Matthew Mayfield

21 Jan

“The ‘industry’ might not believe in artist development anymore, but I certainly do. I see it all around me, every day.”

Some musicians think that becoming a success overnight is simple. With the industry cranking out singers left and right, it seems like anyone can ‘make it’ in this world. The artists I tend to fall in love with are the ones that have worked their asses off trying to make a name for themselves. They’ve witnessed what hard work really is and still, continue to grow. Matthew Mayfield is an artist known for his continual work. Since he was a kid, he dreamed of becoming a rock star, much like the ones that graced MTV. The singer, now 28, has seen success. Matthew was signed to a major label and fed promises that weren’t kept. Instead of letting his dream die, he decided to take matters into his own hands and become his own boss. His dream is to live life making music and the music he does make is absolutely wonderful. I recently interviewed Matthew and learned much more about this striving artist who will continue climbing the ladder until he reaches the very top.

Matthew is asking for help from his fans! If you’re a supporter, please click here and contribute anything you can to a work in progress.

Q. From reading your biography, I was able to learn a lot about your life as a musician and your everyday struggles just to get by in that world. You started your musical journey at the young age of 11. What would you say was your ultimate success goal at that very moment?

A. Pure rock stardom, for sure.  I wanted to BE Slash up on Axl’s piano shredding at the finale of ‘November Rain’.  The lights, the swagger, the decadence. All of it was completely fascinating and new to me as a kid. And while the goal has shifted a bit over the years, I’m thankful for that kick-start. I’ve become a bit two-faced over time. One part of me just wants to play that loud, raunchy rock’n’roll, the other part of me wants to sit in a corner with an acoustic guitar and find the melodies that will make you cry. I’m very lucky to have outlets for both of me. <smile>

Q. Growing up idolizing such rock stars as Jimmy Page and Bruce Springsteen, how did your writing techniques compare to such greats? Did you notice that a lot of your writing reflected theirs or did you stick to your own style?

A. It seems like influences always manage to make their way into your writing style. Anyone that says otherwise is a liar. As artists we ingest our influences, process them, swirl ’em around, and hopefully what comes out is your own thing. You can hear little pieces of all of my heros in my songs–I just hope the association isn’t too strong. It’s definitely a hard line to walk at times.

Q. In 2005 you were signed to a major record label and had the opportunity to open for big tours and make money off of doing what you loved. What was the first moment you realized that going down that path wasn’t for you and you wanted to “make it” on your own terms?

A. That was a tough time for a lot of reasons–but mostly because I had worked so hard to get signed, write a great record, and ‘make it’. I thought the dream had come true at 21. I think seeing the guts of that big machine scared me away and I’m grateful for that. You gotta make fans–one at a time. And if you ever need the machine, it will be there when the time is right and hopefully you’re smart enough to play by your own rules. Some friends of mine are ‘making it’ right now and they’ve turned down every offer from every major label out there. Artists just don’t need it like they did 10 years ago.

Q. At one point, you recorded seven EP’s in just a year and a half. At that time in your life, what was going on that you had that much writing material?

A. There were some rough patches in there. Late ’08 and ’09 were really heavy years for reasons I’ve gotta keep to myself. But it made for a lot of music…songs were spilling out all day/all night. I couldn’t chase them fast enough.

Q. Since you have such a large musical library, what song would you choose for someone to hear who has never heard your music before? How would you like them to be introduced to Matthew Mayfield?

A. Hmm, that’s tricky and my answer today will be different than tomorrow. Right now I’d say ‘Fire Escape’. That song is something special. I wrote it with my friend John Paul White during that period of my life I mentioned earlier. The lyric, the melody, the production–I think we nailed that one all around. JP helped me take it from a rough sketch to a powerful song. And he sings those haunting low harmonies in the chorus like no one else could. That dude is a badass. All around.

Q. After being in this industry for so many years, you have had to pick up some really great advice on what not to do. What are those things and what would you hope to never have to go through again?

A. Never believe that anyone will do it for you. You have to get out there and fight for it–every day. No one will make you a rock star. I think I bought the label’s bullshit for a while because I was a kid. I didn’t understand. But having put hundreds of thousands of miles on a few different vans and having spent lots of sleepless nights in slimy hotels–I see it now. I’ve been paying dues for 10 years and I still do — every day. I’m 28 and still extremely ‘unsuccessful’ when I look at my checking account <smile>. But I still love it like I did when I was 11 years old. I don’t think that’ll ever change.

Q. Living in Birmingham, AL, do you feel like the music scene there is geared more towards one genre or do you think it is diverse enough that lots of musicians of all sorts are able to gain a fan base?

A. It’s always changing like any market does–but it’s full of talent. Birmingham has been a good town for so many acts–both local and national. There’s a bit of everything. Some great singer/songwriters (Jon Black, Sander Bohlke), some great rock bands (The Grenandines, Gum Creek Killers), some great folk/rock (The Great Book of John, Preston Lovinggood), and the list goes on. Birmingham is a loyal town when it comes to music. Some national acts consider it their home-base or the place they got their first big ‘break’ (Matchbox 20, John Mayer, Train, ect),  and there’s a lot to be said for that. Folks like Scott Register, Don VanCleave, Todd Coder, Geno Pearson, Jason Rogoff–they’re all doing what they can for the home team by helping in their own ways to get our music heard. That goes a long way for all of us, I think.

Q. A few of your songs have been placed on the TV show, Grey’s Anatomy. What was it like hearing one of your songs played on such a popular show and do you feel that it helped your career in any way?

A. It was pretty strange the first time because I had just done that record in a basement (The Fire EP) and got the call they were gonna use ‘First in Line’ for the 100th episode. It was a killer placement and they used the entire song. I was absolutely shocked. Things like that are small victories in an industry full of losses. You gotta take it where you can get it. To this day, ‘First in Line’ is still the most downloaded song in my catalog every month.

Q. With the new year approaching, what are some of your goals? Do you have new songs on the horizon?

A. I’m going to make another record in early 2012. It’s time to get back to work. I toured ‘Now You’re Free’ for the better part of this year and it was a blast, but this time I want to do something totally different and challenge myself to be a better writer and a better artist. The ‘industry’ might not believe in artist development anymore, but I certainly do. I see it all around me, every day.

Q. If you were stranded on an island and could only bring one of your songs to listen to, which one would it be and why?

A. Probably the instrumental version of ‘Open Road’. We put so much heart into the music on that one. The strings arrangements, the programming / motion, and the atmosphere. We created something special. Plus without the vocal I could sit and watch the ocean move and not have to hear my stupid voice on top of a beautiful track. 

Here is “Fire Escape, from his album, Now You’re Free.


One Response to “Matthew Mayfield”

  1. Stephen Bertagnolli January 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    I got the chance to meet Matthew when he came into the music store I work at before the Moses Mayfield cd had come out. But I had an advanced copy somehow so I was already a fan and knew who he was. He might be one on the kindest souls I have met in my life. I hope one day to meet him again. Thanks for the interview. It’s nice to have insight on a man I think deserves to be a success.

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