Bringin’ It Backwards: Interview with Mat Kearney

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Together with American Songwriter, we had the pleasure of interviewing Mat Kearney over Zoom video! 

Unexpected, unplanned moments often yield the most beautiful results. That’s how Mat Kearney arrived at his sixth album, January Flower, a collection of honest, stripped down songs that brings the Nashville-based, Oregon-born musician back to his singer-songwriter roots.

In January of 2019, Mat packed up his recording gear and decamped to an isolated house in Joshua Tree with his childhood friend Marshall Roeman, a painter, and songwriter Eli Teplin. The plan was to use their two weeks in the desert to create with a full recording studio, but a massive storm hit, deluging the area in record rainfall and shutting down their power. With the light of the wood burning stove to guide the way, Mat took the opportunity to explore music from a new angle, armed with only his voice and an acoustic guitar.

When Mat returned to Nashville he carried that spirit into the rest of the writing and recording process, re-teaming with his longtime producer Robert Marvin, who also helmed his 2006 breakout Nothing Left To Lose and 2011’s Young Love. The goal was to create songs with no other intention than simply the joy of making music. For Mat, the year-long process was about rediscovering why he loves writing songs in the first place. He brought in several older songs, including “Can’t Look Back” and “Running In Circles,” reimaging them to fit in with the newer work and kept the instrumentation simple. “Pontiac” was inspired by Bruce Hornsby, with the band tracking live to a pop backbeat, while “Stuck In the Moment” emphasize an organic, approachable aesthetic that allows Mat’s emotional vocals to lead the way.

January Flower recalls Kearney’s early work on his gold-selling album Nothing Left To Lose, veering in a different direction from his 2018 album CrazyTalk. The album was also inspired by his acoustic tour in the fall of 2019 to promote the 10th anniversary of The City of Black and White, which was the last time Mat was on the road before everything shut down in the pandemic. His vast touring history, which includes treks with John Mayer, Sheryl Crow and NEEDTOBREATHE, is evident in the vibrancy of the songs, as is his enduring success as a recording artist. The musician has released five albums in the Billboard Top 200, with three in the Top 20, and has seen his dynamic songs placed on Grey’s Anatomy, 30 Rock and NCIS. Overall, he has over 2.5 billion global streams. It’s been a long and winding path to where Mat is now, but it’s a journey he’s happy to still be taking.

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