Oct 24, 2014
interview
Matthew Koma

From songwriting and singing to producing and DJing, Matthew Koma has done it all. In an exclusive interview with LessThan3, Koma tells us about his upbringing in a musical family, how he operates in various roles and genres, and reveals details on his upcoming collaborations and album.

RAC feat. Matthew Koma - Cheap Sunglasses [Cherrytree]
LessThan3: : Tell us about your early years–what inspired you to pursue this path and how did you initially approach it?
Matthew: : I grew up in New York, and my dad’s a singer/songwriter, brother’s a drummer and played in a bunch of hardcore bands, so it was just kind of something I grew up around. Parents were always listening to really cool music. It’s been a long road to where I am today, but it was always a continuation of something that we’ve always done, something that came naturally. There was never a conscious decision to purse music as it kind of felt like it pursued us.
LessThan3: : What kind of bands were you into back then?
Matthew: : When I was really young and I first started covering songs of other artists, I loved Nirvana. At the same time, my parents were introducing us to Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, who were all big influences too. As my brother got a little bit older he started playing in hardcore bands a lot, and we’d be going to a lot of roadshows. We listened to a lot of different music.
LessThan3: : What’s the story behind your own personal introduction to electronic music?
Matthew: : The dance music scene in New York was always alive and prominent, but definitely operated separate from the punk rock or hardcore scene. I always had friends who were really into it, but I never thought it was something I’d be involved in because there wasn’t really a point until recent years where the kind of songwriting that I was into became married with styles of electronic music.

The first time I ever collaborated with anybody in the electronic music space, in more of a sort of commercial way, was with Alesso on a song called Calling. It was cool because it felt like I was able to do what I do in the context of what they do, and vice-versa, and we could create something unique.

LessThan3: : What’s the process usually like when you work with a new producer?
Matthew: : It’s different every time. It depends on what role I’m playing because sometimes it’ll be somebody sending me a track and I’m writing a song to it, and other times I’m writing and producing a track and then someone’s coming in and doing the full production. A lot of times I’m working on other people’s records so it’s important to make sure the authenticity comes across. I never show up and do the same thing everyday.
LessThan3: : What inspires your lyrics?
Matthew: : In general, I’m not the kind of person that sits down to write a song–it’s more like I’m constantly writing. I’m inspired by music I love and whatever it is I’m experiencing. I’m always jotting down lyrics ideas or melodies; it’s much more organic for me than sitting in the studio and just writing a song. If someone sends me a track to work on it has to be something that automatically triggers something in me emotionally. I’ve been fortunate enough to do a lot of traveling, and even different hotel rooms can be inspiring; it just has to be the right song.
LessThan3: : Are there any songs in particular that go along with a particular story you’d like to share?
Matthew: : One of the great things about songs is that they have a different meaning to everybody. My perspective on songwriting is that it offers a sincerity from an emotional standpoint where I’m being honest about whatever the message is that I’m delivering. I’ve been fortunate to see firsthand audience members reacting at shows. I like that people are able to let it mean something personal to them. It’s very unique and hard to even put into words what that feels like. I hope the songs I write are real enough that they can connect with people in a real and emotional way because of their own experiences.
LessThan3: : What would you consider your breakout moment where you felt like “I made it?”
Matthew: : Well, I don’t know if you ever feel like that because wherever you think you’re going, as soon as you get somewhere, you have another goal. I’ve always been excited most by having the acknowledgement of people I admire myself so when I got to perform Clarity with Sting–that was one of those surreal moments where someone I grew up listening to and learning from was singing something that I had written alongside me. It was something that I will never forget.
LessThan3: : You’re a producer, DJ, songwriter, and singer, and you have been involved in all sorts of different types music. How has your approach and experience been different with each and which do love most?
Matthew: : To be honest, I’ve never been somebody who’s been genre-specific. I love the opportunity of getting to work with different people. I’ve gotten to work on Bruce Springsteen songs, I’ve gotten to work with Alesso on his records, and working on such different projects in such different spaces keeps it really fresh for me. If I’m working on someone else’s record, I do my job to make sure I’m helping support their vision, whereas if I’m working on my record, it’s the same thing except I’m executing my vision. I always try to make sure that whatever I’m working on is living in a realm of honesty and authenticity, either for myself or a different artist.

It’s boring for me to think that I could be stuck in one box or one specific genre vs. doing things that have the potential to be great. For me it’s always been about the quality of the music and doing it justice, doing a job that’s authentic.

LessThan3: : Who is your dream collaboration?
Matthew: : I’m a huge Elvis Costello fan; love him. As far as newer artists, I love this duo called First Aid Kit. Huge fan of this band called Dawes from California. Again, I’m so all over the map, but I’d say Elvis Costello is on the top of the list.
LessThan3: : What is your favorite song you’ve worked on? Who is your favorite person you’ve worked with?
Matthew: : Honestly everything. I know that’s kind of a generic answer but everything lives in such a different space in my head and in my heart. I wouldn’t have worked on it if it wasn’t connected with me in some way and again, some songs are going to be more serious than others. I think a song like Clarity means something way different than a song like Wasted means, but it doesn’t mean either is more or less important.
LessThan3: : What projects are you currently working on?
Matthew: : My record is almost finished which I’m really excited about. I have songs with Michael Brun and Arty who I think are really talented guys. I’m very happy to include them on the record. Couple more collaborations–I just did another song with Hardwell which won’t be featured. I just did a song with Giorgio Moroder actually that I can’t wait to be released; I think it’s going to be really, really special.
LessThan3: : When can we expect the album to come out?
Matthew: : Next year, but there will be music out on the side this year.
LessThan3: : What is your ultimate goal as a singer/songwriter?
Matthew: : To continue doing this. I love writing songs. I love being able to work on different music and be a part of different projects. I’m doing this now, and I have no idea where I’ll be in five years. I know that five years ago I wouldn’t have guessed that I’d be here today.
LessThan3: : What advice would you give up-and-coming singers/songwriters?
Matthew: : Have fun doing it. It’s so much about enjoying the process. I think it’s something a lot of people, including myself, get caught up on. The success is the actual journey of writing the songs–it’s just as important if it connects with three people as three million. Be honest and find what is truthful for you, what music feels good, and let that be your guide.
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