The Equinox Fashion had such a great opportunity to interview an emerging artist 'Just Matthew' last week! Born and raised in LA, I would love to introduce the talented artist whom I would love to share my interview with you all.
- Can you introduce yourself?
First off, I want to thank you for the opportunity to have this interview and to say hello to all The Equinox Fashion readers and supporters. I am a songwriter and recording artist that goes by the name “Just Matthew”. I am 23 years old and I live in the United States, born and raised in Los Angeles, California where I am proud to call home.
- Apart from writing music, what else do you also do?
Well, sticking with the creative side of things, I love the visual aspect that goes hand and hand with the music. I do my own graphics as well as edit the videos. Ever since I started making music, I was always a studio rat, so I enjoyed spending long hours in the studio where I developed my skills in audio engineering purely through trial and error. It’s cliche to say, but I love being a student of my craft. From project to project or song to song, I work with different beat makers so as far as instrumentation, I don’t produce. However, what I always tell people is that the voice is also an instrument. In the beginning, I was just a pre-teen channeling my untamed energy into writing raps and getting a kick out of it to see how far I could take it. As I got older, I became fascinated with the science behind music. Song structure, the different ways to use wordplay and tell a story, the nuances of different recording techniques and engineering techniques, the way you can manipulate all of these different ideas going every direction to come together and form a song. I became obsessed with studying and learning every little detail. Aside from that, I have a huge interest in live performance/concert production, as well as other interests in film such as voice acting. As my career progresses, I hope to open doors that could allow me to dabble into those outlets.
- What's inspiring you to start the music career?
As I mentioned before, I started when I was young so when I was 12-13 years old I began dabbling into music just for fun and games. As I stuck with it, the older I became the more seriousness I put towards it. It was never about being famous or getting rich. Quite frankly, it was more of a "well I've gone this far, why go back now" kind of thing. This might sound weird, but I actually enjoy the process of creating my songs more than the final songs itself. I truly love the craft and I am really passionate about what I do.
In terms of what inspires me musically today would have to be history. English and History were my favorite subjects in high-school. I love reading biographies and stories about all the famous philosophers, inventors, warriors, leaders, kings, athletes, musicians, artists, writers, entrepreneurs, all of that. Also reading about certain civilizations from the past and reading about why these people and those cultures were so successful really intrigues me. I truly believe no matter what field or industry you are in, whether you are Albert Einstein, Arianna Huffington, Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Aretha Franklin, all of them were different but they all had one common thread which was their individual quality of seeing their failures as steps toward reaching their ultimate goal rather than reasons to quit, and that's what inspires me to continue my work. I'm not comparing myself to any of those people, what I'm trying to say is that a human being can achieve the impossible when the attitude is right.
- What's the style of your music?
I guess from a general scope of my music, my style would fall under the Hip-Hop/Rap and R&B/Soul umbrella. I don't really like putting a "label" on my music in terms of style or anything because in reality, my music is for anyone to enjoy and appreciate. Not everybody will and I understand that, but music is a personal connection. I'm personal by opening myself up to the listener, telling him/her about my personal conflicts, mistakes and weaknesses but also showing him/her that acknowledging and accepting your imperfection by embracing and loving yourself is indeed perfection. Music is personal, it’s engaging and it's a 2-way street. By making music, I have the opportunity to engage and start the conversation, but it's up to each individual how they respond back. I truly believe a person must love his/herself before they can truly love another.
In terms of musical character and persona, I would describe my musical persona as "James Bond meets Dirty Harry meets Bodhi from Point Break". Not to sound egotistical, but that's just the way I describe it. My music gets witty at times, vulnerable at times, suave at times and all-out crazy at times. The qualities in my songs are all extensions of my personality.
- What do you like about the music industry?
What I like about the music industry today is that as an artist, you can cut out the middleman. I'm DIY in every sense of the word and through the power of the internet and advances in technology, the artist can communicate directly to the fan and the experience for both sides is up-close and personal. The music industry allows you today to have more control for yourself as an artist compared to eras before. I am my own creative director in terms of branding, I make the music I want to make and the beauty of it is that I can go as far as the effort I put in. Technology and the internet has really helped in that regard. The equipment and tools to make music are more accessible and easier to obtain. With that said, there is obviously a downside which leads to over-saturation of music online that it’s harder and harder to rise above the noise and imprint yourself as an artist and make yourself visible. There is also more competition for a music lover's attention so obviously there's that aspect, but I definitely look forward to the challenge.
- What's the most challenging thing to stay in this industry?
The keyword in that question is 'stay'. The biggest challenge is how to balance being authentic with being relevant. Some artists keep up with being relevant but have close to zero authenticity. Other artists are as authentic and true to the bone as it gets, but aren't as relevant outside of their target, core audience. We also have the one-hit wonders of the world as well, which pretty much is the reason why people ask that question. The biggest challenge in longevity is definitely the balance of being authentic with being relevant. A good example of that is Kanye West. Musically today, he is worlds away from when he first arrived on the scene in terms of the way his music sounds. However, the authenticity is there. Everyone has their opinions about Kanye, but one thing you can't deny is his lasting power that spans a decade and is still going. I think it's also a fair statement to say he is probably more relevant today than he was 5 years ago. There have been several acts in the hip-hop/rap genre alone that arrived after him and flamed out before him. That's impressive and his career is a good example of longevity, if nothing else.
- Have you ever come across the road block that made you want to give up?
In terms of giving up music entirely, no. It's funny because the roadblock that I did encounter was totally outside of music and it was my personal life's roadblock. That roadblock was maturing as a young man and making that transition from adolescence to manhood. Of course, I am not all-knowing and I make mistakes but the roadblock that I overcame was the ability to learn from and accept my mistakes. I was able to self-reflect for a few years by dropping out of college and choosing to isolate myself from many people and situations. The key thing was that I chose to do that when I was around 19-22 which are extremely fragile and vulnerable years for any young person mentally. It helped me to see the world through a wider scope and I was able to find myself through reflection and observation that my music benefitted from that change. I took a huge step as an artist but more importantly, as a person.
- What would you advice to someone who wants to start his/her career in the music industry?
My advice to someone just starting out would be to truly understand that your career is a marathon and not a sprint. The ratio between failure and success is like 100 to 1. See failure as another form of progress that gets you closer to your goal. You don't need to ask yourself, "Do I really love this?", because you should already know the answer. Don't try to be authentic. Just BE authentic by being true to who YOU are. Pick and choose who to take advice from and never disregard your intuition. You mature as an artist by maturing as a person. Last but not least, always be a student and always be curious. I have a saying that goes, “Don’t worry about the next man. Focus on the next plan...”. The music industry is an ever-changing industry so you will experience plenty of bumps along the way and the road will be tough, but if you love what you do you will get to where you want to go. Set realistic expectations and don’t forget to have fun!