I like to keep the circle small when it comes to making music. The song starts with me in my bedroom with a pen and paper
With an extensive background in Jazz, Country, and Blues, J.K. Matthews is drawn to the inner workings of the songwriting process. Writing consistently since the age of 11, Matthews looks to pay homage to the greats that came before him and aims to hone the craft in each one of his works.
His newest music weaves an intricate plot with a hint of thoughtful Country lyricism and a captivating melody.
We got a chance to sit down with him and asked him some questions below…
What advice would you give other musicians?
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Obviously, take your work seriously and ensure that you have solid work ethic but don’t ever feel like you’re above other musicians. I see this all the time with new artists and I honestly think that it just alienates them from better opportunities. I’ve seen some of the best players I’ve ever heard get rejected from a gig simply because they had a terrible attitude. On top of that, I don’t think an audience likes being talked down to. Be easy to work with and try to put out a positive vibe. Nine times out of ten, I’m going to take someone who has a great attitude and good chops on their instrument over an amazing player with a chip on their shoulder.
What inspires you to write your latest single ‘The Blue’?
“The Blue” was inspired by a very frustrating time in my life. I was finishing up my degree at the time and I felt that I was missing out on a bunch of work opportunities. Completing my school work was hard as I just wanted to write tunes and play shows. I felt as if I was in the wrong place and that I should’ve been focusing on myself as a solo artist.
The song is about feeling stuck. I felt as if I outgrew university and that I should’ve moved on with my life at that point.
Could you share with us how your community has contributed to your success?
I’m from Mississauga, Ontario. While growing up, there was never a shortage of kids hanging around in my neighborhood. The music bug hit my friends and I all at the same time so it was easy to get over the frustrations of first learning an instrument. We all pushed each other by saying “look what I can do” and “betcha can’t play this!” Not all of them pursued music to the extent of a full-time career but most of them still play casually.
Mississauga is also a bit funny, though. A lot of the local musicians just end up going to Toronto to join a bigger scene. I mean, that’s what I had to do too but it made being a musician lonely from time to time. After my friends fell off of the music wagon, I found myself as the only one in my neighborhood to take music seriously. I spent a lot of time working on my own tunes and practicing by myself. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I’m comfortable being a solo artist.
Describe to our audience your music-making process.
I like to keep the circle small when it comes to making music. The song starts with me in my bedroom with a pen and paper. Lyrics and harmony come first in my world. After I get the foundation of the song sorted out, I work with a loop station to build the other instrumental elements of the song. When I feel that everything is sitting nicely, I notate the song and play it at my next few shows to see how it sits within a band context.
If, after all that, I feel like I have a song, I reach out to my my producer/engineer, Mike Tompa, to come up with a recording plan. We try to play as many of the instruments as we can between the two of us and only really outsource for drums. The majority of my music is made in a small production booth that’s just filled with different instruments. When all is said and done, the song has really only been touched by about 3 or 4 people depending on who masters it.
How did it feel when you released your first single?
It was wonderful and terrifying at the same time! I was so excited to finally get the music that I’ve worked so hard on to the public but I was really worried about the reception. I think every artist goes through a stage of doubt where they just think “what if no one cares or decides to listen?” Luckily, I received a lot of support for my first single. The feeling was amazing and it made me anxious to release the next one!
If you could collaborate or perform with any musician/band, who would it be? And why?
Chris Stapleton because it’s Chris f***ing Stapleton. I feel like Chris would push my writing to the best that it could be in just a few sessions. Even if my music isn’t “Country” per se, I feel like he’d push me to be more thoughtful when songwriting. He’s got an amazing sense of melody and has some of the heaviest lyrics in the game today.
What first got you interested into music?
I was naturally interested in music for as long as I can remember. I think it started with my older sister playing Nirvana and Pearl Jam records from her room when I was a toddler. I remember hearing “Lithium” for the first time and immediately falling in love with the chorus. It was so raw and different from everything else I was hearing at the time.
My parents were also into a lot of Neil Young and other classic rock artists. With that came AC/DC which led me to loving the sound of the guitar. To me, I feel like music was always just a big part of my identity, even when I was a little kid.