Interview by Maranda Pleasant
Maranda Pleasant: I listen to your music and it has a lot of depth. I can tell you have felt a lot of things. What are the things that really make your soul come alive?
Mat Kearney: I love creating. I am addicted to the drug of creation and creating things. I get a little depressed when I am struggling to find what I know is locked inside. If it’s a lyric or something that is challenging me, I can be very depressed, but when it’s like heaven opens up and it gives you a song, it’s amazing. There’s nothing else that I enjoy more probably.
MP: What are some of the things that make you vulnerable?
MK: I love being vulnerable. It’s scary. I feel like the best stuff that I have ever written can come from real vulnerable places. The songs that you start to write that you are a little scared of can be the ones that you have to tell. I think that I can be very vulnerable, but those tend to be the songs that people love..
MP: What are some of the things in this life that you have struggled with the most?
MK: That’s like the most epic question that anyone has ever asked me. I love it. Some of the things that all of us struggle with, courage, authenticity. I think all of my art and my songwriting comes back to this searching. A lot of that search is defined by my faith and my struggle with it. That is the beautiful struggle that I have signed up for with my music.
Being real is difficult. If you make people think they’re thinking they’ll like you, but if you make people actually think, then watch out, you’re not going to be popular. There’s a truth to the fact that it’s hard to be real. It’s easy to be indulgent. It’s easy to be bubble gum, but it’s hard to find a real thing that really makes your soul tick. It’s painful and honest. It can be more challenging than just a sad song.
MP: I am learning as I get older that not being real is actually more scary and more lonely. It creates a void. Are there any causes that you’re passionate about?
MK: I’ve worked with my friends on Blood:Water Mission in Nashville. They provide water and HIV treatment for people in Africa.
Also, with this most recent album, I’ve worked for – I grew up in Oregon- and there is something there called Friends of the Children that provides outreach to at-risk kids. They actually train people and hire people to be mentors. So they don’t have people coming and going all the time. They’ll have one person work with them all the way through high school and they get amazing results.
MP: Tell me about your amazing projects that you’re working on right now.
MK: I am working on a record and I just released a wine called Verse and Chorus. It’s a red blend. I grew up in Oregon and wine was a big part of my family. Some of my friends opened up a winery and I said I would love to be involved and he said, “Let’s make a wine together.” So, it started as a little side project and it grew and Whole Foods got involved. Now it’s one of their biggest holiday promotions and it’s in every Whole Foods in America. It’s really exciting.
MP: I wouldn’t even have a magazine if it weren’t for Whole Foods. I was based in Austin and they picked us up and took us National. I am such a huge fan. Is it only red wine?
MK: Yes, it’s a Merlot and Cab Blend. That’s the first one and we’re hoping to produce a Sauvignon Blanc next year. The wine is a lot of fun because there’s not a lot of pressure. Nothing goes better with music than wine – you’re sitting around with your friends listening to music, talking about music, and I’m like, “Let me open a bottle of my own wine.” They all laugh at me and think it’s ridiculous.
MP: You’re working on an album and it is going to be released in 2014 at some point?
MK: Yep, new record, wrapping it up. It’s really really exciting. It’s very singer songwriter meets a lot of hip hop influences, so there’s a lot of beats. It’s very visceral. For the first time, I holed away by myself. I took over our guest bedroom and just slowly added stuff until it became like a full studio in our house. I would just get up every day and create and when I would get bored, I would go do something else and then I would come back. It just became this way of life. There’s somewhere you go when you’re not with other people. You’re more willing to break rules and there’s no one there to edit you.
MP: Do you deal with pain and heartbreak, by writing and creating?
MK: It is a huge part of catharsis. It’s what I do. It becomes a channel to pour what you’re going through. I don’t think of it like therapy and just because you’ve written a song doesn’t mean that you have pulled through. There are definitely songs where I embodied someone else’s pain and that was purely to serve the listener because I knew they needed to hear something. But most of the good stuff comes from my life. That’s your job is to really jump in and embody something and communicate it when your trying to deal with something. Songs really tend to connect.
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