From Portland to Nashville (and a lot of other places in between), Matt Brown is a singer/songwriter force to be reckoned with. Just like a family heirloom, the gift of music has been passed down in his family from generation to generation, leading to his pursuit of a career in none other than Music City.
“I grew up in a musical family where my grandfather played guitar and my dad inherited those and became a sort of prodigy,” he laughed. “An E Square and a Martin to be exact. We would always listen to records around the house and if those weren’t playing, my dad was playing guitar in the living room. We would go on Sunday drives and just listen to music and I was always really into rhythm. My parents said they would see me banging my head against my pillow in my sleep,” he added as a side note.
“It made sense that my first instrument was drums. I got my first set at 14 and while studying finance and accounting at college is when I learned to play guitar. A lot of my classmates urged me to star doing open mics and I was shy! But when my (still) songwriting partner, Ryan Root and I won our first Battle of the Bands at Seattle University, I knew we might be onto something.”
“Ryan co-wrote half of my new album. The songwriting process is never the same twice for us,” he began talking about the process behind working on Walk Into the Light, released on July 22nd. “Early on in my career as a musician; I moved back to Oregon and started a band doing some touring here and there, I met Chick Rains at a bar. Chick is a Nashville-based songwriter with several top 10 hits from the 80’s and 90’s. He sort of opened the door for me to come to Nashville and really believe in my songwriting process as a whole.
A lot of my songs start with a title. Out of Ryan and I, I’m more the musician and he usually starts with the meaning and direction the song should go in. When either one of us is on fire with an idea, we just sort of let the other fly and I think that’s why it works so well.”
“There is a lot of meaning behind the new album. It was really time to take the plunge and say, ‘this is who I am!’ It’s no longer about pleasing other people, it’s more about pleasing myself this time. It’s less about fitting into the ‘Nashville ideal’ and making my own. You start to realize when you try to be something you’re not, you slowly lose who you really were and there’s no you anymore. ‘Walk Into the Light’ is saying ‘walk out and tell your truth.'”
Truth-telling is exactly how I would describe this album. It’s a little alternative, a little bit pop with a whole lot of soul and passion as the driving force behind every track. While it’s not exactly a concept album focused on one theme, there is a connecting narrative of honesty in every song.
As for a song that Matt has heard recently and wished he wrote, he says,
“While it’s not even totally in my wheelhouse, the new JT single, ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’ is just awesome.,” he confessed. “I love the production and melody. I’m also really influenced by anything Sam Cooke, Chris Stapelton or Leon Bridges. I always love songs that verge on being ballads but still have a gritty vibe.”
While Nashville is an amazing place to call home and be based out of as an artist, many musicians have the same thing to say about their life in the music-filled city.
“I think it’s much more difficult here than elsewhere,” Matt shared with a dry laugh. “Back home if you have a solid fan base and come out with an album, every single person will buy that album and even be excited about it. You get boosted up, not necessarily with ego, but just pride. Then you come to Nashville and industry people just shrug your music off as ‘cool’ because there’s eighteen other people they heard just that day. All I can really say is, Nashville conditions you to have nerves of steel. There’s so much supply and not enough demand to match it.”
Even though we met at a coffee shop at 5 p.m., Matt was eager to get some eggs and toast (he was off carbs for a while) while we chatted. On the subject of food and something everyone loves to do…eat, I asked him which artist, dead or alive, he would most want to have dinner with and what would be the one question he asked?
“John Mayer,” he said as if he thought about it a million times before. “His success is truly earned and at the forefront of his music is guitar, which is something I can really relate to. I wouldn’t ask the typical ‘what’s your advice’ because this business is different for everyone and ‘advice’ is always going to the be the same: ‘work really hard.’ Instead, I’d just say, ‘do you wanna write a song?'”