Q&A: Mat Kearney
Beat-driven singer Mat Kearney, who kicks off a tour Thursday (1/19) at Raleigh, NC's Lincoln Theatre, feels like his shows hit a new level after the release of his latest album, last year's "Young Love."
"I think it's because, being your third album, you feel like you've learned a little something," Kearney told SoundSpike. "You're better at what you do. This album has come across so well live. It's been one of the more fun and exciting records to play live. You can play all your old stuff, too. I feel like the stars are aligning on this tour."
"Young Love," Kearney's first album for Universal Republic, is a force. It landed at No. 4 on The Billboard 200 album chart and No. 1 on the Top Digital Albums Chart, selling nearly 44,000 copies during its first week out. In addition, "Ships in the Night" and the first single -- the hand-clap heavy "Hey Mama" -- took the No. 2 and No. 3 spots on the iTunes rock chart.
The Nashville-based, Portland-bred musician recorded "Young Love" in Nashville with his longtime friend and producer Robert Marvin, as well as Jason Lehning. Prior to "Young Love," Kearney was best known for his hits "Nothing Left To Lose," "Undeniable," "Closer To Love" and "All I Have." His songs have been picked up by music supervisors throughout the television industry as well, appearing on shows such as "Grey's Anatomy," "Vampire Diaries," "NCIS," "Friday Night Lights," "30 Rock" and "Gossip Girl."
Kearney spoke to SoundSpike about his impending jaunt, why he thinks "Young Love" has been such a revelation and the inspiration behind the record.
SoundSpike: Are you looking forward to your tour?
Mat Kearney: Yes, I'm looking forward to it very much so.
I can imagine these songs must be fun to play live.
It's been really amazing. We already did a couple months in the fall, and it was probably the most exciting touring experience I've had. It made it really special.
"Young Love" is your highest-charting album. That must have been exciting.
Yes, that's what they tell me. It did really well. I was incredibly humbled and excited and surprised. To have a No. 1 record on iTunes was very shocking. I wasn't quite prepared for it.
Why do you think it touched so many people?
If I knew, I would be people could pay me millions of dollars ... something about this record felt special. I knew that I could sense excitement around the record just by Twitter and Facebook and people talking about it. I think I kind of returned to some of what my first record was -- more of the hip-hop and beat stuff. I think that really resonated with people, too. I think all of that created a perfect storm for having a special first week.
Were you surprised at how well it did?
I was very, yes. I knew we were going to do something, but I didn't know it would do that well, no. Once it showed up on iTunes, I felt like we were being introduced to a lot of new people. I'm still relatively new. This is my third record. I have a family of people who really support me, but this record feels like it's touched beyond that.
"Hey Mama" definitely received the support it deserved.
Nothing is for sure in this strange business I've chosen to do. When you get people playing it on the airwaves it feels very good.
What was the inspiration behind "Young Love"?
There was me going through a radical change in my own life, which was falling in love and getting married. You can sense the butterflies in my stomach in a lot of the songs. When you commit to someone, you're forced to kind of deal with the past. There's this look back to maybe the moments where innocence [was] lost and you're trying to reclaim some of that.
Your album came out in August. Now that you've had time to look back, what do you think about it? Do you consider it to be one of your best, as critics have said?
Ah, yeah. I don't know. I have a hard time comparing my records because they're the product of all you can do in those moments. I do think that it's special and I'm still very proud of it. I know that's a good sign. There are different moments in different times [where] you just don't want to hear your records anymore. You're over it. It's interesting the cycles you go through. "Young Love," I'm definitely very proud of it. I feel very strongly about playing it live. I feel like there are a lot of people out there that would really enjoy it that haven't heard it yet. That keeps me hungry to keep pressing on and sharing the songs that I have.
Describe the songwriting process for "Young Love.
I get kind of bored with traditional singer-songwriter records. I don't consider myself totally that. This one, we really explored that more. I would sit down and we would almost program beats and create these real beat-driven worlds before I would start writing songs to them. There were some moments where I would sit down in my living room with my guitar and craft, like, a more traditional song. But a lot of it was spent dancing around a room trying to create this really epic heartbreaking beat. It's almost like making a hip-hop record in some ways.
It sounds like it's really fun.
Yeah, it really is. You can sit down and write something with your guitar and then you have to figure out how to make it work with a band. But when you sit down and make this visceral beat, you know at least from the start you have something that moves you physically. You figure out how to find a story and an idea that fits it. That becomes a challenge. It's very different from sitting down with your guitar. It was and it is interesting because I used to feel like I was either this pop beat-driven artist or I was this folk singer-songwriter artist. I think on this record, I'm accepting more the tension between those two worlds is really more of where I find myself fitting. Not having to be one or the other, but allowing myself to be both of them made for a very special record that is very diverse.
What can fans expect from your live show this time around?
I feel like we put on an amazing journey. I get bored at shows sometimes, so I really structure my show to keep you on the edge of your toes from lreally fun rocking songs to ballads. I try to script it kind of like a movie, where it takes you on these different journeys that lead into other songs. Maybe it's from my years as needing Ritalin as a kid. [Laughs] I like to sculpt my show so they keep you on the edge of your seat.
It must be nice for you, too, to keep it dramatic like that.
What I love about what we do is we're not scared to go to either extreme. We're not scared to have fun and smile and have a party. We're also not scared to get real and make you deal with some intense moments. When you introduce, both of those it really makes for a special experience because both of them become more special -- the party and the intimate moments.
19 - Raleigh, NC - Lincoln Theatre
21 - Charlotte, NC - Amos' Southend
21 - Greenville, SC - The Handlebar
23 - Chattanooga, TN - Track 29
25 - Tallahassee, FL - Floyd's Music Store
26 - Tampa, FL - The Ritz Ybor
27 - Orlando, FL - Beacham Theatre
28 - Atlanta, GA - Center Stage
30 - Mobile, AL - Soul Kitchen
31 - New Orleans, LA - Parish at House of Blues
1 - Houston, TX - House of Blues
3 - Dallas, TX - Majestic Theatre
4 - Oklahoma City, OK - Diamond Ballroom
7 - Kansas City, MO - Beaumont Club
9 - Colorado Springs, CO - Black Sheep
10 - Denver, CO - Ogden Theatre
11 - Aspen, CO - Belly Up Aspen
13 - Salt Lake City, UT - In the Venue
15 - Spokane, WA - Knitting Factory Concert House
16 - Seattle, WA - Showbox at the Market
17 - Portland, OR - Roseland Theater
18 - Eugene, OR - McDonald Theatre
20 - Reno, NV - Knitting Factory Concert House
22 - San Francisco, CA - Warfield Theatre
23 - Los Angeles, CA - The Music Box
24 - Las Vegas, NV - Aliante Casino
25 - San Diego, CA- House of Blues