. There’s still a lot of time required on the editing side of things. Ryan has taken this on and we will be releasing a lot more video content for all the songs we release.
TFS: Talk about some of the more rewarding aspects of creating music and carving out your place in music?
MB: My main goal in all of this is to have a piece of authenticity in every song I make. I only want to create material that I love. It’s taken time to realize this. In the past I was guilty of making material that I thought would please the ears’ of others, but I can say now I don’t worry about pleasing others. It feels good to make music this way, knowing that it’s coming from the right place.
TFS: What are some of the challenges you’ve worked through, or work through to keep going?
MB: I think my current challenge is navigating the world of social media in order to stay relevant. I started my music career at the tail end of CD distribution, right at the start of facebook. I built fans making records, passing out demos, and playing shows. There’s now been a shift in marketing to be more present on social media. My issue with social media is that it seems to take away an artist’s mystique. I think mystique is important, and the more you let people into your life on social media, the more you lose it. It’s not about being better or too cool for people to know you. It’s about wanting your fans to get to know you more through your songs without being distracted by your personal life. I’m currently working through this struggle by making quality content and releasing it more often on social platforms.
TFS: If you could pick any artist, band, etc., past or present to collaborate with, who would you pick? Why?
MB: If I could be in a band as a side member, I would be in Coldplay. I’ve been a fan since they came out with their first album. I love how they successfully blend nostalgia with fun. I think playing live with them would be magical.
I would love to collaborate with John Mayer. Like Mayer, I’m a guitar player at heart, and think we could create something really special.
TFS: I love a tweet you posted at the end of 2018: “Gone are the days when shows were shows and music was music. Everyone politicizes everything now which prevents music from BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER.”, as an artist today, can you elaborate on the importance of using the stage and the platform to unify audiences and/or how difficult, or easy is that?
MB: I’m a believer that having a stage or platform doesn’t make anyone an expert on anything. It also doesn’t give anyone the right to use it to persuade people’s opinions. Music is one of the only things that can take a person away from all of these divisive topics. No matter what side you’re on, I just want a show to be about the music and helping people forget about how bad the world can be.