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Social Encore: Kearney makes Hawaii debut
BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser
When one of your favorite artists comes out with a new album, you anticipate what they have conjured up during all those months of writing and recording.
As Universal Republic Records artist Mat Kearney was in the process of making his third album, “Young Love,” he took his fans behind the scenes and showed them the amazingness he was creating in studio.
Thanks to BAMP Project, you will be able to hear him live at The Republik tonight! He has been under the radar in Hawaii, but I’ll tell you why I think he is such a great artist and why you should see one of his three Hawaii shows.
The Oregon native said when he attended California State University-Chico, his roommate had a guitar. From there his musical interests grew into something he never expected.
“I didn’t know that I was going to do this as a career,” he said. “It was more about me and friends getting together”.
Recording songs in his bedroom, Kearney wanted to focus more on music and he felt school was getting in the way.
“Music was just something that I truly loved and it was all I wanted to do,” he said. When friend and producer, Robert Marvin, had plans on moving to Nashville, TN, Kearney was invited to join in on the journey. Little did Kearney know, he was about to take a journey that would change his life.
Presented by BAMP Project
» Where: The Republik, 1349 Kapiolani Blvd.
“It was the very moment when we jumped in the truck. I was only supposed to be there for a month and I just never went back,” he said. Kearney says that his second album, “Nothing Left to Lose” was loosely written about his life changing decision to pursue music.
If you listen to Kearney’s music, you won’t be able to describe his music with just one word. As I chatted with him, he said he grew up listening to a diverse set of artists who helped set the foundation of his multifarious sound.
“Everything from Hip Hop music, Tribe Called Quest to Paul Simon, to Bob Marley and Bob Dylan … I was pulling from a lot of influences,” he said.
Kearney is no stranger to writing and says that he used to write poetry “to impress girls in high school.” However it wasn’t until college where he started to experiment with the art of spoken word by performing at coffee shops. He then started to combine his love for music with the art of words. A rhythmic style but with a hip-hop influence, he raps in some of his tracks and it all comes together in a manner that just makes you want to sit back and reminisce.
Getting to where he is today, he says he “worked every strange job that you ever had to do.” From slinging coffee to serving food at a hotel while wearing a tuxedo, he struggled to stay afloat. When he and Marvin set up shop in Nashville, they took a risk by taking a $20,000 loan to produce Kearney’s first album independently. Thinking back of when he used to sell CD’s out of his car, he says that during the three years of career uncertainty it was all well worth it when he was finally signed by Colombia.
“We had a break when it came to ‘Nothing Left To Lose.’” he said. Thanking his second album for giving the push he needed, he says that it got things going in order for his musical career to truly take off.
“It is one of those stories where it takes about two to 10 years to be an overnight success,” said Kearney. Till this day, he still finds it fun to be immersed in the creative process of producing an album. Some major artists find it hard to stay musically true to themselves because of the pressure from music executives. However, Kearney says that he was blessed to have never experienced that.
“They leave me alone during the recording/studio time. I never had people meddling me,” he said.
Kearney said he worked for his dream for so long that when it came to creating this album, he wanted to slow down the process and take the time to truly be in the moment and enjoy it.
“The first tour, I did about 250 shows in one year,” he said. “We did cool stuff on this record and I think I’ve hit a good balance … to the point where I can sit back and appreciate it.”
Kearney’s album ‘Young Love’ is inspired by a component that we all have in our lives, love.
And Kearney’s family has a lot of love for Hawaii. Believe it or not, his brother went to the University of Hawaii-Manoa and his parents met and fell in love on the Big Island. His father was a deckhand on a snorkel boat and his mother was a mermaid on a glass-bottom boat.
His song “Rochester” on the album tells the life-story of his father, Michael P. Kearney who grew up in Rochester, NY. The song talks about how his father grew up in New York while his grandfather ran an illegal gambling ring in the back of a fake cigar shop. The song ends with the love story of how his parents met with lyrics like “met a mermaid on a glass boat and she promised me some kids” with a guitar medley in the background that sounds just like an ukulele.
“On this record, I really loved “Rochester” because it is about my family. It’s really the most personal song that I’ve ever had,” he said.
“Young Love” has 11 tracks with each song delicately written to pull your heart strings and lift up your spirits.
“Songwriting is how I process life and it is how I deal with life,” said Kearney. He shared with me that a lot of his songs encompasses what he has experienced himself. Kearney said that he uses music to document his authentic feelings when dealing with a situation in order to capture in-depth emotions.
My personal favorite on the album, “Ships in the Night,” was written based off a situation he had with his wife when he was leaving for a major tour. Kearney recalls the situation of being a newly married couple that was “trying to connect with one another but had a difficult time trying to find the ways”.
As soon as you hear the chorus, “You keep passing me by. We’re just wasting time, trying to prove who’s right and if it all goes crashing into the sea. If it’s just you and me, trying to find the light. Like ships in the night,” you can’t help but relate to the difficult situations you’ve ever had with a significant other when trying to find some common ground.
Always trying to tell a story, Kearney does it impeccably with his collaborating blend of rock and folk in his song, “Down” that talks about life’s hardships and trying to find an avenue of healing. Then you have songs like “Hey Mama” that makes you want to clap your hands while indulging in the mantra of “Carpe Diem.” I feel as if almost every song on this album is speaking to me and is telling a little bit of my personal life stories.
Even though Kearney has been to Hawaii several times this will be his first time on a Hawaii stage.
“When you never played somewhere before, it’s like a first date,” he said. We both laughed when he used that as a metaphor but I couldn’t agree more and what better way to have a first “first-date” with a Hawaii audience than to have his shows be performed acoustically. Kearney says that performing acoustically is how he first started out and even though he enjoys big shows with his entire band, he admitted that it is great to go back to his roots.
“It was me and guitar for years. It’s always fun to come back to some honest story-telling acoustics,” he said.
“Young Love” is by far to me, the best album by Kearney. His flawless and creative way of connecting with his audience through his tune and use of lyrics showcases his way of connecting with his listeners.
“The live shows that we’ve been doing, it’s a live connection,” he said. “There is an intimacy that people are attracted to … it’s like an inclusive world.
“However, music allows me into their exclusive world while allowing me to share my world with them.”
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.