Artist of the Week Band of the Week

Artist of the Week: Mat Kearney


(Courtesy: Republic Records)

On his fifth studio album Just Kids, which hit stores last month, Mat Kearney gets reflective. Throughout much of the album, the singer-songwriter looks back on his childhood and the beginning stages of his career.

As the Eugene, Oregon native explains, his parents moving the family away from his hometown when he was in middle school had a significant impact on him and influenced who he would become as a person.

“You’re mourning the loss of your hometown,” he reflects regarding that move. “A lot of Just Kids was written about that season of my life.”

Just Kids, however, reintroduces Kearney’s hip-hop side, something fans haven’t heard much of since his debut album Bullet in 2004.

“I think as an artist, maybe this is good or bad, but whatever I did before usually the opposite interests me the next time around,” he admits with a laugh. “The whole spoken word thing, maybe it’s reflecting on that season of my life and when I first started.”

Kearney admits that Just Kids is very autobiographical. On “Los Angeles,” he tells the tale of picking up and driving 29 hours from Nashville to Los Angeles when a friend offers up his studio to record.

“I think that was the season when I realized how important music was to me…that I would drive across the country, basically move for six weeks to be in a creative environment with people,” he reflects. “It was really becoming my first love, true love at that point.”

In between the nostalgic songs like “Los Angeles” and “One Black Sheep,” where Kearney likens himself to being the black sheep in his family, there are ’80s and ’90s pop-influenced love songs inspired by his wife, including his first two singles off the record, “Billion” and “Heartbeat.”

“She appreciates it but she isn’t affected like maybe someone would be,” he says, when asked if his wife enjoys being his muse. “It doesn’t get me out of taking the trash out. When I write, she’s like, ‘Oh, that’s a cool song.’ I’m like, ‘People pay to see me sing these, babe.’ She’s like, ‘OK, that’s cool.’ She’s very unimpressed, which is a healthy thing in our relationship.”



Read more of my interview with Mat Kearney at

Artist of the Week Band of the Week

Artist of the Week: Matthew Perryman Jones

I first witnessed Matthew Perryman Jones live in 2008 and was blown away by his songwriting talent and striking vocals. Performing tracks off his release, Swallow the Sea, including hit “Save You,” Jones impressed a packed room at New York’s The Living Room.

Since then, the Nashville musician has released three solo albums, co-written standout tracks for artists including Mat Kearney and Zach Williams, as well as traveled the country with Ten out of Tenn, a group of musicians from Tennessee. Not to mention, many of his songs have been featured on television dramas like “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Jones has garnered comparisons to U2 with his thoughtful lyrics and powerful singing style. With a new album in the works,  Jones will no doubt continue to leave a lasting impression on his listeners.

Songs like the beautiful “Until the Last Falling Star” off The Distance In Between strike a chord with soaring string features and Jones’ poignant vocals. With delicate strokes of the piano next to light percussion features, never overpowering the emotional tale within the song, it is the perfect musical blend.

Last year, Jones released Until the Dawn Appears, an impressive compilation of new versions of some of his most acclaimed works in addition to two new songs never before released. While the more stripped down and haunting take of previous hit “Save You” captivates with string and piano interludes, others such as “Waiting On the Light to Change” leaves its mark with hand snapped rhythms and Jones’ wavering vocals.

For more on Matthew Perryman Jones, be sure to visit his Website and catch him on tour in January with Griffin House (flier above). Download “Looking For You Again,” co-written with Williams and featured on “Grey’s Anatomy” here.

Related Links:
Q&A with Matthew Perryman Jones
Matthew Perryman Jones’ Intimate Performance at New York’s Living Room
Artist to Watch: Trent Dabbs
Q&A with Mat Kearney

Mat Kearney Tells Tales Behind Songs, Performs on NYC Rooftop

Earlier today, Baeblemusic aired their interview and performance with Mat Kearney. Filmed in August on the day of his record release for, Young Love, Kearney explains his songwriting process for the album along with many of the stories behind the tracks on the LP.

“This record I went back to me and some buddies in a room and we would build beats and create these groves and then I would write songs to them,” Kearney said. “It wasn’t your typical singer/songwriter record. It was very visceral from the start. It had to hit you in the chest before we would even start with something.”

An incredibly personal release, Kearney said his focus on this album was telling real life stories.

“It had to be within an arms reach or I wasn’t going to write about it. It forced me to write about things that were very personal. I had to bleed every line to say it because it came from someone I knew or it came from my own life . . . it was very challenging to be that honest in songs.”

Before he performed each track, he told the tale behind each song. First single, “Hey Mama” is about meeting his wife at a clothing store while “Rochester” is about his father.

“Real life is so much more interesting than what you can fabricate,” he concluded.

Watch the complete interview below as well as Kearney perform a few tracks live.

Watch the full video at

Related Links:
Mat Kearney Celebrates No. 1 Album with Intimate NYC Performance
Q&A with Mat Kearney
Song of the Week: “Hey Mama”
Album Review: Mat Kearney’s “City of Black & White”


Mat Kearney Live at Ramapo Tonight

I’ll be catching Mat Kearney tonight at Ramapo College with my cousins and covering it on Twitter if you’d like to follow along. I rated his New York performance last year as one my top 5 concerts of 2009 and am psyched to see his set tonight! His latest release, City of Black & White is easily one of my most listened to albums of 2009 and my cousin shares the same sentiments.

Every now and then a band sings a song that really hits home. Maybe something major is going on in your life, making you take a step back and reassess things. Perhaps you’re just confused as to the direction you’re headed and a simple three minute song clarifies it all for you. If you are really lucky, a friend or family member feels exactly the same way. This is partly why I’m so excited to share tonight with my cousins.

Last year, a few days before my birthday, I received by far the nicest message anyone could ever say to me via text. My cousin is going to kill me for typing this up, but (being part Italian) I have TONS of cousins so most likely he will still remain (somewhat) anonymous. I thought I’d share it with you all since many of you have been following my adventures since day one and are practically family already.

“Hey Annie what’s up, I’ve been reading your blog and it’s awesome. I can’t wait until your name is published in a HUGE MAGAZINE, because I know it will be, and I just wanted to ask you if you ever interview Mat Kearney again just let me know please. I really want you to tell him how much he influenced my life and how amazing his lyrics are, they really touched me. But above him, I care more about you. I can’t wait until I see the words ‘Annie Reuter, editor in chief’ in the ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine. Good luck I love you.”

Every now and then when I start to rethink this crazy life of mine as a music journalist I reread this text and it puts life back into perspective. I can’t wait to enjoy the show tonight as a music fan, and most importantly with my family.

Feel free to follow the show tonight on Twitter. For more on Mat Kearney, visit his Web site. If you haven’t listened to my interview with Mat, click here to learn about his latest album, writing process and stories behind the songs. For his view on writing about personal relationships, being an opening act and advice to aspiring musicians, click here.

Related Links:
Q&A; with Mat Kearney
Album Review: Mat Kearney’s “City of Black & White”
Mat Kearney: Nashville Troubadour
So Long 2009, Bring on 2010

Concert Reviews Features Q&A

So Long, 2009. Bring on 2010!

Earlier this week I compiled a list of my top five moments of 2009. Well, there were a few more than five in there, but I tried to keep it short. I figured I’d do the same today with my top five concerts and interviews. I’d love to know what you enjoyed reading most this year so I can amp up my coverage in 2010. Happy New Year!

You Sing, I Write’s Top 5 Concerts of 2009

There is nothing I enjoy more than that goosebumps feeling you get when an artist sings a song that particularly strikes you or tells a moving tale about the origin of the song. This year I attended more concerts than any year in my life and while it’s hard to narrow down my single favorite, I compiled five that stand out.

5. Mat Kearney — September 29 at The Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza

I interviewed Mat Kearney back in May when he was on tour opening for Keane at Wellmont Theatre in Montclair, New Jersey. I hopped on his tour bus and talked with him about his latest album, songwriting process and breaking into the University of Oregon to use their piano to write a song. As an opening band, your set is always cut short so I decided to attend his headlining performance a few months later at Irving Plaza and was blown away. Having had his album, City of Black and White, on rotation over the previous months the songs struck me personally and Kearney put on quite the show. Jumping into the audience mid-set he started his own dance party on the floor with fans. You can bet I’ll be seeing him next time he’s around.

To hear Mat talk about the new album, his writing process and stories behind his songs, click here. For his view on writing about personal relationships, being an opening act and advice to aspiring musicians, click here.

4. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band — September 30 at Giants Stadium

He is The Boss. Does much more need to be said? Being a Jersey girl, Bruce Springsteen’s songs are anthems to me. I actually have Mat Kearney to thank of how I came to cover his show at Giants Stadium. The night before Springsteen’s performance I was buying my friend a ticket at will call because Kearney’s show was due to sell out. I recognized a photographer I met earlier that year at Ray LaMontagne’s show and we chatted for a bit. Low and behold, the next day he needed a writer to cover Springsteen’s show for a Web site he shot for and thought of me. Wendy picked up the tickets for me and we headed to Giants Stadium to cover the show for Bumpershine. And, guess who was sitting a few rows in front of me? None other than Mat Kearney himself. A bit serendipitous, don’t you think? For my complete review, click here.

3. Tyrone Wells — October 7 at Highline Ballroom

I recently found Tyrone Wells CD Remain and have been listening non-stop the past few days. Previous album, Hold On is quite striking as well. While compiling my top five list I realized I have witnessed Wells in concert three times this year. I first interviewed him during South By Southwest and caught his showcase with Tori Amos. Later this year, Wells opened for Better Than Ezra where a couple got engaged mid-set before he dedicated and performed “Sea Breeze” for them. I was lucky enough to catch his headlining show at Highline Ballroom in October after interviewing his opening act, Matt Hires. Wells truly blew me away as he mixed his soulful and energetic tracks with his emotion-filled ballads. His onstage banter with the audience and tales behind his songs are always enjoyable and like no artist I have ever witnessed. If you have yet to see Wells live, I highly suggest doing so as I foresee him selling out bigger venues very soon.

2. Coldplay — August 2 at Liberty State Park

I’ve heard only praises about Coldplay’s concerts from friends who have witnessed them firsthand. I really don’t know why I haven’t seen them sooner. Luckily, I caught their phenomenal set at the always memorable All Points West festival this past August at Liberty State Park. The way I described APW to friends was it being Woodstock’s reincarnation if it were around in 2009. Mud wrestling, music and beer gardens was more like it. Sunday’s four-hour rain delay resulted in multiple canceled performances and scaled down sets, but Coldplay managed to save the day.

Always comical, after traipsing through the mud onto a stage in the middle of the field, frontman Chris Martin realized what festivalgoers dealt with the entire weekend. “We have infinite respect for you now that we had to walk through that shit. Wish we had backstage passes for all of you,” he said.

Witnessing Coldplay live and up so close, I have incredible respect for the band. While they played many of their hits, they also performed a moving tribute to Michael Jackson and the Beastie Boys, who had to cancel their performance due to member Adam Yauch’s cancer diagnosis. I couldn’t imagine a better band to close the three-day mudfest.

1. The Gaslight Anthem — October 15 at Terminal 5

I’ve been covering The Gaslight Anthem on You Sing, I Write, since last year when I flipped through Rolling Stone to notice drummer Benny Horowitz, former paginator of my college paper, featured as a breaking band. I did a double take and contacted all the people I knew who used to work for Rutgers’ The Daily Targum. Since then, I’ve been trying to cover a show and set up an interview to no avail. You’d think garnering an interview with a rock star you knew would be easy. Think again. After several failed attempts I d
ecided to purchase tickets to their show at Terminal 5 before it sold out. I’m so glad I did. I feel like I reverted back to my high school days of Warped Tour and crowd surfing. Then again, I think the 30-year-olds in the room did as well.

I have never witnessed such an energetic (and frightening) mosh pit in my life. It was like Warped Tour for 30+. No more emo boys, these are grown men dancing in the pit and creating havoc. I’m not going to lie to you, I did fear for my life, but that was the beauty of the concert. From the looks of frontman Brian Fallon’s face, he was just as surprised. By far the most energetic show I’ve been to all year, there is no doubt in my mind that The Gaslight Anthem will be selling out Madison Square Garden. Hopefully, by then I’ll be able to get an interview!

You Sing, I Write’s Top 5 Interviews of 2009

I’ve been trying to cut down on long top 5 posts, but as evident from my concert list above I’ve been a bit verbose. I’ll try to keep it brief with my interviews and post the Q&A; so you can read it for yourselves and see just why I think they’re my top 5 of 2009.

5. Train

They’ve reached worldwide success and many of their songs garnered top spots on memorable songs of the decade. I spoke with guitarist Jimmy Stafford at the start of Train’s tour where he filled me in on Train’s latest release, embracing the Internet and a younger fan base and the reasons behind their longevity. Read it here.

4. Better Than Ezra

After catching BTE live earlier this year, the three-piece band was back in New York for press in August. Unfortunately, I was extremely sick and losing my voice during the interview but didn’t want to cancel. It was 90 degrees in New York and the interview was at a Starbucks that felt just as warm. You know when you’re nervous and feel like you’re sweating, but it’s probably just in your head? Well, it definitely wasn’t in my head…I was dripping wet. Remarkably, the interview turned out much better than I thought. But, I did learn no matter how important the interview, if you’re sick it might be best to postpone it for a later date. Read my interview here. Note my “hottest Starbucks” reference. Clever, huh?

3. Taylor Swift

There is no denying it, Taylor Swift conquered the music world this year. I was so excited to attend her press conference during the CMA Music Festival in Nashville and incredibly determined to get a question in. Luckily, I did. Note the “your music is like writing in a diary” question. I can honestly say, she is as nice and down to earth in real life as she seems onstage. There is no doubt in my mind that Taylor Swift will be around for decades to come. Read my interview here.

2. Joshua Radin

Joshua Radin has accomplished much as an independent artist. He bought himself out of his major label contract to go on to release one of the best selling folk albums of the year. Not to mention, he performed at Ellen DeGeneres’ wedding, toured the globe and remains so humble. Case and point: When asked how he feels about being called this generation’s Bob Dylan he responded, “That’s absolutely ludicrous. Bob Dylan invented music. I just feel like that’s putting a bull’s eye on the back of my head for everyone to be like, ‘No you’re not. You’re not really as good.’ And I’m like, ‘Of course I’m not as good, I wrote my first song four years ago!’ And I probably never will be as good. But, I bet you I’ll be much better at being Joshua Radin than Bob Dylan is. That’s all I can hope for.” Read more here.

1. Third Eye Blind

Not many know this, but Third Eye Blind is how I got my start writing for Marie Claire. I remember getting dinner with my friend and colleague Diana last year and venting to her how I had a great interview with 3eb frontman Stephan Jenkins, but no music publication seemed to care. I reached out to every music magazine and Web site you could think of and they all felt 3eb was a band of the past. Boy did 2009 prove them all wrong. Diana must have seen my frustration and thought they might be a good fit for the Marie Claire audience, being that much of the reader age group grew up listening to 3eb and Stephan Jenkins was always a heartthrob. 2009 proved to be a great year for the band who released their album independently and saw a surge in their fan base. Read my interview here.

What were some of your favorite interviews of 2009? 2010 will bring many more I’m sure. Happy New Year!


Mat Kearney Tonight at The Fillmore NY @ Irving Plaza

I’ll be catching Mat Kearney tonight at The Fillmore NY @ Irving Plaza with some friends and covering it on Twitter if you’d like to follow along. I was lucky enough to meet up with Kearney a few months ago while he was touring with Keane and it was one of my favorite artist interviews yet.

You can read the full transcript of my interview here, as well as listen to the audio. To hear Mat talk about the new album, his writing process and stories behind his songs, click here. For his view on writing about personal relationships, being an opening act and advice to aspiring musicians, click here.

Feel free to follow my updates on Twitter. For more on Mat, visit his Web site.


Mat Kearney

Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

With hit single “Closer To Love” climbing the charts from latest album release, City of Black & White and a headlining tour on the way, Mat Kearney will be spending the next few months on the road. Not that being on tour is anything new to him. Having played with the likes of John Mayer, Sheryl Crow, The Fray, and most recently Keane, Kearney has been perfecting his stage show and acquiring many fans along the way.

When recently interviewing Kearney, I learned of some intriguing tales, which he suggested to describe as “the thrill of songwriting.” Surprisingly enough, Kearney doesn’t own a piano but instead, finds ways to utilize one when late night writing sessions deem it necessary. “I found that institutions had the best pianos sitting around and would find ways to get into them. I don’t think the University of Oregon figured it out. I had to use a credit card and scale a wall. There was a balcony involved.”

Kearney, your secret is out. Although, I don’t think the University of Oregon would mind too much as long as they receive some writing credit. City of Black & White is sure to follow in the footsteps of previous hit album, Nothing Left to Lose. Read on to learn more about Kearney’s writing process, struggles of being an opening act and the album, which he describes as having a visceral quality, something he hopes “hits you in the chest like a fist.”

You can read the full transcript of my interview below, as well as listen to the audio. To hear Mat talk about the new album, his writing process and stories behind his songs, click here. For his view on writing about personal relationships, being an opening act and advice to aspiring musicians, click here

You’ve been on tour non-stop the past few years. Do you feel that experience helped out with writing the new album?
Yeah. I got to take last year off, so I got a little break. Nothing Left to Lose was an album that I wrote just in my bedroom and you don’t know who is listening or who cares. This record is 500 shows later so there’s definitely the live thing that helps inform what you’re doing. You just get better playing live. You find what kind of players you want around you. You end up writing songs that are a little more tense and you picture how they’re going to interact with people. The live thing just totally influences how you make the record.

You collaborated with Nashville artists on City of Black & White. How was collaborating different from writing a record by yourself in your bedroom?
I think some people have a lot of success and they want to do it all themselves. For me, I just wanted to do the opposite thing. I think the history of Nashville, the songwriting community, and all of the people that are my heroes – Johnny Cash, Elvis, and Bob Dylan even came through town – they invited all their friends. It wasn’t that I got the industry; I just really got my friends involved in the record. Some solo artists that probably nobody’s ever heard of that I just really respect, we sit on the front porch and drink coffee together or people that I know really well, I just invited them. We’d be sitting around the living room and someone would be writing a song and we’d join in and then I’d actually record those songs. A lot of it I still wrote, but I just opened it up to a little broader group of people.

Do you have a typical writing process?
No. It’s always different. You never know what’s going to happen. Sometimes there are songs, sometimes it’s a movie, sometimes it’s your friends, sometimes it’s a book, sometimes you’re laying in the bed in the middle of the night and you hear this idea going through your head and so you have to get up and write it down. It’s very different. Sometimes I’m breaking into schools and writing on a piano because I really wanted to write on a piano. It’s very varied. It’s elusive the writing process.

Do you have a certain track that sticks out most for you?
I think “City of Black and White,” the album title, is a good one. I was writing it with a friend and we were far away. We were in the city of Istanbul of all places. We wanted to get away and I wanted to go where my cell phone didn’t work. We were sitting overlooking the river in this really hectic city and we were just messing with this idea, this black and white idea of these colors exploding into this black and white world. It just seemed like a good song to anchor the record on.

Did you feel pressure recording the album since your last album was so successful?
Yes and no. I wasn’t that nervous because I had all these other bands like The Fray and John Mayer and people who had these massive successes to compare myself to. I was like, “Well, I’m not dealing what they’re dealing with” so that’s nice. Nothing Left to Lose was literally 12 of the first songs I had ever written. I was so excited to keep creating. Even now, I’m really looking forward to recording again at some point because I haven’t been doing it my whole life and I’m so excited about it. From that process, it was really fun.

So, I tried not to think too much about it and just keep my head down and write songs that I really loved and believed in. I think that somehow got me through any pressure I would feel. But, it definitely is different knowing there are people that care and are waiting for something. Its different then you and your buddy making a record in your living room. As much as you try to pretend you don’t know that, you still know that and you care about what they think and whether they want to buy it or not. At the end of the day, music is about self expression but it’s also a communal thing for me. I write songs to be shared with other people and for other people and I have other people in mind when I write them.

Writing, at times, is very much like a diary entry. Do you ever hold back because you don’t want to share too much?
You find your ways to say what you need to say. But no, I think there are those things where if you feel like you’re supposed to talk about them and they’re really freaky a little bit, I think those are the things you really need to talk about if they’re scary.

It’s m
ore the people that are close to you that freak you out. Like
the people that know you’re writing about them. Something like, my asshole brother, you know? Even though my brother isn’t an asshole, but if he was those kind of moments when you’re like, “Well, Johnny’s gonna hear this and he’s not going to like this.” Mrs. Bower in the third grade, she was terrible. That kind of thing. Just joking.

Did they find out that you broke into your college?
It wasn’t my college. I made a habit of that. I never owned a piano, so all the songs I write on the piano, I never owned one and I always wanted to write them at odd hours of the night. So, I found ways to find pianos. I found that institutions had the best pianos sitting around and I [would] find ways to get into them. But, I don’t think the University of Oregon figured it out. I had to use a credit card and scale a wall. Not really scale a wall, there was a balcony involved. Maybe add it to the thrill of the songwriting.

Tell me about “Lifeline.” I love that song, the lyrics behind it.
I wrote it with some friends, Trent [Dabbs] and Matt [Matthew Perryman Jones]. We were just exploring this idea of losing something and finding the end of yourself. It’s pretty simple in its desperation. It’s one of the more desperate pleas for something. It’s like someone at the end of their rope, looking for some help and some guidance. It’s a desire to fit in or maybe they’ve tried their best and there’s this foiling of all their plans that they’ve created. Sometimes it’s a good place to be, being completely humbled in a sense that your plans are frustrated in a good way.

Of course I have to ask about “Annie” because it’s my name also.
“Annie” was a song I actually wrote about this girl. She used to work for my label and she worked in Indianapolis. She told me her story about her family and having to leave. So I was driving home on the way back from this really smoky, dirty venue called Birdies. We were in the back of the van on the way to the hotel. I think we were listening to some weird ambient music, and I just remember writing the whole song, word for word almost. Just trying to think about that idea of those difficult moments where leaving is really hard, especially when it’s people you love, but you know it’s what you need to do.

Do you feel a song comes out better when it’s based on a real relationship vs. writing from fantasy?
Well, I don’t think that anything is entirely real or anything is entirely fantasy when you write it. It’s like “Schindler’s List.” The movie is incredibly real, but it’s not real on one level. Those dialogues, no one recorded them. That’s a really bad example. But yeah, it’s bits and pieces from real life. Some of it is stories or characters interacting together in your head. Sometimes it’s the movies, sometimes it’s the books, sometimes it’s a friends life, sometimes it’s so painfully specifics of my life that I wouldn’t even want anybody to know that they’re that specifically honest.

When was the moment you realized you want to be a musician for the rest of your life? Do you want to be a musician the rest of your life?
I don’t know. I just feel lucky to be able to do what I’m doing now and keep doing it. I was in high school and I was this kid that didn’t know my place and got terrible grades, but everyone was like, “This kid is creative. He’s smart.” I wrote this poem and I remember the teacher read it and she sat me down. I thought I was going to get in trouble. She told me, “You’re really, really good at this. You need to write.”

So I had that little nugget that I was carrying with me in my heart and I went to college and became a literature major. Just writing and reading and being super moved by stuff. I remember sitting down with a guitar and I started writing songs and I felt like the whole world fit. This thing this teacher told me that I could write, and this world of music I grew up completely moved by, it just came together. And I was like, “Okay, this makes sense and I want to do this.” It wasn’t like I want to do this the rest of my life, it was like, “I want to do this now.” Then I want to do it tomorrow and the next day and every day I would wake up and I still want to do this. This is still something I’m really passionate about. The rest of my life is a scary term anyway.

As an opening artist, do you feel it’s still hard to win over the crowd?

It’s the fun challenge of opening. I feel like it makes you better, opening for people. It’s like, if you’re telling a joke to your mom everything is funny, but if you tell a joke to someone who doesn’t care about you, you learn where you stand and if it’s funny. Opening, I love it, but it’s challenging. The Keane fans have been amazing, but I think we’ve brought our own share of fans out. I think we’ve held our own.

On “Undeniable” you freestyle for a bit at each show and add a line or two about the city you’re in. Do you actually visit the places you mention in the song? Do you research the lines?
No, it’s whatever comes to my mind. There’s definitely no researching those moments. I think we had gone there the night before, hung out, got some food down on Queen Street. I’ve traveled a little bit so I have a little love for each town, a plethora of experiences to draw from. A little stock pile of every city I go to. So no, I don’t research. I do research, yeah, but it’s me getting off the bus and walking around towns and I’ve been doing that for four years.

Earlier tracks you had more of a Hip-Hop spoken word feel, and this record not as much. Are you going to go back to that?
I don’t know. For this record, I met with this producer named Rick Rubin, and we talked about that and I said, “I’m struggling writing this way.” And he said, “Just write all the songs you’re supposed to write and the songs that are supposed to be together will and they’ll make sense.” And that’s what I did. I wrote almost 30 songs for this album and the songs that I felt strongest about were these 12 on City of Black & White. As far as a particular style, I have to keep moving for me and I have to be excited about what I do. I don’t want any part of what I do to become a shtick for someone for what I have to do.

It’s like a joke that’s really funny that everybody wants you to tell every night and you don’t want to tell it, you want to tell a new one. I’m just on a journey. I don’t think I’m done with any certain particular style. For this record, I’m really excited about. I wanted it to be more refined and more to the point and more classic pop record and not as much Jack Kerouac stream of consciousness. It’s a little more heavy, more up-tempo. That’s 500 shows later too, me just wanting to connect with the audience. You play every night and realize, “Man we can turn this up a few notches” and then you start writing that way and it’s cool.

How do you feel the Nashville scene is different than other parts of the country?
It’s a city that’s built around community and it’s a city that’s very much about the collective. Creatively, fashion comes a distant second to the song. The song is God in Nashville music. It’s a city that doesn’t put up with a lot of fluff. It values humility. In the history, you feel like you’re walking around in the shadow of these humble giants. These people that were great, but were hard working people from rough farming families. The Woodie Guthrie’s and the Johnny Cash’s and those kinds of people. It’s just not very
fashion driven. Nothing’s wrong with that. It’s just very substance driven. Production and the fashion side comes second to the heart and the song. It’s very much written driven around the traditional song based music.

What’s your advice to upcoming musicians?
I always go back to my uncle’s statement and it’s maybe why I love Nashville. He said, “If your vibe outweighs your substance, you are destined to be a novelty.” I’ve always sought to get after something that’s foundational in people. That comes through my faith, through my belief in life, through trying to hit something that’s true every time. I think that’s really where you move people, when you touch on something that’s true, that’s not based on fluff or based on a moment or a movement. It’s based on something that’s real that you acknowledge people.

You can also read this interview on For more on Mat, be sure to visit his MySpace to listen to some tracks off the new album and catch a show when he’s in town!

CD Reviews

Album Review: Mat Kearney’s “City of Black & White”

After hit single and title track from 2006’s album, Nothing Left to Lose took off, Mat Kearney found himself on the road continuously. Supporting acts like John Mayer, Sheryl Crow and The Fray as well as his own headline stints, Kearney has been making a name for himself ever since.

Three years and many traveled miles later, Kearney is back with City of Black & White, due to hit shelves May 19. Of his release, Kearney has said it is a record about community. “There’s definitely the theme of this traveling/sojourner/vagabond kind of guy landing in the midst of people that he loves, and who love him.”

You can easily see this on first track, “All I Have.” Seemingly talking of the past three years on tour and being away from loved ones, Kearney sings “All I have, all I have, all I have, you know it’s yours/Every breath, every step, every moment I’m looking for/All I have, all I have, all I have is yours/If you watch my heart break a little bit more.”

Kearney has said he listened to U2 and Tom Petty while recording the album and this influence can be heard on many tracks. Additionally, “New York to California” strikingly evokes early Coldplay, specifically Chris Martin’s vocals and piano accompaniment throughout hit single “Clocks.”

Slower ballad “Never Be Ready” recalls Kearney’s radio hit “Nothing Left to Lose” with its catchy chorus and slow buildup throughout the song while “Lifeline” portrays longing, specifically in lyrics, “The world is too big to never ask why/The answers fall straight out of the sky . . . I can’t feel a thing without you by my side/Send me out a lifeline.” At times his voice sounds saddened, as he pours all his emotion into each song.

While there isn’t tremendous variation from track to track, Kearney’s relaxed and familiar vocals are what keep the listener intrigued. Emotional song, “Annie” encompasses a moving tale of a girl needing to break free of her mundane life. A relatable track, the listener can sense the passion and heartbreak felt within each line of the song.

City of Black & White is bound to continue Kearney’s musical success. Pick up a copy May 19th and be sure to catch him live, currently on tour with Keane! Listen to a preview of some songs off his upcoming release on MySpace.

Recommended: For fans of Coldplay, John Mayer, U2 and The Fray.

Concert Reviews

Blast From the Past: John Mayer Concert Review on

If you’re familiar with my music taste, you already know that I am a die-hard John Mayer fan. In fact, it’s one of those qualities that seems to be ingrained in my musical makeup and everyone knows about me. Even while interning at MTV News Online I’d get the occasional joke about my obsession with him. But, no matter what anyone thinks about Mayer as a person or his recent stints in all the gossip mags, his talent is undeniable. I wish I could play guitar even half as good as he can . . . but I probably should actually practice my guitar regularly to reach this goal. Below is my review of his Madison Square Garden concert from 2007. Feel free to read it below, or check it out on MTV here with a full photo archive of the show.

John Mayer Goes Out With Alicia Keys — At Sold-Out New York Show

Singer shows sold-out crowd there’s a lot more to him than pop.

NEW YORK — With a guest appearance from Alicia Keys, sing-alongs galore and an intimate two-song acoustic performance on a small stage in the middle of the crowd, John Mayer’s sold-out performance Wednesday night delivered everything a headlining spot at Madison Square Garden should.

After a strong opening set from Mat Kearney, Mayer’s show began with the venue darkened before the sounds of Mayer’s guitar drowned out the screams from younger members of the audience. A blue spotlight revealed him as he began “Belief” solo before being joined by the rest of his band.

(See Mayer dazzle by checking out photos of the MSG show right here.)

As the 90-minute set (consisting primarily of songs from his latest LP, Continuum) progressed, he joked with the crowd often, introducing “I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You)” by saying, “In America, you’re allowed to be an a–hole.” While it seemed at first to be a political reference, he instead described a first date and surprised the crowd by saying, “This song is telling you I’m the type of person that will do you wrong.” With lyrics like “If my past is any sign of your future/ You should be warned before I let you inside,” Mayer got the point across.

The crowd went wild for songs like “Waiting on the World to Change” and “Stop This Train,” but longtime fans made their presence heard on older songs like “Bigger Than My Body,” “No Such Thing” and “Why Georgia.”

But even though Mayer, who won Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Best Pop Vocal Album at the Grammys last month (see “Timberlake Rocks; Blige Weeps; Chicks, Chilis Clean Up At Grammys”), has a pop audience many would envy (need we mention Jessica Simpson?), the crowd at the Garden showed that his efforts to diversify musically have worked.

Sure, there were plenty of teeny-boppers in attendance, but there were also parents with their children, couples young and old, businesspeople coming from work, and high-school and college students. And Mayer made sure that his show contained something for everyone: His solos and improvisations with the two guitarists in his band pleased the guitar geeks, and he dipped into bluesy John Mayer Trio mode for “I Don’t Need No Doctor” and “I’m Gonna Find Another You.”

And throughout the show, Mayer constantly let those fans know just how much he appreciates them. “I’m not mature enough to be the kind of person to thank you for how much this means to me,” he said after “Waiting on the World to Change.” And then later, “This [success] doesn’t exist without you. I’m not sure I deserve it, but I’m going to keep writing and playing and doing whatever I have to do.”

Perhaps taking a tip from the Rolling Stones, for his encore Mayer performed two acoustic songs on a small stage set up in the middle of the venue, singing “Your Body Is a Wonderland” and “Stop This Train” just feet away from surprised fans, bringing the intimacy of a small club to the nearly 20,000-capacity venue.

Mayer left the small stage at around 10:30, but had one more trick up his sleeve. Returning to the main stage, he played “Vultures” — saying at the end, “This is the best night I’ve ever had” — before beginning his last song of the evening, “Gravity.”

As the song seemed to be ending, female vocals were heard — and just as cries of “Who is it?” became nearly as loud as the music, out came Alicia Keys, who took over the song’s vocals while Mayer accompanied her on his guitar. “Keep me where the light is,” she crooned, as the song ended with the spotlights shining brightly all over her and Mayer.