It’s been a long while since country hit maker Matt Stell sat down on his couch, stretched out his lanky legs and cradled his guitar in his hands in the hopes of writing a song…all by himself.
But that’s exactly what he feels like doing right about now.
“Songwriting is keeping me motivated,” says Stell, who is currently self-isolating with the rest of the country as coronavirus continues to try to delve into the roots of this nation. “Songwriting is keeping me accountable to staying creative. I mean, you have to get that ball rolling before it will take off downhill, you know?”
So he writes. And he plays. And each and every Wednesday at 8PM CST, Stell heads to Instagram Live with fellow songwriters Lindsay Ell and Jameson Rodgers for their new weekly live stream “Penned Up” to share with their fans a song that they have individually been working on during the week before.
And then, they take a collective deep breath, and see what everyone thinks.
“Up until now, my schedule has usually been filled up with co-writes, but its in this time that I really feel like I’m loving being creative on my own,” says Stell, who hit big time country star status last year with his number one hit “Prayed for You.” “I always want to keep in touch with that skill and that guy that used to sit on that couch and write a song because he wanted to.”
And the ability to immediately get those self-penned songs to his fans is obviously something to take advantage of during this time of quarantining.
“There are people that love music and then there are people that love songs,” Stell tells American Songwriter. “They are different, but they overlap. Most people would love to go to Broadway and watch a cover band and have a great time, but then you have those fans that enjoy going to a writer’s round and really sitting and listening to a song. Those are the people that are watching ‘Penned Up.’ People who love songs and are looking for something fresh.”
And heck, these songs are as fresh as ever.
“I’m still working on my song,” Ell admitted just hours before the April 1 live stream, which will feature guest songwriter Jimmie Allen. “Its been such a neat experience to work with Matt (Stell) and Jameson (Rodgers) on this. If you ask me, it’s been one of the silver linings of this whole thing we find ourselves entrenched in right now. None of us would have the time to do something like this if we were following our regular schedule. It’s definitely the best use of our time right now.”
And yes, they too are being inspired by one another.
“It’s so inspirational and so motivating to hear people’s songs and hear how they went and wrote those songs,” says Stell.
“Here in Nashville, you are surrounded by the best songwriters ever, so co-writing is just a way of life here,” adds Ell. “I mean, you have the best writers in the world just down the street. But sometimes, I get in this habit of writing and then relying on a co-write to finish it. So writing by myself 100% is proving to be a challenge to myself.”
And putting your mind to anything else other than the challenge that the coronavirus has placed upon our doorstep isn’t easy, but its vital…especially for songwriters.
“Getting that creative person going in my head always takes a little work,” says Stell. “He’s always a little lazy. (Laughs.) So yeah, getting ready to create and write isn’t always easy but you figure out ways, because you just to have find ways to keep going.”