Podcast Bringin’ It Backwards: Interview with Conor Matthews

We had the pleasure of interviewing Conor Matthews on the phone!

Videos by American Songwriter

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You could practically watch the scene unfold in slow motion.

“A classic coupe pulls up, and Conor Matthews steps out like a character from some timeless flick. With effusive charisma, Midwest manners, old school charm, R&B swagger, and no filter, he brings blunt authenticity to his patented raw pop sound. After posting up over 25 million streams and receiving looks from Billboard, Idolator, Refinery29, and more, the singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer invites everyone to join him for a wild ride on his 2020 EP, Heartbreak In The Hills [Warner Records].

“I wanted to showcase the parts of a breakup that can be exciting and fun, because you’re casting off weights you didn’t know you had and embracing life to the fullest–meeting new people, new friends, and lots of new experiences,” he explains. “I was having the time of my life, post a toxic three-year relationship. To me, it felt like what a summer breakup feels like. Half of my heart was bleeding, but the other half was LIT. Rather than telling this like a sad boy, I wanted people to be able to bump this EP. I’m continuing to iron out my lane and embrace all of the influences from pop to R&B. This project adds a piece to the narrative of who I am as a person and an artist.”

It also represents the culmination of a quiet grind that began in his Illinois hometown “where the suburbs meet the farmland.” Plucked out of his freshman year at Belmont University, he landed a publishing deal with Keith Urban and Warner Chappell Music. During a long road trip, he expanded his palette from Tim McGraw and Brad Paisley to Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, Usher, and Tank as well as classic rock bands.

In 2018, he kicked off his solo career. Incorporating Nashville-style storytelling and vivid lyrics into a slick pop landscape, his breakthrough independent single “Forever Right Now” generated upwards of 7 million Spotify streams and counting. Signing to Warner Records, he took off on the 2020 Balloons EP highlighted by “Older” [2.2 million Spotify streams]. Along the way, Conor crafted Heartbreak In The Hills with a collective of collaborators dubbed Hollywood Hillbillies in Los Angeles, Denver, and Nashville.

Now, he ignites this ride with the first single “Way Out.” A woozy melody echoes as he cycles through fluttering runs above a slick bass line and airy beat. He paints an honest picture punctuated by lines such as, “she back in my old sweater,” “traded a Four Runner for a Mercedes,” and his personal favorite, “I’m not a homewrecker. It’s a renovation.”

“It’s a prequel to the story,” he goes on. “Toxic relationships are the hardest to let go of. You move on from your ex. You start seeing other people, and then you rekindle an old flame. She breaks up with her new guy when you’re in town. It’s an upbeat summer jam. I tackled a taboo subject from a different angle.” Following this thread, “Hit Me Back” hinges on a sing-song chant, “She don’t hit me back no more, wanna hit it like before,” over a hypnotic harmony. The intoxicating and infectious “Drunk” depicts “the reason she doesn’t hit you back, because you’re drunk and being ignorant and shit,” he explains.

“It’s the brother to ‘Hit Me Back’.” Then, there’s “S EX.” His clever lyricism takes the spotlight as he coyly brags, “You know if your sex life was a playlist, I’m your greatest hit.” Everything concludes on the title track “Heartbreak In The Hills.” Slick raps skate across a skittering bounce before climaxing on the ultimate late night in the hills. “It’s the culmination of the EP,” he explains. “I’m being coy and saying, ‘This isn’t even bad. I’m having the time of my life’. It opens with me arriving at some mansion. I’ve got my new girl, and we’re going hard until the morning. You can practically see the party.”

Accompanied by a narrative series of music videos, Heartbreak In The Hills illustrates the scope of his unpredictable and undeniable spirit. “It’s going to be crazy,” he promises. “We did something totally different that will surprise you.” In the end, the EP could be the perfect soundtrack to one hell of a night. “I hope everyone walks away with a good time,” he leaves off.

“I hope it plays in clubs, house parties, and in the car when you want to feel good. Maybe listeners going through breakups can use it to have a fun in the midst of heartbreak. Honestly, I hope a couple of people get irresponsible to it,” he grins.”

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