Introducing Songwriter Matthew Writes
One of the perks of being a journalist, specifically in the area of music and entertainment, is the influx of new talent I’m exposed to. One talent, in particular, is songwriter Matthew Writes. Currently hailing from Los Angeles, Matthew Writes is slowly creating a buzz amongst his industry peers and colleagues. After making his music debut a few months back with “+1: A Songwriters EP”, the world finally got to hear what he had been creating. Enlisting the help of his friends, including Kelly Rowland’s background singer, Jason Woods, singer/producer Daniel Bryant, and singer/actor Mark Hood, this EP highlighted his knack for writing catchy, relevant songs that could easily compete for a spot on popular radio. Heed had the opportunity to chat briefly with the songwriter, about his upbringing, his debut EP and who he credits as his favorite songwriters.
Our conversation began like all conversations usually do, with greetings, salutations, thank you’s and how are you’s, and to be honest I was quite interested in hearing about his journey. The journey, I found out, began like a lot of people in music and entertainment, in the church. “What a lot people don’t know is that both of my parents are pastors and they have been pastors my entire life, so that’s all I know is church. Being the only son of a pastor, you have to be involved in the church in every department. I have cleaned toilets, I have swept hallways, I have played drums and I have led praise and worship…I do appreciate all the values that it instilled in me early on, because I’ve been able to implement those things throughout my entire life.”
One thing that says a lot about people, in general, are their influences. In this case, songwriters are usually the hidden gems who we only see during the Grammy’s or at other celebratory functions. Unless you’re deeply rooted in music and the industry, or are just that knowledgeable about all things surrounding your favorite artists, you probably have no clue who wrote some of those hits we hear everyday. For Matthew, he mentions four noteworthy songwriters who have influenced and inspired his work. He says, “Well hands down, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds is at the top of that list. I am a huge fan and major student of his work. I always make sure that I spend at least an hour a day studying the music of writers I love and lately I’ve been listening to all of the stuff he’s written for other artists…songs that he’s written for himself. I just love his style and I love the way tells stories. He’s an excellent storyteller.”
Storytelling, one such attribute he inherits from Babyface, is a major characteristic of his EP. It’s literally a musical journey of love, life and loyalty. Using the groove of R&B, infused with urban pop sounds, it takes listeners on a reality ride through the world of Matthew. It’s funny because the EP actually almost didn’t happen and I was really interested to hear the story behind it and what prompted the idea in the first place. “It’s an idea that I got from another songwriter named Anesha Birchett. She’s an incredible writer! We were talking one day and it actually came out of frustration. I was always in the studio, writing records, shopping demos and nothing was happening…I wanted people to hear my music and I wanted artists to sing my music. She said, ‘why don’t you just put it out yourself and make people listen? I don’t mean to be rude, but people just don’t know who you are, so why don’t you take all of your demos and just put it out’. So, I went in the studio, flew down to Atlanta and over a 2-week period we cut like nine records.” He further explained, “I didn’t put it out to have fans…I put it out to get the attention of labels, artists, and A&R and it’s getting the job done. I am very pleased and I want to thank Anesha for putting me on to the idea of doing it!” [Laughs]
He also cites Claude Kelly, who has written for Britney Spears and Whitney Houston, and Makeba Riddick, the songwriter behind Beyonce’s hit party-single “Get Me Bodied” as influences. But, it is Terius “The Dream” Nash, whose musical & lyrical stylings are most apparent when listening to “A Songwriters EP”. Matthew explained, “…his melody is second to none. The things he can hear on a track musically…I’m in awe every time.”
Unlike The Dream, however, one thing that is crucially important to note is that Matthew doesn’t consider himself a singer. I inquired about this because the fact is, he does sing. “I know my lane, and I’m staying right in it,” he says. He went on to say, “I am not a singer, however, being from the church you learn how to do everything…play the drums…play the piano…sing in the choir. So, because of my upbringing, I can do what needs to be done, but I am not a singer.” Although, his vocals can be heard on “Invitation” (my personal favorite), a track not included on the EP, Matthew says, “I have no desire to be a singer or an artist…I just love to write. It is what I have loved to do ever since I can remember picking up a pen. It is the way I express how I feel about life, how I feel about love—how I feel about myself ultimately.”
Of the songwriting process, Matthew says, “I really enjoy all of it, but the part that I enjoy the most is the completion of it. Just hearing all of the ideas that I had in my head finally come to life, through speakers, is one of the most amazing feelings that I could ever feel. Mostly because it’s something that I love and it’s something that I’m passionate about.” But let’s be clear, this industry is no cake walk and like most emerging singers, songwriters, musicians and producers there are challenges. “My biggest struggle as an emerging songwriter is understanding that this is a business and sometimes it’s not a pretty business and you have to separate what’s business and what’s personal. That’s the hardest thing for me because I’m such a people person. I come from a large family, so I love people and I love hanging out with people and I love being around people, so I immediately want to be around good people. However, at the end of the day when it’s time to sign paperwork, there’s no such thing as friends!” In a moment of transparency and honesty, he went on to share “The other struggle has been the process of the wait and broken promises. When people promise you things and then they don’t come through. And you have to wait like, when is it going to happen and when am I going to get the opportunity to do what I love to do to be able to provide for myself and for my family? Living on faith and putting my trust in God has been taken to another level in my life. I have been challenged over the last 9 months like never before.”
So what’s next for Matthew Writes? He enthusiastically said, “Writing, writing, writing!”, as our conversation came to a close. “There are a few songs in line to get placed with a few artists, so I’m really praying those placements come through,” he shared. “I wake up, I pray, read a chapter out of my Bible, and go to the studio. And even the days that I’m not in the studio, I’m at home doing Logic or Pro Tools on my computer, so that I’m always working. I never want someone to ask for a song and I don’t have it. I want them to be able to hit me up and it’s like grocery shopping. You’ll never catch me unprepared.” In a final moment of what I thought was extremely humble and gracious, Matthew said, “I’m trying to collaborate with as many producers and other songwriters as I can because iron sharpens iron and I love working with other writers. It really pushes me to become a better writer myself,” and I’m sure we’ll be hearing the lyrics to several Matthew Writes penned tunes very soon.
Check out “Invitation/Twisted” the official visual leads from “+1: A Songwriter’s EP”
All photos courtesy of Matthew Writes