Matt, can you share your memories of country music growing up?
Some of my favorite memories growing up were listening to Elvis, Ernest Tubb, and especially Johnny Cash with my grandfather. We’d sit on the porch, drink tea and just listen to his favorite music. It quickly became my favorite too.
Stell taught himself to play guitar and sing while at Drury University in Missouri. He would play at local venues after basketball practice. After he graduated, he began writing with Red Dirt stars like Casey Donahew.
“Whiskey Baby,” your co-write with Casey, anyone in mind when you compare love to how whiskey burns going down?
That song may or may not have been inspired by a particular person. The names have been changed to protect the innocent, lol.
“Small Town Love” topped the Texas charts for Casey. How is it different to write for another artist?
I love being a part of writing songs that other folks like enough to record. This one and “Whiskey Baby” stand out because they both went #1 in Texas and I got to write it with my buddy Casey.
The Arkansas native was accepted into Harvard University’s Extension School Pre-Med program. However, he choose to move to Nashville in 2014, landing a publishing deal with Wide Open Music and a record deal with Barry Weiss’s RECORDS/Sony Music Entertainment.
What happened on your mission trip to Haiti that inspired you to write?
The medical mission trip I took to Haiti was so special. I got to work alongside doctors and other medical professionals to help staff a clinic for a week. It was a really transformative experience. I felt so inspired when I got home from being around such awesome people. They donated their time and expertise to make the world a better place.
Pre-med Harvard or Nashville. What was the deciding factor that brought you to Nashville?
The deciding factor to me was that I was offered a publishing deal by a company that believed in me and was passionate about my music. That’s so hard to find and I couldn’t let that opportunity pass by.
Working with Wide Open Music’s Ash Bowers — what role has he played in your career?
Ash Bowers changed my life by believing in me and giving me a real chance to be successful. His experience and talent has been a huge advantage for me.
How has your music evolved since your debut EP Last of the Best EP and your new one Everywhere But On?
I feel like on the latest EP, Everywhere But On, I’ve really been able to hone in on my own unique sound. I’m so excited to turn this project loose to the world!
What inspired the song “Prayed for You?” How did you choose it as the lead single?
“Prayed For You” is really about preserving long enough in life to allow good things to happen to you, whether that’s a relationship, work, school, family, etc. The song just kind of emerged as the front runner when we put the EP out. For whatever reason the song just resonated with people. It’s been a really fun ride.
“Prayed For You” (Co-written by Stell, Allison Veltz, Ash Bowers)
Grand Ole Opry—what was your takeaway memory from your April debut?
My takeaway memory was turning around during my performance and seeing so many of my family backstage in those church pews. I’ll never forget it.
“Everywhere But On” has to resonate with many listeners. How hard is it to perform songs that dig so deep in your heart?
I love playing songs that matter to people because that’s the strongest connection you can make between artists and listeners.
“Everywhere But On” (Co-written by Stell, Paul Sikes, Lance Miller)
For sure it did. Both Jimmie and I are from small towns so we immediately knew that we had a lot in common. This song talks about a lot of those things.
Which musician would you like to collaborate with next — writing and/or singing?
Is there anything in particular that you’d like people to take away from listening to your music?
I just hope listeners can tell that I mean what I’m saying, even if I’m not necessarily the character in the song I’m singing.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Write songs every day. The song is the most important thing.
What’s an average day like for you as an artist?
It’s really lot of traveling and a lot of time on the phone. And a lot of showing up on time, lol.
Favorite song you listen to in the summer?
If you were to form a basketball team of country artists, who would be your starting five?
Me, Jimmie Allen (baller) Trace Adkins (height), Chris Stapleton (he’s from KY so he has to be good at hoops) and Tim McGraw (they used to travel with a hoop on tour, so maybe we could use his hoops).
If you didn’t become a musician, what would you be doing right now?
I would probably be trying not to flunk out of med school.
A movie of your life is being filmed — who are the leads?
Not sure but former Laker GREAT Rick Fox plays me.
What is the weirdest or funniest question you’ve ever been asked in an interview?
The last one about who would play me in a movie is a good one.
When you aren’t writing or performing what do you like to do?
I love to golf, play basketball, be outside, read, listen to music and spend times with friends.
Stell and fiancée Sophie LeBlanc are busy planning for their December wedding.
I was born in New Orleans. My parents fell in love here. They spent their early married life in a little house on Bourbon Street. 30 years later, Matt and I fell in love here. We cherish this city because of it’s significance in our lives. Yesterday the roots grew even deeper when we got engaged right in the heart of the city we love so much. ~ Sophie 12/16/18