Interview with Mat Kearney: The City Has Blended Grey

When Mat Kearney isn’t jamming out to Justin Bieber’s new song, or fixing his age-worthy Martin, he’s probably reminiscing about the grapevines in his backyard, or making another cup of coffee. He spoke to The Aquarian about his love for fusing genres, as well as the realness of coffee addiction. He’s on the road again for the Just Kids Tour, which is a big part of him. And Just Kids just came out in February, but don’t expect a break from Kearney anytime soon. In the fog and fusions of genres, he always revisits his hip-hop roots while now dipping in electronic sounds. That is a little of what we can expect from one of Oregon’s melodic gentleman. He has shared the stage with fellow artists, produced his tracks, and even started making his own wine. Kearney’s proven you can enjoy an artist in more ways than three.  Behind the curtains and beyond the microphone, he shares the ocular ways he writes music.

You’re about to set on tour. Any cities you love revisiting?

            We had an awesome show last time we were in New Jersey. This tour is more to hit cities we missed. And we are excited, you know? You can only do so much touring at one time- so this is like us coming back and hitting some of the awesome cities that we didn’t get around to in spring.

Let’s go into how your videos are so awesome. I remember when “Heartbeat” came out- and I was watching the video 10 times. The drone, one-take, was so cool. I wanted to know… who are those dancers?

Yeah, that was like me and the director talking. We wanted to do this one-take video, and he was like, “What if we had dancers?” I was like, “That would be amazing.” So, they did an audition and we just met people. And you know, I never really do that- it’s more R&B [having] background dancers. We just met and auditioned a bunch of people—and picked interesting people. It was really cool. I can see why people loved it. It was instant community and it was really fun for me to work for a video.

They were all different, but in synch. So, that was off Just Kids. It’s a great work of art, how would you say the album is different that your last albums? Because I feel like no two are the same.

I definitely love playing with genres and making great music—trying to explore how different things sound together. I have a lot of singer-songwriter roots and a lot of hip-hop roots but I think this one—I was really just exploring by myself. When I sat down to make this record, I asked the question: What would it sound like if Paul Simon and Kanye West were working together? And that was kind of the goal.

I still have to try Verse & Chorus. I think it’s awesome that your inspiration comes from growing up in Oregon. So, I just want to know when did you decide—okay, I’m going to make wine now.

It just kind of happened. I was playing a show in Napa Valley and a friend of mine was interviewing me, kind of like this. And [he] said, “Hey, let’s do wine together.” I was like, “Are you serious? It this a joke?” And [it] became a real thing. We just started collaborating on what kind of wine we made together, how we wanted the packaging and marketing of it all. And it just grew out of our friendship—just talking about what we love in wine and what would be fun to do together.

I read a while ago that you were going to be an English teacher, and I could tell because your lyrics are so beautiful. I feel that you are a teacher, but in a different classroom setting… with your music. Would you ever consider going back part-time? Or do you feel that you’re teaching more by releasing your albums?

            Yeah, I think that’s one of my passions, teaching. I really enjoy it. And even working with a new artist—upcoming, and talking about songwriting, stuff I’ve learned. I think in my core, there’s an English teacher down there that would like to come out someday.

I saw that you dabbled in photography. Do you think your visions influence your videos?

Yeah the visuals… today in music, it’s so important to have a visual thing. Twitter, Instagram, videos, the Internet…it’s all together. It’s not just writing a song. So, I think I’m a visual person. I really respond to design and things that look cool. The album cover (Just Kids) [is like a] ‘90s Nike ad, like an athletic poster. I think visually about my music; I like writing images. That’s how I songwrite.

In the music industry, it’s easier to share and reach out to a broader audience. It certainly has changed, you’ve been on the scene for a while. Anything maybe not so positive that has changed since you started out to now?

I think it’s really exciting. The thing that’s changed is that it’s hard to cut through. There is so much out there. [It’s] hard to get people’s attention because you’re competing with so many things. That’s the most difficult thing. But as far as the music scene, [it] is so exciting right now with electronic music and there’s no boundaries. People aren’t bound by genre, they’re just experimenting [and] going wherever they want. That’s what inspired me, when I started out. People were like, “What is this? You’re playing guitar but rapping… but rock influences.” So, I’ve always been inspired by people blending genres. That’s really exciting to me right now.

I feel with all the genres, music festivals has risen. Now there’s a million music festivals to go to. Do you think in the future you’re going to hit up some?

Definitely. Touring is a huge part of what I do. I love to. Haven’t really done a ton on like [the] festival scene. Maybe I need to partner with Skrillex or something will  (laughs) put me on the radar.

(Laughing) Little weird.

No, but I really love it! I’m honestly really interested. A lot of DJs [are] hitting me up to work together so, maybe my next project will be influenced… maybe in the future. I’m also really influenced by EDM—the ability to get a group of people feeling something and I think that’s cool. I think that’s taken to being able to move a group of people profoundly.

Do you remember the moment you first heard your song on the radio?

            I had a friend call me and said to turn on the station right now, and I heard the end of the song. [It] was so surreal. [It] wasn’t the song playing because you’re used to hearing your song in the car, but it’s the DJ after that makes it so surreal. That was Mat Kearney on W-whatever, like…wait a second. The world’s hearing this, you know?

It’s me! Anything special that you hold, that you can’t leave home without it?

We bring a full coffee rig to make coffee. So like, a grinder, scales… coffee is VERY important to us. There’s a separate travel case that has all the paraphernalia like to make the most amazing cup of coffee.

Coffee, sure. No, I’m kidding.

            I’m serious! We are VERY serious about our coffee…

Plans after tour? Relax? Maybe write a little more, or go with the flow…

            I’m going to dive right into a new record. I think between Young Love and Just Kids, I made people wait too long. So, this time, I’m inspired to write and get something going sooner than later. People don’t have to wait.


Mat Kearney will be performing at State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ on Oct. 15 and the Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg, PA on Oct. 17. For more tour dates and information, check out his website at