6’7 Arkansas native Matt Stell has come a long way from playing college basketball for Drury University and making the choice to head to Nashville instead of Cambridge, MA, where he was accepted into Harvard University’s Extension School Pre-Med program. Following his dream of writing and performing, the self-taught vocalist and guitar-player made the move to Music City in 2014, landing a publishing and management deal with Wide Open Music and a record deal with music industry powerhouse Barry Weiss’ RECORDS Nashville/Arista Nashville.
Launching your #giveadamn Foundation to help make the world a better place by just, well, giving a damn. Charities supported to date include St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Doctors Without Borders, and the Humane Society. How can fans contribute to the Foundation?
At the moment they can go to mattstell.com and support the foundation by getting a wristband and other #giveadamn branded merch. There will be many other opportunities to be a part of #giveadamn when the world starts get back closer to normal, for sure!
When the pandemic hit, you were on your Everywhere But On headlining tour with Chris Bandi and Ray Fulcher. You posted “… Things are gonna get worse before they get better. But nobody can make things better unless we all commit to making things better …” How do you see the music industry moving forward to allow touring to resume?
Well my perspective isn’t new and fresh, but there has to be a balance between safety and resuming life as close to normal as we can as soon as we can. The priority is safety of course and as the science surrounding the pandemic progresses we can make informed decisions about how to balance health and commerce in the most effective way.
When the tour was postponed, you did a ‘The Everywhere But (Actually) On Tour’ livestream show with Chris and Ray. Followed by the eight weekly ‘Penned Up’ virtual shows with Lindsay Ell and guests — where each songwriter shared a brand-new song. Will you be recording any of your ‘penned’ songs?
The biggest silver lining of this pandemic is the time we as creators have had to come up with new stuff. I for one wouldn’t normally be able to spend this much time writing and live-streaming. Because of that I have some songs I’m really proud of and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the penned up tunes end up getting cut!
The video for “Everywhere But On” came out at the beginning of quarantine. It had you back in the same studio where you tracked the song — on to shoots in Savannah and Nashville. You wrote that “a lot of real life went into bringing this story to life”. Can you share what happened behind the scenes in the making of the video that goes from ‘a real smooth, easy way’ but ‘finishes with a flourish’?
Well behind the scenes we were really trying to capture as much authenticity as we could for the “Everywhere But On” video because it’s a personal song in many ways — not in every way, but in many ways. That included actual locations like where the song was cut and playing it live in a city that is in the chorus lyric. So the smooth part points to how effortless recording and producing this song was, and the flourish was definitely the rowdy live performance where we play that and every other song like a garage rock band.
“Everywhere But On” Spotify playlist. What theme is represented in the songs you chose?
Well creating songs is in a lot of ways a snapshot in time, especially with personal songs like this one. So the playlist captures the vibe during creating, producing and promoting EBO. It’s also has a lot of the music that influenced me when I was writing it. And it has songs I’m insanely jealous of lol.
You debuted on Opry stage in April 2019. What other venues are on your bucket list?
The Opry took up a lot of room in my bucket list for sure, especially since I’ve had the chance to play at both the Opry House and the Ryman. I’d love to play at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville and Simmons First Arena in Little Rock someday too. And of course Red Rocks!
Missing fans and doing virtual meet & greets. Best advice a fan has given you?
Well I’ve had fans tell me how much certain songs mean to them, and for reasons I didn’t have in mind when I wrote them. A guy told me “Prayed For You” helped him get through a prison stint and that hit me pretty hard. It goes to show the power that music can have.
Receiving a Platinum Plaque for “Prayed For You”, the only debut artist single to top the Billboard Country Airplay chart last year. Can you describe the day you co-write the song with Ash Bowers and Allison Veltz Cruz?
Well the best part of something like that is celebrating it as a team win. AV and Ash are good friends of mine so that makes any milestones sweeter. It also takes a huge team of people from management, label, PR, radio promotion, country radio, streaming, etc., to make a platinum record happen and it was fun for them to get some recognition for sure.
Before your debut song, you wrote mostly for other artists. Now that you write for yourself, what close-to-your-heart topics do you want to address in your upcoming songs?
I don’t really put any restrictions on what a song can be about, even if it’s about something I don’t necessarily know a lot about. Sometimes getting outside yourself is the most fun way to write. I just kind of follow any idea that sounds cool and see what happens. Sometimes I’m very surprised.
Mountains, buddies, guitars, songs, mosquitos. Favorite memory from your trip to Alaska in August with Chris and Jimmie Allen?
I loved getting to play again and also to travel somewhere around I’d never been and always wanted to go. My least favorite memory was carving less fish than both Chris and Jimmie. I still owe Jimmie $20 because of it, but don’t remind him.
Releasing “If I Was A Bar” (co-written by Dan Isbell, Zach Kale, and Jonathan Singleton). It’s a song you describe as “a fun, loud country song made to be played live in front of a rowdy crowd”. What other songs will be on your set list for your first post covid live show?
Honestly I will probably try to play every song I know until they cut the power on us.
Did you come up with the idea to play all 13 of the characters for the heartbreak/drinking/party single’s socially distanced video?
That was the director Dustin Haney’s idea. He’s so creative and I jumped at the chance to go all Eddie Murphy “Coming to America” on set!
“Better Than That”. The quarantine silver lining for you has been focusing on writing and becoming more creative. How difficult was it to narrow down the new EP’s songs to eight?
BETTER THAN THAT EP TRACK LISTING
Produced by Ash Bowers and Matt Stell
1. Everywhere But On (Matt Stell, Paul Sikes, and Lance Miller)
2. If I Was A Bar (Dan Isbell, Zack Kale, and Jonathan Singleton)
3. Prayed For You (Ash Bowers, Matt Stell, and Allison Veltz-Cruz)
4. Better Than That (Joe Fox, Phil Barton, and Matt Stell)
5. I Love You Too (Seth Alley, Matt Stell, Ryan Peterson)
6. Sadie (Nate Cyphert, Sam Roman, Parrish Warrington, and Diederik van Elsas)
7. Chase it Down (Jarrod Ingram, Blake Hubbard, Brian Maher, and Matt Stell)
8. Look at Me Now (Joe Fox, Seth Ennis, and Thomas Finchum)
It was really hard. You get attached to songs and you want to cut them all. I lean on my team pretty heavily to help make those decisions because sometimes I get in my own feeling about em all a little too much.
Lathan Warlick’s “OverYonder”. What message do you hope fans take away from the song you’re featured on?
I hope fans take away the idea that just because we’re divided doesn’t mean we have to stay that way. Diversity of opinions, backgrounds, and music is almost always a good thing in my experience. Lathan nailed it.
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. PURCHASES DO NOT INCREASE ODDS OF WINNING. Odds depend on the number of eligible entries…
What can fans expect to hear at your upcoming Wrangler/Boot Barn livestream November 19th?
They can expect the closest thing to an in person live show as we can give. They can expect old songs, new songs, cover songs, who know what else. We will be loaded for bear that night.
Dad’s 1964 Ford Galaxie 500XL, the crown jewel of his collection, you purchased together at Barrett Jackson’s auction in 2015. What car was on the top of his bucket list to drive and why?
Well I was there when he purchased it and on the tape you can see me telling him to stop bidding — he listened about like I do lol. He would buy a car like that and love to fire it up and keep it clean. But as far as driving goes, you’d prob find him in an old diesel burner of some kind. Something that could get through the pasture pretty easy, but also get to town in case he needed feed parts or a beer lol.