Whilst keeping an eye on the Billboard Hot Country songs chart myself and co-presenter Vinny Morley who I present the Nashville Sounds UK Country Music Radio Show with on Roch Valley Radio, saw a new entry from a new name. Prayed For You by Matt Stell got played on our show and I quickly became hooked on the song! I was keen to find out more about this upcoming singer-songwriter who is on his way to stardom and find out what music inspires him and where he goes from here!
You had an interesting journey into becoming a musician, you actually had a Basketball scholarship at the time is that right?
I did yes I was playing Basketball at the time and I sort of started playing music because when you’re playing basketball over winter break you don’t get to go home at all so there was a lot of days when all I had to do was Basketball practice which afforded me time to play a lot of Play Station and eventually get a guitar out that my mum had bought me years prior. She brought it up to school for me and I learned to play sat in front of a computer screen.
When you was growing up what did your parents play to you and what do you choose to listen to now?
That’s a great question. I think with my Dad he was always really big into his Country music and his Bluegrass, he loved Bluegrass and Gospel Bluegrass so I listened to a lot of that growing up. On my Mums side Country music was always a big part but she was into whatever the Pop radio’s were playing at the time but she loved Alison Krauss and Bonnie Raitt so those were my experiences in those genres, Americana, Bluegrass, Rock Roots. I fell into loving Rock music, particularly alternative rock, I’ve always liked that alternative sound from the 90s so I listened to Hootie and the Blowfish, Alanis Morisette, Oasis - I love Oasis, they’re my favourite band that’s not Country but the 90s was a great time for Country Music.
Can you talk me through your own writing process, do you like to start with a hook or a melody or is it different every time?
It is different from time to time but typically we start with a title. So the title or an idea that’s trying to say something, and we try to finesse that title so it sings well or it really says something and then we build from there. Typically that’s how I like to work the title is a statement and we work around it.
Where do you draw inspiration from lyrically is it mainly personal experience?
It’s personal experience but then I read a lot too, I like to keep my antenna up for what’s going on around me. A lot of times it’s really inspirational too see somebody in an event and build the back story or some context for that. From reading a book or watching a movie you might see some interaction that might spark some creativity but I’ve written a lot from personal experience too. At some point your personal experience runs out haha.
Your song Prayed For You recently charted on the Country Charts so Congratulations! Can you tell us the story behind that song?
Yeah thanks very much! So that’s a pretty interesting story to me, I was writing with my manager/publisher Ash Bowers and we were writing with one of my good friends Allison Veltz and Allison was running late but she said I think I have an idea and she came in with the title Prayed For You and a little bit of the back story lines like “I didn’t Know You From Adam” because that weekend she had just met the man who ended up being her husband! So we sort of used her experiences to start writing that, we took the idea and the enthusiasm and built it around a character that’s like me in a lot of ways and Ash and I injected our own experiences. When we got it finished we thought it was pretty cool and it turned out to be the single for us.
You spoke there about Ash and Allison who you worked with on that song but do you have favourite people you like to collaborate with?
Yeah I have a group of people that I write with frequently like Joe Fox and Paul Sykes, these are a handful of my friends here in town. It’s interesting that writing songs, the relationship the writers share, you don’t feel sheepish about shooting down an idea and the other writers know your sensibilities so they can tailor what we’re doing around my voice. So those relationships are a big part of it bigger than I thought they would be.
A few silly questions now, what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever written a song about?
I wrote a song about a Mule. It’s actually one of my favourite songs but I’ll never get to cut it. I had a great, great, sort of Uncle who passed away and at his funeral they were telling stories about this old timer and they were saying he used a mule and a plough to work his garden till the day he died he never used a Tractor. So they told this story about going to Missouri, going up north to buy a mule and somebody asked him, “you’re going to go that far for it and how do you know the mule will even work?” And he replied “Well he belongs to me and he’s got no choice” so I wrote a song about that and how technology has changed the World.
When you’re on stage are you completely focussed or do you let your mind wander, we call it your mid-gig thoughts?
I’m usually pretty locked in to the moment because I enjoy playing these songs especially playing songs that I wrote for people that have come to see them. So typically my focus is on that but I suppose my mind does wander a bit but I’m usually pretty locked in or I’m trying to remember a lyric, it’s crazy the lyrics that I write you think how can you forget something you made up but you sure can.
What advice do you have to aspiring songwriters?
My advice is that there’s no substitute for writing, there’s no way of getting better at it than by just writing. You can read books on it but you’ve got to apply it to the songs. I would say three things: one… write, two… surround yourself with other people who enjoy writing, that’s the great thing about Nashville there’s so many talented people here it raises everyones level of competency of writing because you’re inspired all the time. The third thing… finish songs, don’t just start them even if it doesn’t come out right because an unfinished song is not really a song.
So do you still get the opportunity to play Basketball now your music career has taken off?
I actually played this morning at 6am with a group of guys, I do still enjoy playing but my goal now is to try to win obviously but to try and win or lose without getting hurt. I get to play a lot though.
What’s next for you and do you have any plans to tour the UK?
Our radio push actually starts today so promoting the single, getting people behind it, getting as many people listening to it as possible is the goal. Then the second part is touring, I don’t have anything planned overseas yet but I look forward to the day that I can come and play some music for y’all and enjoy the culture and the scenery of the old World!
Listen to Prayed For You here!