Matt Maeson: Cutting Deeper

Reliably ever-changing, a ground-breaking fundamentalist, a champion of imperfection and ineffably cut-throat. From the release of his first EP “Who Killed Matt Maeson” in 2017 to his latest album “Never Had to Leave” in 2022, Virginia-born Alt-Rock singer-songwriter Matt Maeson has built up a cult following through his unapologetic honesty and encapsulating raw talent.

In the modern age of flashy superstars and idealization, Matt Maeson is an anomaly. An icon forged through utilising his tribulations and vulnerability into his strengths. Matt has reached new heights in his career from appearances on Jimmy Kimmel, performing sold-out tours and featuring on tracks with industry heavyweights such as Lana Del Ray & Illenium. While in isolation these are truly impressive feats, nothing is quite as impressive as his progression not only as a musician but also as an individual.

Defying the pressure of creating music that is typically known to be ‘universal’, ironically, it would be impossible to listen to his music and not find some sense of relatability through his no-topic untouchable approach and genre-bending sound. What makes Matt so special is that he is just a normal guy with unbelievable talent. An artist that consistently produces groundbreaking music, that is also a down-to-earth person that you would love to enjoy a pint with down the pub. A true example of authenticity in an ever-growing mass-produced culture, he truly deserves the title of an artist.  

Released three years, a marriage and a child after 2019’s “Bank on the funeral” album, “Never Have To Leave” is arguably Matts’s most diverse work yet. With an array of new personal talking points, Matt uses his unique cathartic storytelling with his signature heavy-hitting style to turn his experiences into introspective escapes. The album takes its listeners on a journey from its opening heavy-hitting white knuckle redemption track “Blood Runs Red”, to the dark yet tranquil dreamscape in the epic closing prog rock track “My Hand/Lawless Dream”. Yet again Matt has delivered not just another fantastic-sounding album, but a further dive into the cinematic depths of undiscussed realities.

Returning to the UK after a cancelled tour supporting Saint Motel in 2020, Matt is now undergoing his first headlining European tour. Kicking it off in Londons Laffeyete on the 1st of February, Matt performed an overdue but unforgettable acoustic set to the sold-out crowd. Pitch perfect and well supported by the backup vocals of all the UK fans, it wasn’t just the perfect welcome, but hopefully, an undeniable affirmation of the support he has over here. Like many others, I hope the return does not take as long next time and I look forward to seeing him perform for a much bigger crowd in the future.

Not only was I lucky enough to be in attendance at the gig, but I also had the absolute pleasure of catching him just before his set in the bar of Lafayette to have a chat about the tour, album and so much more!

James: First of all, I would like to say thanks so much for thanking the time aside, especially ahead of your debut UK headline gig!

Matt: Thanks so much for having me!

James: So now you have 5 dates set up for the European tour, what made you choose acoustic?

Matt: We didn’t know what my fanbase was like over here, like how people would buy tickets or what venues we should do, so we just went ahead and chose a bunch of small venues, and kept it cheap, like flying a whole band over here is so expensive. Plus playing acoustic is what I love doing the most, I love playing acoustic more than I love playing with a band. It’s where I feel most at home on the stage and we also did four gigs here like five years ago and I did them acoustically so I felt comfortable to come back and do the first headline one acoustic as well.

James: I was shocked initially when I saw such a small venue for your return, I know initially it was in Camden right? And now you switched to here, I mean I think you could have gone even bigger personally!

Matt: I know! We were going to upgrade the other ones too but we just wanted to see like you know- Im very curious to see how big we actually could do here.

James: Well you must be happy with the response as it’s sold out all across Europe!

Matt: Yeah and like really fast! I was just like oh shit, I do have fans…

James: Well yeah you got tons here! So being able to travel with your music must be amazing, but it must also be exhausting. How do you keep a balance when touring to make sure you don’t get a Blood Runs Red part 2?

Matt: Haha well yeah, I work out a lot now, I run a lot. I run after shows sometimes too cause its like, when you get off stage it makes so much sense that people party or do a bunch of drugs because it’s like your riding this adrenaline rush that doesn’t go away for like three hours, four hours. So that’s why I think a lot of artists take downers and things like that because what are you gonna do? You can’t just go to sleep, you know? So I like to run and burn out all that energy. I also try to just eat healthily, like remember that – you know, even though the next day might be an off day, it’s so important that now I’m 30 to take care of my body, cause if I do a show, I go out and get hammered, and then I have an off day the next day, I’m gonna be hungover the whole next day and then I’m gonna go to sleep that night and I’m still gonna be hungover in the morning for the next show… So it is such a shitty feeling cause you feel so unprepared and I just got so tired of that! It’s become a lot easier for me to sit back, stay healthy, and play video games.

James: I get that! But when your travelling does it not almost feel like an endless holiday? I’m assuming when you’re doing the European tour now you are going to be going to destinations that you’ve never been to before, maybe you want to try things?

Matt: Yeah, this is going to be really cool! This is why we’re doing it like we did. We separated all the shows by like a week each and I brought my wife and my son with me so we’re able to do a show, go and do some promo stuff and then have like three days to actually go and sightsee and you know – soak it in. Cause a lot of time when you tour, especially in the States, you just basically see the county from the window of the bus. Like you’re never getting out and doing anything. So separating it like this, we’re actually going to be able to like see shit here which is awesome!

James: You can try decent beer as well now you’re in Europe!

Matt: Oh I know, I had a few last night! 

James: So a bit about the new album, what’s your personal favourite song from the new album?

Matt: Umm – it’s like I have a different one every day. But like gun to the head, have to make a decision, it would be the last song which is ‘My Hand-Lawless Dream’ cause we spent so long working on that song, and at first that song was like nine minutes long… Just way too long!

James: Is that cause of the second part right?

Matt: Yeah just jamming, and we had my Buddy Brendan come in who’s opening up the Germany dates and he came in and was just like doing these crazy kinda like Pink Floyd-esque guitar parts over it and we just did that for the entire night and like yeah, we could have worked on that song forever but – yeah, I love that song, I love playing it live, the beginning is so heavy and then the end is like this dreamscape. We closed out the shows on the tour and yeah, I think that’s probably my favourite. 

James: Well it’s fantastic! Ok, so if someone had never listened to your music before, what three songs out of your whole collection would you suggest?

Matt: Umm, ‘Hallucinations,’ probably ‘Cry Baby’ and probably ‘My hand – Lawless dream.’ I feel like that’s like – you got a poppier folkier one, you got a grizzlier kinda country sounding one, and then you got a pretty rock and roll one! 

James: Sure, good choices! The traction you have built in the last few years has sent you on a new trajectory right? Have you felt any pressure musically to make things more poppy?

Matt: Yeah absolutely! I mean being on a major record label too, like they’re constantly like – that’s all they want cause that’s the most universal music. But, I think at first, when I started making music I would – I was very adamant that I would be the biggest I could be and like you know – be huge and play the massive sold-out arenas, and then I met a lot of people that have that career and just saw the way that they essentially have to live there lives and how they have to make there music and it started to become so unattractive to me. So it started to become really easy for me to say no to things that I was like – you know, this is gonna take my music in a direction that I have no interest in going which I think a lot of artists get tricked about cause it’s like that direction is attractive because it’s the more ‘successful direction’, whereas your kinda abandoning the way you wanna write. I was able to kinda like – It’s like I said, it’s a really good thing that the pandemic happened when it happened for me in my life because it was like – I couldn’t do anything! I had to just sit there and look at myself and just think about where I wanted to go and how I wanted my music to sound. I think like there’s always that little bug in your ear that like – well yeah if you make a song like this, you know you could get like 300 million streams, but it’s much better at this point just being able to sit on what I made and be proud of it and happy about it and sing it passionately every time I play it.

James: Sure! You mentioned the pandemic there, the pandemic was already stressful enough but you decided to have a kid, get married and keep releasing music right? 

Matt: Jesus dude…

James: I mean, how did you switch off?

Matt: I got engaged, married, had a kid, bought a house, moved to a different city, all in the span of one year… (Pained laughter)

James: Was the pandemic too easy for you? Were you like I need to make this more complicated…

Matt: Haha no, I think it was just like – I had been on the road for three years and having to stop, being forced to stop, being forced to look at myself and my life and realising – ok I’m 26 years old and like it’s time to actually start making life decisions you know? And there was nothing else to do! I had been dating my girlfriend for two years and I wanted to propose – I actually was booking a trip to Paris, I was going to propose there at the Eiffel tower and like do the whole thing.

James: That’s very American of you.

Matt: Haha yeah I know yeah! And then I think that was when things started to open back up and then they shut back down again so I was like oh shit, I can’t do that… But yeah – I wanted to get married so we got engaged, we got married a year later, got pregnant a year later – by accident, and that was an experience for sure. At first, like – the pregnancy was ok, and then when we had our son that was just like – I was so used to being in control of my life at that point, where I was able to do what I like at any time. Now having something essentially decide what you have to do for yourself was so hard for me at first, but then little by little I started to get used to it and then started to develop a connection and um – now it’s great man! We have a great little life in Nashville, and we have a house and yard and like yeah!

James: Do you think being a father has changed your approach to music in any way?

Matt: Yeah, I think because my music is so cathartic and personal in the way I write, any life change is gonna change the way I write because it changes me as a person and the way I view things. I would say it changed it quite a bit.

James: On the way you write, I know you draw a lot from your personal experience, your songs are very honest, raw and emotional. I can tell a lot of them were written during some bad periods of your life. Do you ever find it difficult to perform certain songs on stage because of that? Or can you create a distance?

Matt: Umm, sometimes I do start to float into the actual memory and feeling of it. I wouldn’t say it’s hard though. I would say I create that feeling. There’s such a like redemptive quality to singing a song about a really hard time and singing it to a sold-out crowd and being like I fucking got through it! And look, I’m singing about it, I’m telling these people about this situation and it’s helping them, it’s helping me and it’s just a great feeling!

James: I bet it is! So you just turned 30 around two weeks ago, It must have been a crazy decade for you! If you met your 20-year-old self today, What advice would you give?

Matt: Don’t do cocaine… 

James: I mean, fair answer haha!

Matt: I would say that and I would say be better with your money.

James: At what age do you think you became sensible with that stuff? You mentioned the pandemic, was that the turning point for you? 

Matt: That was definitely – yeah that was a major turning point for sure. I started to kind change a little bit before that, umm – and that’s partly because of my girlfriend’s influence on me and also it was just kinda seeing things for what they were. I was just like daym, I’m like basically killing myself slowly so it’s like time to actually change. So I did, little by little and I started to hang out with people in the same kinda situation of trying to get better um – so that was really helpful too. But then the Pandemic happening was like – kinda a kick in the ass like – yeah I can’t do anything else but this – or just sit and drink… 

James: It’s a shame that bad times make such good music.

Matt: Yeah!

James: I mean I’m really happy to see that your life is going great but I was even happier to hear that the music was still great from a selfish fan point of view…

Matt: Yeah well that was something I was conscious of too! Like what do I write about if I’m not sad? But I think that that was even like something I had to grow out of cause it’s like – no matter what, I’m going to be experiencing ups and downs throughout my life no matter how happy I am. It’s really just about unlocking how I feel about certain things and how I phrase certain things and how deep I dig into you know- how I feel, what my faith is like,  what my depression is like and happiness and things like that. I think it’s kind of like, you know – a tap that never runs out.

James: Sure! So on that worry about ‘how am I going to keep producing good music’, how do you balance the love and passion you have for creating music, but also that fact that its a career and there are those pressures of ‘oh I need to produce this amount of work by this time’?

Matt: Uhh It’s difficult. I think a lot of artists have a major problem with that. It also stems from – I’ve said this before, it’s like you kinda have to make a decision by a certain point of do I want to be a celebrity or do I want to be an artist and make whatever I want? That tells you what decision you’re going to make on certain things. Once you have a certain amount of money it’s like – you don’t really need it any more. Like unless you just keep getting more and more luxury, once you have, you know-  a good bit of money and a house and things like that, it’s like – why are you craving more if you can keep this going and make whatever you want? For me, that was kinda an easy decision because, you know – as I said, my songs are so cathartic and personal that I don’t know what I would do other than music because that’s kind like my therapy. I mean, I actually go to a therapist too but that’s kinda like my way of getting things out and if I were to abandon that aspect of it for the sake of money or fame or anything like that, I would just feel like shit. I would probably get really successful and then have a moment two years later where I’m like what the fuck have I done with my life.

James: The final thing I want to ask is, what would be a successful 2023 for you? 

Matt: I would say finding more grounding within my family, balancing that work life-home life situation which I’m still trying to figure out. Feeling more comfortable in that area while also doing the most that I can with the best kinda like quality that I can. It’s really easy for me to just say yes yes yes to every single little thing I can but then I just exhaust myself. Or, I’ll say no no no and then I’m like I’m not doing enough, what’s happening? My career’s falling apart… – So finding that balance and feeling comfortable in what I have and being able to do it, and be proud of it – be ready for the next thing. 

James: That’s awesome man! Well thanks so much, I really appreciate you taking the time!

Matt: Yeah, well thanks for having me dude!

In my opinion, Matt Maeson is without a doubt one of the most underrated and best current singer songwriters in the industry today. Now from my personal experience, I can happily say he is an even better person. Thanks for everything so far Matt and I can’t wait to hear what’s next!

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Words: James Davenport