We had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Simons over Zoom video!
Fresh off the release of his new studio album ‘Identity Crisis’ and a coast-to-coast US tour with 2Cellos, LA based songwriter Matt Simons has revealed the music video for “Years,”...
We had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Simons over Zoom video!
Fresh off the release of his new studio album ‘Identity Crisis’ and a coast-to-coast US tour with 2Cellos, LA based songwriter Matt Simons has revealed the music video for “Years,” featuring exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from his biggest concert tour to-date. One of the most vulnerable tracks on the new album, rich in subtle production and an emotive feel, “Years” features Matt’s exquisite pop songwriting in full force.
A story of humble beginnings, Simons grew up in Palo Alto as the grandson of two opera singers. He spent much of his early life studying jazz and classical music before switching to clarinet and guitar, and ultimately crafted his own identity as a melodic pop songwriter and lyricist. He took steps to self-promote his releases online, and to his surprise, a remix of his breakthrough single “Catch & Release” bubbled up organically and ended up as one off 2016’s biggest hits, reaching Gold and Platinum status. International recognition, performances on The TODAY Show, and billions of streams followed.
Last week Simons released his fourth studio album ‘Identify Crisis,' featuring his recent hit singles “Better Tomorrow,” “Cold,” and “Identity Crisis,” which have amassed over 50 million streams. With sweet, piano-rooted melodies and lyrics that speak plainly about important events in his life — including his struggles with anxiety – the album was written when COVID began its spread, giving him space and time to reflect.
Having won over many new lifelong fans on his US arena tour with 2Cellos, Matt and his band are about to embark on the EU leg of the tour, hitting some of the world’s biggest arena venues from Paris, London to Berlin and many cities in between.
We want to hear from you! Please email Tera@BringinitBackwards.com.
#podcast #interview #bringinbackpod #MattSimons #IdentityCrisis #NewMusic #zoom
Listen & Subscribe to BiB
Follow our podcast on Instagram and Twitter!
We'd love to see you join our BiB Facebook Group.
Hello! It is Adam. Welcome back to bring in a backwards, a podcast where both legendary and rising artists tell their own personal stories of how they achieve stardom. On this episode, we had a chance to hang out with Matt Simons over zoom video, Matt was born and raised in Palo Alto, Northern California, and he talks about how he got into music. His grandparents were actually opera singers on his mom's side of the family, but his mom and dad were not musicians, music lovers, but not musicians. He started playing saxophone at a very early age. Shell's forgotten to jazz, went to college for jazz performance in New York. From there, he started performing in the Brooklyn area, writing and releasing songs. 3 (2m 10s): He talked about the success of the song with you, which was chosen for a Duchess so proper. It was like the theme song to the Dutch soap opera. So that started doing really well. He put out a song called catch and release that did really well. And then the remixed version of the song went number one, across multiple countries. He talked about having such major success in Netherlands and then having that huge success in Europe and how that early didn't translate here to the U S until recently, he told us about the record after landslide and all about this brand new record called identity crisis. You can watch our interview with Matt on our Facebook page and YouTube channel at bringing it backwards. 3 (2m 52s): Who would be awesome if you subscribe to our channel like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and tick-tock at bringing back pod. And if you're listening to this on Spotify or apple music, Google podcasts, it would be amazing if you follow us there as well, and hook us up with a five-star review. 4 (3m 9s): We'd appreciate your support. If you follow and subscribe to our podcasts, wherever you listen to podcasts, 3 (3m 16s): We're bringing it backwards with Matt Simons. 5 (3m 19s): Hey, 3 (3m 20s): Hey Matt, how are you? 5 (3m 22s): I'm good. Thanks. How you doing? 3 (3m 23s): I'm doing well. I'm doing well. I appreciate you doing this. 5 (3m 26s): Yeah, of course. 3 (3m 27s): Thank you so much. I'm Adam and this podcast is about you, your journey in music. And we'll talk about the record you have coming out as well. 5 (3m 35s): Sounds like a plan. 3 (3m 36s): Cool. And I appreciate you doing this in the midst of tour and she'd be like in Colorado or something right now. 5 (3m 42s): Yeah. We just rolled into Broomfield right outside of Denver and we're playing the first bank center tonight. We find, 3 (3m 50s): Wow, how's the tour going? And 5 (3m 54s): I made it, you know, get back into the swing of things. I have been being off for so long, but it's, you know, it's three weeks and then we'd get like a three week break. And then it's three more weeks in Europe. So end of 2019, I did like an eight week straight run and that starts to get a load. So I used to weigh on you a little bit. 3 (4m 12s): Oh yeah. Wow. Were you able to wrap that tore up before COVID hit? 5 (4m 17s): Yeah, we just December of 2019, so really a few months, just a few months before. 3 (4m 24s): That's crazy. That's crazy. Oh, we'll get into that. And also real quick, congratulations, man. You have a billion streams on Spotify, so that Instagram picture Wild. 5 (4m 35s): Yeah. The number doesn't even seem real. It doesn't even make any sense. So pretty good. 3 (4m 42s): Very cool. And I read, you grew up in Palo Alto. 5 (4m 45s): Yeah. 3 (4m 46s): Northern California, 5 (4m 48s): Northern California went to New York for like 15 years and now I'm back living in LA. So 3 (4m 54s): Wow. What was it like growing up in Palo Alto? I mean, obviously it's big tech. I'm from San Diego. I lived in the barrier. I know a little bit about, you know, California in that sense, but I I'm curious to know what it was like growing up, like in Palo Alto. Did you see that whole boom of, you know, the internet and all that? 5 (5m 12s): Definitely. I mean, you know, it really started to, to change and, you know, because of my growing up, it was kind of just regular old suburb of San Francisco. I feel like in the mid nineties is when like tech companies really started to, to move in and in the two thousands is when like Facebook and YouTube, Google all, you know, all the, all the big, the big heavy hitters came in and really changed the landscape. I, you know, for better, for worse. I don't know, not for me to judge, but this school going and growing back and a lot of people have moved away cause their houses got really valuable. So to kind of cut and run, which is, which is cool for the, 3 (5m 57s): No, no for sure. I actually, my family and I, we just moved to Nashville about a year ago. So We're kind of the cut and run type. 5 (6m 7s): Hey, the more, you know, more power to you. 3 (6m 10s): Yeah. That's funny when I lived in it's wild to think even like when I lived in the bay area, like they were just moving like Twitter hadn't gone public yet, but they were just moving it to like the like, what's it off market now? Like it's in the middle of like the tender line, I think. 5 (6m 26s): Yeah. A big campus there 3 (6m 29s): To think that it's there. Like my mind can't even like, I haven't been there since. So like trying to visualize that is so crazy to me. 5 (6m 36s): Yeah. It's it's I, you know, I haven't, I've never, I've never really lived in San Francisco, so I don't know a lot of people say that big tech ruined the city, but maybe some people say it saved it. I don't know who's 3 (6m 49s): Right. I mean, where they put it, it's kind of those a spot that was kind of a little rugged. I mean, it wasn't that bad and the Tinder, 5 (6m 56s): That's what it was known for. Right, 3 (6m 58s): Right. 5 (6m 59s): Rough, rough around the edges. 3 (7m 0s): Sure. Did you go to San Francisco quite a bit as a kid or not really? 5 (7m 4s): Yeah. I would go out there just, just as something to do, you know, it was like a teenager in high school. It was kind of the place. We're not going to San Jose. So you can go to San Francisco, just kind of walk around Haight, Ashbury, and just kind of people watch. And I was actually fairly well behaved. So I was, I was actually not, I wasn't up to no good. I was, we were just standing around just, just loitering, I guess. 3 (7m 33s): What'd you go to shows there or go see shows in San Jose? I don't mean there's not a whole lot of venues in San Jose now I'm thinking about it, but a shoreline close to you or it would be, 5 (7m 43s): I would actually, you know what? I would go a lot. Cause I, I did a lot of jazz. I'll go to Yoshi's in Oakland, Jacqueline, Jacqueline, and square. Sure. She's like really cool touring. Jazz acts would go through there and I would catch a lot of those sets and it was just a really fun. 3 (7m 58s): That's awesome. And you kind of, you grew up in a musical household, right? Your grandparents are opera singers 5 (8m 4s): On my mom's side. There's a lot of music. 3 (8m 7s): Was your mom a musician at all or dad? 5 (8m 9s): No. I, I think having musician, parents made, she wanted to, she never had any interest. 3 (8m 16s): It's interesting how that works. 5 (8m 18s): Yeah. It's just like, sometimes it's all you want to do because your parents do it sometimes. Like, I don't 3 (8m 25s): Know nothing to do with it. 5 (8m 26s): Like absolutely not. My dad loves, loves music and he would always have always a guitar out. You know, he does his Saturday night music with his friends. It's an independent AMEC. It's become Saturday afternoon music and they play out in the park, but they've been doing it for like 15 years or something every Saturday. So that nice tradition 3 (8m 47s): Play growing up. 5 (8m 48s): Oh yeah. And he blew up. He always played in like dead garage bands and gigs around at the local preschools and stuff like that. He play the drums and yeah, I got one, I got a little older, I would bring my saxophone and sit in with them. That was fun. 3 (9m 3s): That's awesome. What was the first instrument I learned? 5 (9m 6s): You know, I started on piano when I was really young and I moved to like woodwind said to clarinet and then I kind of, I found saxophone and that was my, my go-to for a long time. That was my major in college. And I would always play piano and write songs on the side. But you know, in jazz, if you make taught music, you kind of got to keep it a secret. 3 (9m 27s): Oh, okay. So you did jazz. What all through middle school? High or you're in the jazz band. 5 (9m 32s): So yeah, all the jazz band. And then in college got my degree in jazz performance. 3 (9m 39s): Where did you end up going for school? 5 (9m 42s): SUNY SUNY purchase. 3 (9m 43s): Okay. 5 (9m 44s): Just up in white Plains, New York. It's just like an hour outside of New York city. And then after graduating, it was an easy move to Brooklyn from there. 3 (9m 52s): Okay. Were you songwriting there or was it all need? Just, I mean, just mainly playing secret 5 (9m 58s): Secretly songwriting, you know, I would go to the practice room, but I'd put in my time on, on the horn and then I would like play my own little songs and then not really play them for anybody. 3 (10m 9s): Okay. When did that change? Like when did you switch to more the songwriting? 5 (10m 16s): It was kind of after, after school that I decided that I didn't want to, I didn't have the love for, for jazz in a way that it would like require the skill level that it would require to be a fully fledged, jazz musician. I just didn't love it enough, but you know, I do love songwriting and pop music and I thought, you know, maybe I could, I could give this a go. And that probably happened when I was 21, 22. 3 (10m 43s): And so were you living in New York at the time? 5 (10m 45s): Yeah. Living in Brooklyn, playing a lot. And I started playing a lot of gigs on keyboard, a lot of cover gigs, a lot of bars, a lot of weddings, you know, private parties, that kind of stuff. 3 (10m 56s): And then when did your, like, like, you know, you as an artist kind of start releasing songs or playing out, when did that happen? 5 (11m 4s): And I had it when I, when I would just like my last year of college, I did make a little EAP that I would advertise on the internet. So like right at the beginning of Facebook ads, I, I would make those ads that say like, are you a fan of John Mayer? Like check this guy out is not John Mayer, Jason morass, like maybe like me and no one else was really doing it. So it was really cheap. I would spend about a dollar a day. And I think by the, you know, I got, I ended up having like 10,000 Facebook fans. Wow. I learned very quickly that internet fans do not necessarily equal real life people that will come to your show by touring and having zero people show up a lot at the time. 3 (11m 53s): Okay. 5 (11m 54s): But there was one woman who clicked, clicked on an ad in the Netherlands. And when I released my first full length album, she was a, she's a writer on a TV show in the Netherlands. And she placed one of my songs onto that TV show. And it was like overnight became this kind of viral hit over there. And that was 2013. 3 (12m 18s): Really? 5 (12m 19s): Yeah. And you can trace it back to one of those dollar a day ads. 3 (12m 23s): That's crazy. So did she like email you or something and say, Hey, we're gonna want to use your song. And then you're like, yeah, sure. Why not? 5 (12m 31s): It's funny the rules it with licensing in Europe, they don't have to ask. They can just put your song in a show. There's a blanket license agreement. So I woke up one day and I had like a message from Sony music, Netherlands in my inbox. And I had a song that was charting on iTunes over in the Netherlands as like what is going on. And then finally, some, some people started sending me the clip of the, of the show and it was pretty special. It was cool. 3 (12m 59s): Yeah. That's wild. You've had, I mean, massive success overseas. And when you saw that, was that just a kind of a trip like, okay, like this song is doing really well. Do you then go, I need to go to the Netherlands and start doing shows there because this thing is working. 5 (13m 17s): Yeah. That's exactly. That's exactly what I did. You know, I, that led to, you know, record label management, booking agent. I booked, I immediately booked a like 11 show tour just in the Netherlands. And it all sold out with, you know, I'd never had sold that many tickets before, but it was all specifically like you go to Belgium and no, any of it, I go to Germany right next door. No one would have any idea 3 (13m 42s): Enter. 5 (13m 42s): So it's extremely isolated to the Netherlands for a few years. 3 (13m 46s): Wow. Well, was the label and booking agent and everything in the Netherlands, are they the ones that signed 5 (13m 51s): Oh, Sony music, Netherlands booking agent was this promoter called mojo. And they would book all my shows for me. 3 (13m 60s): It's crazy to think like, you know, you have all this success in one country and then being so close to the next, it's just like it. Yeah. But all obviously now you do, but it was like at the time that must've been pretty bizarre, like, okay, I can go to this one country and it's just like, I'm this huge deal. 5 (14m 15s): Yeah. And it's like, and it's like the size of Connecticut, like population wise. It's like, I'm in Stanford and Bridgeport. You go to New Hampshire. No, no luck. It was definitely a very, very much a modern music industry story where it's like something you never would've thought was, would not have been, probably not have been possible, you know, before the internet and streaming 3 (14m 42s): And a similar thing with when you put out catcher and lease. Right. Well, that was remixed, but it also did really well when you put it out originally, didn't it? 5 (14m 50s): The original, well, but only in the Netherlands. So it was like a charter again, only in the Netherlands. And then this was right at the onset of tropical house. And I just remember telling my, my managers, I think this song could work as a remix because also some, I feel like some people on SoundCloud were already started. Like, it's a very rudimental remixes that the idea, the concept was there, but it just, the execution like left a little something to be desired. 3 (15m 19s): You had heard it already. Like some 5 (15m 22s): People tried to remix it in that tropical house. And it's like, okay, well this is kind of bad. But if Someone were to do it really well, I think it could work. And luckily, you know, my, and my manager knows a lot that the Dutch EDM scene is so huge. So he contacted Armad van Berens company and they sent a few different DJs over and we got the deep end version. And I was like, this is, this is it, this arm, this is exactly what we're looking for. And from there, from there, I think sexist started in Belgium was the first country to go number one, like way before anyone else, anywhere else. And then Germany and France picked it up and then went from there to Spain and kind of all around. 5 (16m 7s): I don't know how many countries it was, it was number one, but it was, it was a lot, 3 (16m 11s): It was a lot, but that's cool to see, you know, you had the isolated Netherlands and now it's like really starting to branch out across Europe. 5 (16m 19s): Right. And that's when I got, could find, do like a real full continental European tour. And instead of, you know, you don't need a tour bus tour, the Netherlands, you just it's, everything's an hour and a half away, But it started to do, you know, the whole, the whole thing and go on or going all around. Yeah. It was pretty exciting. 3 (16m 39s): Were you doing tours in the U S at that time or were you mainly sticking there because you're seeing so much success. 5 (16m 46s): I've done a lot of tutoring in the U S and it was just a lot of driving and, you know, because there was truly not nothing going on in the U S it was all in Europe. I took a hiatus from U S tour touring, and I eventually got back there like 2018. I did with some, some successes, some shows, you know, I think w what was it, Philadelphia there, like 13 people there that was, you know, which would have really excited me that at the beginning, like about 13 people came to my show, or I'm used to too, right. Was like, kind of driving around and being like, is this worth it, this something that I feel like the time could be better spent, 3 (17m 33s): But you had, I mean, even when catch and release came out, you were getting some pretty, I mean, you weren't you on the today show and doing things like that, that kind of came with it. It just didn't land like it did when you were, 5 (17m 45s): And we have a Reno and we're Republic records was pushing it. You know, they're like the one label for radio and it's just, you know, everybody got AAA, I think it like top five on AAA radio. 3 (17m 56s): That's huge, 5 (17m 57s): Which is great. You know, it didn't, but for them, for like a Republic, that's not interesting enough for them. So they kind of like lose interest and then it sort of loses steam and you know, it didn't, it didn't fill the audience the way that it did in Europe, just though just the way I've seen. I've actually seen that a lot with, with different songs that were massive hits in Europe, come to the U S and they just perform on AAA. Right. There was like rag and bone man had that song, human Phenomenal song, like literally everywhere in Europe, you look at how it did in America. It was like, AAA radio. 3 (18m 35s): Right? Well, I worked for an alternative radio station up in San Diego at the time, and we played it for a little bit. And then like some that we, it was bizarre. Cause we had our alternative station. And then in the same building, we had a top 40 station. So we could watch, we'd see like stuff crossover. Like it was like Portugal, the man or a 21 pilots. And you'd be all over that. Now it's like glass animals. But like, it was funny to see cause that when they tried to do that here, maybe because the success was so doing so well in Europe 5 (19m 3s): And it's such a, it's just such a universally, it's just such an incredible song that there's no reason it should work. 3 (19m 8s): Right. But they put this like really like this like trap beat under it that didn't, wasn't on the original recording to like speed it up. And I was just like, what the hell? Cause I remember going to the next studio over and be like, what the hell you like, do you do like a remix of this? And th the guy on the air was like, no, like, this is the song where he's talking about like, no, it's not like go to this card number in our computer and play the real one. And he's like, oh wow, like crazy. 5 (19m 35s): Fix something trying to fix something that wasn't broken. 3 (19m 37s): Right. Exactly. It was just it's. Yeah. It was very interesting. How that, all that all like kinda happened. 5 (19m 42s): It's a classic tale. Like I'll say, I mean, I feel that the U S needs, it's hard to like, what does that song is alternative? Is it, you know, kinda not R and B, is it like you can't, you need to have like, clearly defined, like this is a country song. This is a singer songwriter song. And I kind of feel like that's what happened with catch release. It's like, it's a singer songwriter, or is it dance music? Like, you know, they want their dance music to be like full of Vici. You know, that, that tends to be today. Like, what is kind of like mellow dance. Like there's no room for that, but in Europe, in Europe, it's just like, we like this song. So we play the song. 3 (20m 20s): Sure, sure. Here, it has to be very like in a box, like, okay, we know the song we'll go onto AAA radio and people play it. Like if it's got a little, yeah. It's really interesting. That's fascinating. Like to see that massive success you have there and like being able to go over there and tour, like, had you ever been to Europe at that point? Or were you, 5 (20m 40s): I, you know, I'd done some DIY. Like I just, we deal a lot. I do a lot of DIY touring. I show my buddy Chris heir, who's on this, he's playing guitar with me on this, on this tour. We're doing that. We're doing now. And we started about like a decade ago and we would just, we would literally look at like, okay, what cities on Facebook have the most fans. And then like, let's try and book a tour around that. And we would go, and we did do a lot of stuff in the UK and we made it to Amsterdam. We did the, I did like two separate trips and we played two shows in Amsterdam that were just like one was in a restaurant and the other one was on a boat. It's like this little, it was called the tricky theater. And it was on a boat in Amsterdam. 5 (21m 20s): And there were great shows. We would have like, I'm in 150 people turned up, which was, that's all certainly of our DIY shows. That's as good as it gets. That's as good as it got. Like you're not going to, we played a lot of shows. Nobody played a lot of shows to 10 people, which then you feel like it's almost, you don't want your audience to feel embarrassed that they're at a show to see you. You know what I mean? Like they kinda like get there and go, oh, we thought there was more going on. And that was played a lot of that. 3 (21m 53s): But it's also one of those things where now, today, or now they can be like, oh my gosh. Like I remember seeing him when 10 people are there and now, I mean, you're just here in Nashville and you played Bridgestone arena. 5 (22m 6s): The best case scenario is when people can look back and say, wow, I got to see the wind. But at the time I, there was not, I didn't, haven't done a competence that that would be what was going to eventually happen. So it just kind of felt bad in the moment, but it's all a part of the process. 3 (22m 23s): Sure, sure. Well, from there, like when did you start seeing more momentum, you know, on this side of the world, as far as like us goes, 5 (22m 34s): You know, the funny thing about catch and release is it's been a real, it's been a slow burn because it didn't have that big spike in radio. People are still discovering that song. So it's kind of stayed like a number of streams. It gets every day has stayed consistent for the last like five or six years. Like it doesn't go down. 3 (22m 55s): That's 5 (22m 55s): All it means, which means a lot more. And it is one of those songs that people, they might not know my name, but they, a lot of people have heard that cigarette, Sirius, XM radio, and people would come across it, you know, not, not everybody, maybe one out of every five people you talk to. It was like, oh, I like, I know that song. So it's just kind of been a slow burn. And then this, I mean, you know, playing Bridgestone arena, like I'm not headlining that room. I'm not, 3 (23m 22s): But still you're 5 (23m 24s): Bringing all those fans in there, but being on the yeah, and getting to play for that many people every night in America has been a real, a real treat. 3 (23m 32s): That's awesome. 5 (23m 33s): I didn't necessarily earn it 3 (23m 35s): Well. Yeah. I, I would not agree with that, but obviously you've been doing this for a long time. You've put your so much work in, you've got a ton of songs, a ton of records, and you you're doing, you know, you're playing Bridgestone arena because they could've gotten somebody else. If they didn't think, you know, you would fulfill it, but you said you were doing what you said eight weeks in a row before COVID happened. 5 (24m 1s): Yeah. In 20, 20, 19, I put out a record after the landslide. And I, I basically told my booking agent. I was like in Europe anywhere that will have me. I want to go. So I want to go to a bunch of new. I wanted to go, we went to Finland, we went to Sweden. I had never played before, went to the Baltics, Latvia and Lithuania. So we just did any European city that we could get like a, you know, 200 to a thousand person club. And it'd be, it ended up being a really great experience. And I got to, you know, connect with, you know, some different places I've been meaning to go and play and to see, just kind of explore like, okay, who's, who's here. 5 (24m 43s): Who who's, who's the audience here. 3 (24m 46s): And so w but when you get back, is when everything shuts down or not long after you get back. 5 (24m 52s): Yeah. You know, I, you know, it may have been my fault because at the end of that year, I was like, I'm going to take a break. 3 (24m 57s): Oh, okay. So you already kind of knew that you're going to 5 (25m 1s): Yeah. I mean, write a new record and just kinda Mo like my wife and I moved right before the pandemic started. So I, you know, I like to say that it was my fault that we all had to shut down because I add new years made a wish that I've traveled less. 3 (25m 20s): So then 5 (25m 21s): Everyone's the monkeys POCs. So I, I apologize as the center of the universe for doing that. 3 (25m 29s): Oh, well, okay. That's, that's pretty funny, but when you're now, okay, you wanted a break, then it's now this pandemics happening again, leave the house. Are you uninspired at this point? When do you start working on this record? That's coming out and what next month 5 (25m 44s): I probably had about five or six arms that were done for a new album, by the time everything shut down. And then I, you know, I just wanted to start really, I did it doing a waterfall release for this record, which is singles. It just cause the algorithm favors, singles over, putting out just a record all at once. Especially if you're, if you're not a huge artist, I feel like that it's unfortunate because it's pretty, anti-climactic like by the time this album comes out, there will be three new songs that haven't been released yet. But 3 (26m 18s): I feel like that's, yeah, you, you kind of want to do that. Right. You're giving each song, its own space and its own light. If you didn't have a song that you could put out as a single every time, then maybe like there's no real album cuts anymore, which I think is cool. 5 (26m 35s): It's just, it's changed. It's just changing. I, you know, I, I like, I like thinking about, I mean, I feel like enjoy thinking about like an album as this is a phase of my life. And if you just have singles that are rolling all the time, it's tough to make one coherent statement. 3 (26m 54s): So, 5 (26m 55s): But this is how we chose to do it this time. And 3 (26m 59s): I think, but in that same, like, but I'm wondering like, do you feel, I guess it wouldn't matter, like, do you feel like doing it that way? Are you looking at each song as a potential single when you're writing and putting out or is it just like, this is a great song it's gonna make the record and we'll put it out when it feels right. 5 (27m 20s): Yeah. You know, it's interesting. I feel like I've always made records that way. Whereas I like to treat each song like it's a single, so that maybe the album, instead of reading, like with one sound or one producer, it's got a whole lot of different producers, almost like a place like a playlist. And the thing that, the thing that is consistent would be my, my voice and my writing, but the production is always kind of all over the place, which is why I called this album identity crisis. And I feel like I, I do get asked that question. It's like, okay, describe your music three words. And I think an identity crisis is those are the three words 3 (28m 1s): To 5 (28m 1s): Describe it. 3 (28m 3s): So when you start the record, you said he had about six songs and then the pandemic happens. And do you seek out a different producer on each song or like, tell me about putting the album together. 5 (28m 13s): Usually it's, you know, I do the, I do writing sessions and these, and it's with a producer in the room and a lot of times their demo will be really great. It'll be, you know, so all we have to do that is just kind of turn that demo into an album ready song, but I'm doing a lot of writing sessions with a lot of different producers. That's going to make a bunch of different songs that don't necessarily fit together sonically. But if you get one person to mix everything, then that can help That a lot. So definitely with this record, I've got, I've got four or five songs that were produced by a guidance. 5 (28m 53s): Sweden's name's, Hampus Lynn volleys. I just love working with him. I found him on Spotify. I was listening to Benjamin and Grosso's cover of all night long bilateral Richie. And it's just the, the production on it. It's just like so modern sounding. And I hadn't heard anything like, and I told my manager, I was like, who, I want to work with this producer for the next record. 3 (29m 16s): Wow. And then you guys just reached out to them and 5 (29m 19s): I just reached out to him and we ended up, he ended up doing probably about half the songs on this album. 3 (29m 25s): And was that like a zoom thing? Like, cause it was COVID or do you actually get a chance to go out there and work 5 (29m 29s): With them? 3 (29m 30s): I am here. 5 (29m 31s): I ended the tour in Sweden Stockholm and he was in stock. So the end of the 2019 to our actually we did really funny gig where we, it was on a boat, like a cruise ship. And we went from Turku and Finland to Stockholm and it was, it was a weird way to end the tour, but it was fun. But then in Stockholm, I guy, I got to stay a few extra days and meet up with happiness. Be we wrote two songs together that are on the album and he helped produce produce a couple more. 3 (30m 7s): Wow. Okay. And when, when you were doing the rest of the record, was it done virtually at all or not? 5 (30m 13s): Yeah, a lot. A lot of it was done virtually. So the new song, you know, he kind of nailed it. I think it, people work differently, but he's really good at just sitting down and making flushing out a concept like the song in case you missed it. I wrote that with my buddy, my buddy, Chris, and it was just a guitar, just a guitar lick and a vocal. And we got didn't have this, turned it into. And by the end, when he sent back, the first run was like, this is done. Like, this sounds so great, like minor tweaks, but he's really an expert at just fleshing it out immediately. 3 (30m 49s): Would you work that way again or do you prefer in-person? 5 (30m 54s): I, I don't, you know, it's gonna now that, now that this out the new album is done, it's time to start thinking about the next one and maybe it's time to step away from the identity crisis and kind of work with one producer. We're going to have one make that album that is just like kind of sonically the are not the same, but you know, lives in the same world. 3 (31m 21s): Gotcha. Amazing. Well, I love the record so far. What I've heard of it and congratulations, like I said earlier, billion streams, like that's unreal to think about that and the tour, it sounds like it's going rad. The venues are playing. Is it hard to adjust to like those arena is settings? 5 (31m 43s): No, I've done a lot of it in Europe, so Yeah. I certainly never done it over here, but it's actually a of fun. 3 (31m 52s): Switching it over. Sorry, go ahead. 5 (31m 55s): No, it's, it's, it's, it's interesting. You know, talking because in Europe you never know how much English the audience really speaks. Like it's not their first language and you're in the Netherlands. Everyone speaks English, but there's always something that can be a little lost in translation when you're telling, you know, the in between song banter. And so it's fun to do that on a big scale in the U S because it's, you know, they're Americans, like you can speak this, you know, just like the way that German people probably want to do an a go travel around Europe. It's a lot easier when they're in Germany. Right, 3 (32m 27s): Right. 5 (32m 27s): To the audience. So that's, that is it's fun for me. 3 (32m 30s): That's awesome. Well, again, congratulations. And the record's coming out next month and thank you so much for taking time away from, you know, being busy and touring and everything else to chat with me. I really appreciate 5 (32m 43s): It. It was a great chat. Thank you. 3 (32m 45s): Yeah. I have one more quick question for you, Matt, before I let you go. I want to know if you have any advice for aspiring artists. 5 (32m 51s): That's a good question. You know, I it's tough. I would say, I don't know the thing. I mean, obviously once you got to get, you got to put it in your thousands of hours of practice, you got to play a bunch of shows, but in terms of like marketing yourself, I would say, find the thing that's no that nobody's doing yet and do that. But it's kinda, that's tough. Tough to say what that is. And I wouldn't know, you know, probably it's Tik TOK, but maybe because everyone's doing tick-tock that's too, it's already past that. It gets already behind us. So what's, what's the next, like, thinking ahead, looking forward, what's the next thing that's going to help you to stand out from the thousands of thousands of other young artists that, that want to do this career? 5 (33m 42s): Because with the internet, it broke down all the barriers to entry. But on the other hand, it broke down all the barriers to entry so that everyone can do it in their basement.
Matt Simons is ready to unpack. The American songwriter has worked continuously for a decade now, achieving huge success – particularly in continental Europe – with music that comes straight from the soul. A West Coast talent who found success outside his homeland, his music has reached huge audiences, with both studio albums to date – ‘Pieces’ and ‘Catch & Release’ – moving across the continent, starting with the Netherlands until the whole of Europe knew his name.
The album ‘After The Landslide’ (2019) was a particular landmark, and that year ended with a huge 40 date tour. “It was a really beautiful two months,” he smiles. “That was the longest tour that I’ve ever done.”
But then the pandemic intervened. Relocating to California, close to where he grew up, just as COVID began its international spread, Matt Simons found himself with the space – and the time – to reflect, and to look inwards. It’s sparked a shift in his music, too – singles such as ‘Cold’ and ‘Better Tomorrow’ have connected due to their introspection, and the brave frankness of his message.
‘Better Tomorrow’ for instance, is a deeply honest account of his struggles with anxiety, and his experiences with panic attacks. “I remember being younger and not understanding what was going on,” he reflects. “I wanted to write a song that spoke to anyone who was in the place that I was in... it was just terrifying.”
Art is one way in which Matt Simons deals with these issues. It’s more than just a craft or a passion – it’s a key outlet, a means for him to channel those emotions into something palpable. “I think it would be really difficult if I didn’t have an outlet,” he says. “If I didn’t feel like I had some sort of higher purpose that I’m working towards then my anxiety would be a lot worse. As someone who tends to bottle up their emotions, if they didn’t have anywhere to go… well, that sounds like a dark place.”
In a way, this emotional frankness has been a hallmark of his career. After all, Matt Simons can certainly connect. Across three studio albums his work has found a global audience of millions, his sweet, plaintive, piano-rooted melodies allying themselves to lyrics that speak plainly, sometimes starkly, about important events in his life.
“I like to start out with what a song is about before anything else,” he says. “I feel like that’s a really important thing to find early on in the songwriting process. You’ve got to have that discipline. You need to find a direction – that’s the most important thing.”
Passionate and driven, songs were pouring out of Matt – working with alacrity. And 2022 will bring the release of his 4th Studio album ‘Identity Crisis’ - bringing together some of his recent hit singles including Better Tomorrow, Cold and Identity Crisis. He’s changing, and the music is changing, too, adopting new influences but returning to those same truths. ‘I’m often asked to describe my music in 3 words or less. The answer I like to give is “an identity crisis.” This album reflects the wide range of styles I love and am heavily influenced by.’
Breaking down his approach and building anew, he’s perpetually pulled back to one phrase. ‘Identity Crisis’ is one of the songs on the album and it’s also an overarching theme. Just look at those song titles - ‘Too Much’ looks at party culture in the face, and wonders where the line is. “I feel it’s a relatable thing for anyone who likes to party,” he comments. “How do you know you’re fulfilled…? And unfortunately, you only know you’ve made it if you’ve gone too far.”
He adds: “As a songwriter it’s important that you’re not bound to writing about only autobiographical things happening in your life right now. You’ve got to be able to draw on the past, and other people’s experiences.”
Matching his own experiences to the world drifting around him, this Californian songwriter is ready to go further, to feel more, than ever before. “The core of the song needs to be good enough to stand on its own,” he explains. “I needed all those years of songwriting experience to really do this justice”.
Fully unpacking long-held emotions, pulling down the gates and letting others into his life. It’s a bold move, but it’s one he doesn’t regret. Pausing, he finishes: “I think it’s very cathartic.”
Matt will support the release of his new album Identity Crisis with an extensive tour supporting classical crossover titans 2Cellos, who embark on their last ever tour of the US and Europe. Hitting some of the world’s biggest arena venues from LA to New York, Prague to Paris, London to Berlin and many cities in between, this is the biggest tour Matt has undertaken to date.
A story of humble beginnings, Simons grew up in Palo Alto, California as the grandson of two opera sing-ers. He spent much of his early life studying jazz and classical music, playing the piano before switching to clarinet & guitar before crafting his own, melodic pop identity as a songwriter and compelling stories as lyri-cist. It wasn’t long before he took steps to self-promote his releases online. To his surprise, his appealing pop sensibilities picked up an audience in The Netherlands, where his career started to really take off. A sync on a Dutch TV show and a string of tour dates, meant he had the perfect foundation to build a career overseas. Deepend’s remix of “Catch & Release” bubbled up organically and ended up to as one off 2016’s biggest hits, reaching Gold and Platinum status in a dozen territories and the top of the European Airplay chart. We Can Do Better (2018), Open Up (2019) and Better Tomorrow (2020) following close behind, with success spreading even further. From those early days of self- promotion to over 1 billion streams has been an impressive journey that just keeps continuing.