Weekly Discovery: Matt Maeson

Photo by Nathaniel Wood

Matt Maeson’s journey from bedroom songwriter to buzzed-about new artist has been an unusual one. He spent his youth traveling with his parents’ family band, performing at prisons and motorcycle rallies as part of an outreach ministry. Raised on Christian music, it was when Maeson discovered “outside” artists like Johnny Cash and Jeff Buckley that something stirred inside him, and he began writing songs of his own in his bedroom closet.

He just released his first EP, Who Killed Matt Maeson, a six-song collection that blends giant pop hooks, foot-stomping nods to roots music, and alt-rock leaning production reminiscent of acts like Manchester Orchestra and Twenty One Pilots to create a sound unlike much else out there. The EP features his breakout hit “Cringe,” a soulful, radio-ready tale of self-induced isolation that cracked Spotify’s US Viral chart earlier this year.

Maeson took some time out in the days leading up to his EP release to discuss songwriting, growing up in a family band, and his plans for a full-length debut album.

“Cringe” was a breakout hit for you. What’s the story behind that song? What inspired you to write it?

I didn’t think much of that song after I wrote it. I definitely didn’t think it would do as well as its done. “Cringe” is about being pushed away by the people you care about because of the lifestyle you live. I lived pretty rough for a while, and some of the people I really cared about would rather tell me how wrong I was rather than ask how I was doing. That’s the short version, anyway.

How did you come up with the concept for the music video?

Kenny Laubbacher and I worked together on the one. I gave him the very descriptive meaning behind the songs, and he came back with some ideas and we kind of just went back and forth. It’s essentially about all of these people doing me wrong and forcing me into fights, drinking, drugs, etc. … And at the end of the video I realize no one was really doing me wrong. It was me bringing myself down.

You just released a new EP, Who Killed Matt Maeson. When did you start putting that collection together? Did a specific song jumpstart the process?

Well there is one song that I wrote back in 2012 appropriately titled “Twenty Twelve,” but other than that everything has been written within the last year.

Where did the title Who Killed Matt Maeson come from?

When I fell into that rough lifestyle I referred to above, it took a while to get that low. A part of my innocence had to “die” for me to get there, and I’ll never get that back. I feel like a different person. So, it’s about who and what forced me to that place.

It’s hard to categorize your music as fitting into one genre or another, which is cool. Where do your musical influences and interests come from?

I was raised on Christian music. Mainly shitty Christian music. I had to dig really deep to find something I actually liked in that world. Then I found out about the whole other world of music outside and went bonkers. I attribute most of my writing skills to the likes of Johnny Cash, Andy Hull (Manchester Orchestra), Jeff Buckley and Kurt Cobain. People who knew how to write a song from experience and with brutal honesty. That’s what I want to do.

Do you have a typical songwriting process? If so, what does it look like?

No, not really. It’s always different. I write a lot when I’m out on the road. Maybe something to do with being so far from home. When I wrote songs when I was younger and lived with my parents, I’d always have to write my music in my closet because of how loud it was and I’ve been doing that ever since. I don’t know, I guess it’s a safe space.

How heavily do you rely on personal experiences when you write songs?

Very heavily. Every song I write comes from something that happened in my life.

How do you feel your upbringing has contributed to your development as an artist?

Quite well. I have a very unique faith in God because of it, and that’s very important to me. I also toured with my parents for a few years playing prison shows with their ministry Life On The Verge, and that really kickstarted my live performances. We did A LOT of shows, and by the time I went my separate way, I’d like to think I was pretty damn good at it.

Do you have plans for a full-length album anytime soon?

I’ve got a lot of stuff written for it. I have enough to stitch together an album if I wanted to, but I want it to feel more cohesive than that, so I’m still writing. We’ll be recording later this year and thinking 2018 for release.

What’s next for you now that you’ve released your EP?

Shows, shows and some more shows. We’ll be heading out to London and making our way to Germany soon. Then we’ll be shooting some more music videos, and then recording that album. I’m really excited to see what the future holds post-EP. But you know, I’ll probably just end up sitting on my roof with a bottle of Jameson, a pack of Newports and a guitar.