Mat Kearney has proven that sometimes the best things in life come along unexpectedly and unplanned. Kearney, a Eugene, Oregon native never planned on becoming a musician. While he was a student at Chico State, he began picking up his roommate’s guitar in the evenings and soon started writing his own songs. Kearney is now living in Nashville, TN, which was also a serendipitous occurrence in his life. His friend, and now music producer, Robert Marvin asked him if he would go on a road trip and help him move to Nashville. Kearney agreed to go and their journey turned into a road trip that never ended. Kearney is still living in Nashville and doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon. Despite Kearney’s music career being unplanned, he has found huge success. Kearney’s fourth album, Young Love, was released this past August. Young Love has been extremely well received and has already achieved a #1 spot on iTunes and sold over 100,000 copies. Young Love’s hit single Hey Mama was written about the day Kearney met his wife. Falling in love with his wife was a major life experience for Kearney that not only provided self discovery, but was the inspiration for an entire album.
Why did you name your album Young Love? What was going on in your life that influenced you while writing the songs on this record?
Well, I was for one falling in love and getting married. You can feel the butterflies in my stomach on some of the songs. I also wrote a lot about a younger time in my life, falling in love caused me to dig in and deal with some of the pain I have gone through.
How long were you working on Young Love? Was it difficult choosing which songs to include on the record?
We worked on it for about 8 months. It's always difficult to pick songs for a record. Especially because I have a lot of influences I am pulling from. This time around I was leaning on the beat driving hip hop influenced songs.
You wrote your single “Hey Mama” about the day you met your wife. I read that you met her at an Anthropologie store and she seemed disinterested when you talked to her. What did you say to her when you met her? How did you end up getting back in contact with her?
I was playing the whole 'I don't know what dress to get my sister in-law' angle. I knew one of her friends so I wasn't a total creep. She wasn't interested in helping me, but I think she saw through it. I ran into her a couple times and eventually got her email and started writing her. That's when I started to gain some ground.
How did you end up surfing with Bethany Hampton, the main character in the movie Soul Surfer? She seems like a very inspirational person. Do you still know her? Can you discuss what she is like and what it was like surfing with her?
I was hanging out in Kauai and I remembered seeing this little young girl who was surfing circles around everyone. It was before she lost her arm. I asked someone about her and found out her name and how much promise she had. When her story hit the news about the shark attack I remembered her. When I heard they were making a movie I had to get involved.
If you could play music with any artist from today, who would it be?
Drake or Springsteen. They are both storytellers.
How did you end up in Nashville? Do you plan on living there for awhile?
I didn't mean to move here. I have been on a road trip that hasn't ever ended. A buddy of mine wanted me to help him drive across the country. We pulled into Nashville and slept in a parking lot for a while. Eventually we set up a little studio in this terrible apartment. I was only supposed to be there for the summer, but I've never left, and don't have plans to.
Why do you spell Mat with one “t”?
My mother misspelled it. None of us knew I had one "t" until the eighth grade when I pulled out my birth certificate and found it spelled that way. At the time I loved that I was different.
Can you discuss the recording process for your band? What is the studio like where you recorded Young Love? How long did the recording process take?
We did this record in a very humble basement studio. I did my last record at a huge studio in Nashville. This time around I wanted it to feel like the days when we were working out of our apartment. It was mostly just three of us sitting around making beats. I would take them off to the corner and write lyrics all day.
When did you start playing music? When did you know you wanted to be a musician?
I didn't get going 'till pretty late. I didn't have a musical upbringing. I first started playing the guitar when I was a sophomore in college. I would steal my roommate’s guitar and ride my bike to an empty racquetball court. I would play the 3 chords I had learned for hours.
Who are some of your favorite artists that you have toured with? What are some of your favorite touring memories?
I enjoyed touring with Keane, they are such amazing entertainers, and Tim, who plays keyboards, is unreal. John Mayer was pretty amazing, we played a sold out Madison Square Garden show. I still get chills.
Your songs have been featured on several major television shows such as 30 Rock, Grey’s Anatomy, Dirty Sexy Money, Scrubs, and The Vampire Diaries, to name a few. What is it like hearing one of your songs on a television show?
It's always interesting how they use your music. I just heard a spot on Grey’s Anatomy the other day that I quite liked. Other times you cringe a little. Licensing is always a little weird.
Can you name an accomplishment in your musical career that you are most proud of?
This new record hitting #1 on iTunes. It's pretty special to work on something for so long and have it received so well. It was a week of feeling completely overwhelmed as well as blessed.