Artist Spotlight: Matt Hectorne
A new month means a new artist we can shine a spotlight on. This month we bring you Matt Hectorne. His Southern roots are evident in every aspect of his music from the sound to the lyrics. He sings of whiskey and church altars in mellow tones, backed by a solid wall of guitars and drums. The formula is simple, as it should be, but also highly inviting.
There’s nothing we love more than working with artists that we truly believe should be superstars and that is the case with Matt. We had a chance to chat with him about what inspires him, learn about his songwriting process and even some backstory about one of our favorite songs of his, “Sinking Man.”
First off, thank you for taking the time to chat with us. Tell us a bit about you and what got you interested in a career in music.
Well I was born in Memphis, TN and grew up about half an hour south of there in a little town in Mississippi called Hernando. I wanted to be a novelist when I was a kid (still do), but once I found music and started writing my own songs, I was able to translate a lot of that storytelling into songs. I was 10 when I wrote my first song, and I’ve pretty much been doing the same thing ever since.
You recently released a new album called “Work,” tell us a bit about the album and the response you’ve received since you’ve released it.
“Work“ is my second full-length album. It was recorded over a couple of weeks in Nashville, TN with some friends in a converted one car garage. It’s my favorite thing I’ve put out so far. There’s a cohesion to it that I’ve been working toward with the last couple of records that I think I’m getting a handle on. The last record was dealing with a lot of loss. Death, breakups (romantic and platonic), and loss of innocence were all big themes. But this new one is an attempt at casting hope into the waters ahead. Some of the new themes are realizing and remembering what is truly important to you, existential perspective, marriage, reexamining career aspirations. There’s a lot there, but I think it comes across as an assured, clear-minded set of songs.
The reception has been overwhelming. After all the work and toil you put into a project, it’s hard to see it with fresh eyes. So to have it out and to get such positive feedback is so assuring. I hope to just keep finding more and more of an audience through these songs.
Explain your typical song creation process.
I don’t really ever plan to sit down and write for my own project. It kind of just comes when it comes. It’s varied over the years, but my currently process is as follows: I either have an idea pop up so I sit down with an acoustic guitar and try to pull it out of my head, or I just start playing until a progression feels good and start to sing nonsense words over it. If I find a melody in there that I like I’ll start fleshing it out. Usually whatever the hook is comes first. And more often than not the words I’m vamping for the main hook become some version of the final lyrics. I usually record the first draft on my phone and just make up words or sounds. I then go back and listen to it to start picking out what I was “saying”. You can really surprise yourself when you just let words and phrases pour out unfiltered. After I get a pretty good sketch, I’ll start tracking a worktape on my computer. I usually try to flesh out most of the production and arrangements I can before taking it to the producer and band for tracking. It’s nice to be able to take a song to near its final conclusion on your own. I think it’s helped me develop the sound that I have now.
I’m going to be honest with you, I’ve probably listened to “Sinking Man” over 150 times in the last month an a half. That’s the song that really got me into your music – what influenced that song, the sound and the lyrics?
Thanks for saying that. That’s a favorite of mine as well. I remember starting the very beginning stages of that song while in Virginia rehearsing for a tour with the band that would eventually record that song with me. I just had the chord progression and verse melodies for a couple of months until I got home and was able to actually finish it up. That was another song where I didn’t have anything to say, I just had a feeling that I needed to get out. It’s a pretty grim song, honestly. I was in a bad way at the time, and the song is pretty straightforward with where I was. It’s a love song with a dark twist. The main theme is about the struggle I found with finding the love of my life but not thinking that I was good enough for it. So I adored this person while not caring for myself. But even at the end of the song, I’m aware of the situation and that “it’s something I plan to learn to shake”. Thankfully I did. I love that song, but it also feels like reading an old diary.
You can tell your sound is influenced by the south, what are some artists that inspire your sound and what do you want people to get or feel when they listen your music?
I grew up going to a small, old-timey church where all the songs were mostly from the turn of the last century. Old country-gospel. I didn’t like it as a kid, but I think that really informed what I would end up doing. My dad is a big Elvis fan since he grew up right down the road from Graceland so there was always Elvis on. By the time I was a little older and found Johnny Cash I realized, “Oh all the music I heard growing up in church… that’s just Johnny Cash and Elvis!” And when I got into high school I started discovering local bands and artists that really shaped what I wanted to do like Lucero, Cory Branan, and Big Star. Combining the simplicity and ethos of gospel music with the visceral nature of rock and roll was where I started to really come into my own as an artist.
The thing I love hearing the most from fans of my music is how a line I wrote so perfectly encapsulates a feeling that they never knew how to express. First and foremost, I write for myself. I write to get out what I need to get out. But when someone comes up to me and says, “I get what you’re saying. Thank you for saying that”, that makes it all so much more meaningful. The best thing we can do is shine our light out and see who reflects it back.
Who are your top 3 musicians right now?
Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Yumi Zouma’s new record (NZ electro-pop band), Phoebe Bridgers (LA singer-songwriter), and The Barr Brothers’ newest (Canadian folk/blues/rock).
What has been your favorite song you’ve ever written? Why?
That answer has definitely changed many times over the years. It sometimes is just the one that I have written most recently, as it is the one I relate to the most at that moment. One of my newest favorites would have to be off the new record, Work, called “Come Higher”. A lot of this new record is me shedding old baggage and coming more into my own as a person and an artist. And this song kind of encapsulates what the whole record is about. It has a great groove to it, and the lyrics are some of my favorite that I’ve ever written. It tells the story of the last few years of my life and how I’ve been working on myself emotionally, physically, and spiritually. One of my favorite lines is “Like a match struck, turned to flame, I’m flickering skyward”. That speaks to the spark I’ve felt as I’ve learned to let go of a lot of things I’ve carried around most of my life. It kind of became the sequel to “Sinking Man” for me in that way. A before and after shot, if you will.
What are you currently working on at the moment and what plans do you have in the future?
Well right now I’m very fortunate to be writing songs with Songfinch. It’s a really nice break from writing for myself all the time. I’m also working on writing my next record. I have a lot of songs that are between 75-100% done. I’m kind of taking my time with it, though I’d love to start recording later this year or early next year. Other than I’m working on booking some tours this year in support of the new album, so it should be a pretty full year!
Anything else that you want to say?
Go check out my new record, Work, wherever you listen to/buy music! I hope you can find some truth in it.
Below is a song that Matt created for a wife to give her husband that became a father just over a year ago. The song is written from the point of view of his 15 month old son so it add a unique little twist. The mom had tears running down her face upon first listen and she described the song as “hands down the best gift I could give.”