For me, it’s really a continuation of the creative process. I just want the opportunity to be heard myself.” Even before the #1 single that earned him Music Row’s 2006 Breakthrough Writer of the Year, Matthews was building an impressive catalog of hits, including cuts for Luke Bryan (‘Country Man’), Julie Roberts and Trace Adkins (‘Break Down Here’), Kevin Denney (‘That’s Just Jesse), Tammy Cochran (‘Life Happened’) and James Otto (‘The Ball’), among others. But Matthews’ reputation as just a songwriter is set to change with the recent release of his debut album, Hicotine. “The idea and concept behind Hicotine actually came before the song did,” he says.
“My wife, Debbie, and I came up with the idea of the cigarette box, and it just hit me – we’re not selling nicotine, we’re selling Hicotine!” he laughs. “This really is an album for all country music fans,” Debbie says simply. Matthews agrees. “Unfortunately, we’ve pretty much run off all the guys in country music – they’re all listening to talk radio and classic rock these days.
I want to bring guys back to this format!” If the response to the first single, “That’s What Mamas Do,” is any indication however, the message in Matthews’ music appears to be universal. “That’s the most special song I’ve ever written,” he says slowly. “I know a lot of times music gets boiled down to money and chart position, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about making music that touches the person listening to the music.
The response we’ve gotten from this song just means the world to me, knowing that I’m making music that matters,” he says. “It’s more important and gratifying than any sales position.” Aside from his proven skill as a songwriter, the other quality that separates Matthews from many of his peers is his voice. A genuine soul singer by definition, Matthews has just enough twang and attitude to disguise the fact that Motown and the British Invasion had just as much influence on his musical upbringing as Music City did. The common denominator has always been the ability of the artist to reach out and touch the listener, he says.
“My heroes have always been people that sing from deep down in their soul and get you to believe their song. People like Conway Twitty, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Merle Haggard, Jackson Browne,” he says passionately. “Great singers are believable, and I want to be believable when I sing my songs. I’m trying to communicate something to people.” Born in Harrells Store, North Carolina, Patrick Jason Matthews remembers the defining moment that sent him down the long musical road to Nashville.
At fifteen years old, that moment was watching Eric Clapton on television. “He just blew me away;” Matthews remembers. “It looked like his soul was coming through his fingers. I had to learn how to play guitar.
As soon as I learned three chords I wrote my first song.” Matthews pursued a career in education first. After graduating from East Carolina University with a degree in English, he took a job as a high school English teacher. He quickly realized that teaching wasn’t his calling, however, and after receiving some favorable feedback on demo tapes he had sent out, he knew it was time to follow his dream. He moved to Nashville in 1995, landing a position with comedy duo Pinkard & Bowden as a part-time roadie and songwriter. He started playing the clubs in Nashville as much as possible, eventually leading to a writing partnership with Kerry Kurt Phillips.
They wrote “That’s Just Jessie” together, which got cut in 2002 by Kevin Denney and released as the first single on Denney’s album. Matthews was on his way, and his days working in the plumbing warehouse were numbered. After signing a publishing deal with EMI, Matthews wrote a string of hits for artists like Julie Roberts, Travis Tritt, Trace Adkins, Tammy Cochran, Phil Vassar, Kevin Denney, Dusty Drake, Chuck Wicks, Jo Dee Messina, Randy Travis and James Otto. His big break came in 2005, though, when he co-wrote the Billy Currington #1 smash “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right.” Remarkably, he lost his publishing deal with EMI the same week the song went to #1, only to land a deal with Universal Music Publishing Group shortly after. Surprisingly, Matthews’ life hasn’t really changed much since, he says.
“To an outsider, I’m sure it looks different, but when you’re the guy in the center of the maelstrom, things can’t happen fast enough!” he jokes. Two things become quickly apparent when meeting Jason Matthews for the first time. One is that he’s a true student of music; he can just as easily make conversation about Smokey Robinson as he can George Jones. The other is a deep respect and appreciation for those that came before him. “We’re standing on the shoulders of giants,” he remarks of his livelihood as a songwriter. “Our job is to leave country music better than we found it.” Then, thinking about his musical heroes, he adds, “Or at least just as good as we found it.” Read more on Last.fm.
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