Two kids with wet cement living down in their souls, they say what gets carved when you’re young stays there when you’re old” says Mat Kearney on the title track of his 4th full length album “JUST KIDS.”
“There’s something incredibly vulnerable about middle school for me,” says the singer and songwriter. “We’re really impressionable during that period. The cement’s still wet, so to speak, and a lot of things later in life are born during that season.”
“JUST KIDS” is full of nostalgia and youthful energy written almost as a love letter to his northwest upbringing in Eugene, OR. “A lot of my family has moved to Nashville, where I now live, which is awesome for me personally but it severed some the physical roots I had to Oregon. I found myself writing a lot of songs about my hometown and how it shaped me today.”
While on the road promoting 2011’s critically acclaimed Young Love, Mat began to compile ideas for what would eventually become his latest offering. In fact, it was a fan favorite from Young Love, “Ships in the Night”, which kicked off the creative process for his new album. “Ships genre blending style really resonated with me and other people, and it became a touchstone for the new album,” he adds. “All of the songs on ”JUST KIDS” stretched from it.
For the first time, Mat brought a laptop and a portable studio on tour with him. He wrote in between shows, and he recorded everywhere from Los Angeles and Sweden to his home studio in Nashville, personally producing a lot of the songs and also enlisting the production talents of MDL [Maroon 5, Justin Bieber] and longtime collaborator Josh Crosby.
“I set up to explore by myself,” he explains. “I literally made fifty tracks, and I spent hours alone doing things I wouldn’t do if other people were around. To experiment like that and take the reins as a producer was very different for me. I was out in the wilderness, making music full of swagger that I wanted to play in my car for friends.”
That process yielded songs like the single “Heartbeat”, which merge vintage synths, a slap bass, handclaps, hip-hop cadence, and uplifting melodies. It’s instantly irresistible and indicative of Mat’s creative approach.
“I picked up my guitar, and the song basically fell in my lap,” he goes on. “It was so simple. I wanted to bring in some 90’s influences and make it groovier than people would expect from me. I was inspired by Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’, and it puts a love song in the context of Nashville where I live.”
Meanwhile, “Billion” bounces with a distinct energy as he paints a vivid picture of true love. “It’s really about the idiosyncrasies of the person you love,” says Mat. “You can either be annoyed by them or celebrate the things that make the person you’re with unique.”
Throughout moments like the poetic “Ghosts” and nostalgic “Los Angeles”, he summons a style that’s equally rooted in singer-songwriter storytelling and rap bombast. “I kept asking myself, ‘what would it sound like if Paul Simon and Kanye West were in a room together?” he admits.
Mat confidently slides into his own space, building on a bevy of accolades and achievements. His last album, Young Love debuted at #1 on the Billboard digital chart and #4 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. In addition, Young Love was the first album to oust Adele’s 21 from its resident iTunes #1 spot in 2011. His music has been featured in countless television shows and films ranging from Soul Surfer and Parenthood to The Closer, NCIS, 30 Rock, and Vampire Diaries. His 2006 major label debut Nothing Left to Lose has sold over 450,000 copies, while 2009’s City of Black & White hit #13 on the Billboard Top 200. In between it all, he supported everybody from John Mayer to Keane on the road.
Ultimately though, Just Kids will prove to be his most impactful statement to date. “It’s the most honest record I’ve done,” Mat leaves off. “I tried to bleed each lyric as opposed to just writing songs. I wanted it to be filled with undeniable moments you don’t forget. In that way, it’s like childhood.”