Powerhouse singer/songwriter (and one of our 2018 artists of the year) Matt Maeson shared insights on his debut album ‘Bank on the Funeral’ in an exclusive interview with Atwood Magazine!
Stream: “Bank on the Funeral” – Matt Maeson
The trials and tribulations Matt Maeson has gone through in his young life are immediately apparent in the lyrics and melodies of his songs, each with all of the energy and sorrow associated with various moments in his life. His debut album Bank on the Funeral (released 4/5/2019 via Neon Gold Records / Atlantic Records) captures the highlights of his musical career so far, drawing from EPs and singles that are now a few years old and have already had significant radio playing time, as well as brand new tracks. Using music as an outlet for processing complicated experiences has allowed Maeson to connect with his fans on a meaningful level that is not lost on him.
With a lot of my lyrics you can kind of translate it to whatever you’re going through, so a lyric that means something entirely different to me, means something different to them and helps them through something. And that’s amazing.
Maeson’s signature style is heavy with emotion and feeling, but his music ranges from ballad-esque solo guitar pieces, to bigger, drum-laden tracks that build. His song “Cringe,” which was first released in 2017, has steadily gained momentum the past few years and exemplifies the incredibly resounding vocals that mark his music. Maeson’s stellar work earned him recognition as one of Atwood Magazine’s Artists of the Year in 2018.
The intonations of his new songs have seen a shift, with “Tread on Me” and “Beggar’s Song” taking a more rebellious and defiant tone to his usually troubled lyrics.
Atwood Magazine sat down with Virginia native Matt Maeson to talk about his debut album, Bank on the Funeral.
A CONVERSATION WITH MATT MAESON
Atwood Magazine: Did you always know you wanted to be a musician, or did you have defining moment that set that path clear for you?
Matt Maeson: I was raised in a musical family, so I kind of always had that dream of being a rock star, it’s in my blood. Growing up I loved skateboarding and doing any kind of reckless shit, so my three things were either I wanted to be a professional skateboarder, or a stunt man, or a rock star. So number three was the most likely I think.
Was there a reason you decided to pursue a solo career rather than form a band from the beginning?
Maeson: Not really I guess, I always wanted a band but I wasn’t around enough musicians at the time- and when I was around musicians that were good enough to be in a band I wasn’t good enough to be in a band yet. And then by the time I was good enough I wasn’t really around a lot of them. My songwriting is pretty secluded and I like to write on my own. I still always wrote with a band in mind, which I think helps with the dynamics of my songs. That’s why they fluctuate and get really big and get really quiet. But no real decision to do that, it just kind of happened.
So do you still write all of your own music alone?
Maeson: Pretty much, I’d say 90% of it. We did a couple of co-writes on this record, we did Go Easy and Tread on Me are both co-writes, and so is Dancing After Death. But for the most part I like to just go somewhere alone and process things.
Thinking about your writing style, it’s obviously pretty dark and personal and you make a lot of references to specific people in your life. Are those songs autobiographical for the most part?
Maeson: Yeah, there are definitely some metaphors, but pretty much everything I write is about what happened to, just after I process it a couple of years later, so it’s all pretty real.
So you’ve had a couple of EPs but this is your first full album, and it draws from some old songs as well as a ton of new ones- is this body of work tied together by one specific time in your life?
Maeson: The first EP was reflecting on the period of my life from 18-22 and becoming an adult, and The Hearse, the second EP, was after that for a period. So the album I wanted to address all of it. Because I feel like when you’re 18, eight or ten years later you feel like a completely different person. And I think a lot of people feel that way. I think pulling in songs from the previous EPs definitely pushes those songs to a much bigger audience, but at the same time I wanted to release an album that feels like I put everything out there.
Some of your songs, like Cringe, have been out in the world for a few years now, are there any songs from that first EP you’d put out or remaster in some way?
Maeson: “Cringe” is on there, and “Tribulation” (from my first EP) is also on the album as well.
One thing I noticed about the new stuff on the album has a lot to do with the bigger band like you said, and almost is more uplifting. Do you ever see yourself ever departing from the darker and more melancholy lyrics?
Maeson: I think there will always be a hint of that in there, but if you look at the sonics from the difference in the EPs, The Hearse is a lot darker because that was a much darker time in my life. But in terms of the newer songs I’ve been writing, they’ve had more of an uplifting spirit to them and that’s just because of where I’m at in my life. Whatever I put out is gonna be an example of where I was in life at that point. If it’s a happy song it’s just that I was in a happier time in my life. Like, Go Easy we just released but I wrote it around the time I wrote Cringe. I think a lot of the songs on the record are depressing and uplifting at the same time, because no matter where I’m at, if I’m in a really dark place I know I’m gonna get out of it. And that’s the message I’ve been putting in a lot of these songs.
I really like that. You said you were in between tours right now, how was the tour you just wrapped up?
Maeson: It was awesome. It was seriously one of the most professional tours I’ve been on as a supporting act. We played a ton of theaters, so it was awesome to play those because I probably won’t be playing them for a pretty long time. It was interesting because Needtobreathe has been a predominantly Christian band for most of their career, like fifteen years. And, I’m a faith-filled man but, playing for these crowds where some of my songs cuss, one of my songs opens with “Goddamn,” I definitely got some eyerolls. And some judgemental vibes. But for the most part it was awesome and I made a ton of fans, which was really great right before we go into this headliner tour.
This headlining tour, it’s now all sold out right?
Maeson: It’s all sold out, it sold out in about two weeks, which pretty much all of were surprised by.
Do you have big plans for how these shows will build on your last tours in these new venues?
Maeson: It’s gonna be the longest set, about an hour long, and we built a new set with all the songs and transitions and stuff. I’m actually going into rehearsal next week for it, so I’m eager and also nervous to see how it all turns out.
What would you say has been the best thing about how your life has changed in the last few months since you’ve really started to come up?
Maeson: It’s kind of shallow to say but just being a this point now- after I’ve worked so damn hard for the past four years- to actually be at a point where I’m making some money. So to see all of that hard work start to show tangible profit is really awesome. Especially with this headline tour, it’s the first tour where I’m actually gonna make some money. But other than that it’s cool to see how these songs impact people. I just did a radio tour, which is basically when you drive across the country going to different radio stations for 20 minutes. And it’s exhausting and draining and really, really hard but then you can just sit there and think about how these stations are playing my songs to thousands and thousands of people. I get messages from people about how the songs have helped them through something and that makes it all worthwhile.
You have a pretty dedicated fanbase, especially with a lot of the subjects of your songs being so dark and personal, have you got to hear fans’ stories from stuff like that?
Maeson: I get messages all the time on social media, and for pretty much every tour I’ve done after the show I’ll go out to the merch booth to say hi and take pictures. Sometimes they’ll just tell me how a specific lyric or a song helped them through a situation, which is why I write music. They have no idea what I’m talking about when I talk about some story that I went through. With a lot of my lyrics you can kind of translate it to whatever you’re going through, so a lyric that means something entirely different to me, means something different to them and helps them through something. And that’s amazing.
Okay last question, who is your dream act to tour with?
Maeson: I would love to open up for Alabama Shakes, they’re so sick… also Manchester Orchestra, and then Arcade Fire.
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📸 © Alexis Gross