Mat Kearney didn’t start making music until he was a junior at California State University, Chico. A chance encounter with a roommate led him to pick up a guitar for the first time. He had never played a musical instrument before in his life, and it didn’t occur to him that this could be a long-term thing for anyone.
But Kearney, an English Literature major, discovered he could write. He became obsessed with it, eventually dropping out of college. “You find those things in life where you’re like, I don’t know if this is work, play,” Kearney says. But now, “this is all I want to do…. It’s just fun.”
Ten years, five albums, and five Top 20 hits on Billboard’s Adult Pop Songs chart later, that passion hasn’t dissipated. While writing his latest album, Just Kids, Kearney, now 36, was listening to a lot of Paul Simon and hip-hop. “I kept asking, like, what would Kanye and Paul Simon do if they were in a room together? That was the goal of some of my writing.”
This is an episode of SoundBites, a Fusion original web series. Whether on tour, at the recording studio, or at home, SoundBites provides a rare, behind-the-scenes glimpse at the lives of today’s top musical artists.