Wed, 14 Aug 2013 10:07:38
Maybe you haven't met Mateo yet, but you're going to fall in love as soon as you do.
His debut EP We've Met Before [iTunes link] artfully lifts rock bombast into soulful R&B. The result of this alchemy is some of the catchiest jams you'll hear all year. Mateo's voice carries it all with swagger and style—and true talent. Meet your new favorite crooner…
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Mateo talks We've Met Before and so much more.
What was the idea behind the We've Met Before EP?
While we release the single, we thought it would be good to put out an EP as an appetizer. It's a taste of what the album is going to be next year. I'm really excited about it. Two of my favorite songs that I've ever done are on there—"Sing About Me" and "How Good Is Your Love".
What ties the EP together for you?
I've been doing this for a little while. I was always trying to write the perfect love song. We started working on the EP and album in New York. When I started fiddling with everything, I was here in New York during the wintertime and depressed because I was scraping snow off my car [Laughs]. I wanted to make songs that felt more real than before. Instead of just love songs, I wanted to make life songs. That's what ties the EP together, especially the album. It's very personal and intimate. It's really about things people go through. Even if it's a love song, it's very straightforward—like a chick with sweatpants on. It's about being as real as possible. That's what ties it together, while also keeping with the sound I've tried to do. It's R&B soul, but it's arena-sounding, and it's got an alternative rock thing going on. I think it came together well.
What does "How Good Is Your Love" mean to you?
It's one of my favorite songs. Originally, we had another single coming out. It's a song I love, but with "How Good Is Your Love", I felt like, "This is me completely". It has a little bit of that soulfulness. There's a bit of metaphor. It talks about meeting a girl who's the perfect chick. She's got the best body, face, and personality, but the thing you can't really see is how good her love is. I think everybody goes through that when they first meet somebody like, "Can this be the perfect package?" It's that kind of song. It's got the festival-sounding ending. I love it!
Is it important for you to tell stories and paint pictures with the songs?
Yeah, it is. People can write great songs about specific situations and general ideas. Another transformation for me is writing songs that actually tell a story. The reason people gravitate towards hip-hop is it really tells a story. There's a direct connection to the artist. I feel the same way. R&B music should have that same feeling. You can do that over pretty dope production. You don't have to just sing over hip-hop loops to tell the story. You can incorporate other aspects of hip-hop in different ways.
What encourages that storytelling?
When I write a song, it's literally whatever hits me with inspiration. It can be something I'm going through at the moment, and I've got to get it out. It can be something I witness my friends or family going through. As artists, we interpret what we see in the world through music. Sometimes, it's me or what someone else is dealing with. Or, I'll see something on TV or watch a movie that inspires. I can hear a soundtrack that makes me think, "That's dope! Let me try to write a song over something like that!" It varies.
If We've Met Before was a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
I think it would be a mixture of Drive—especially with the soundtrack—and, for some reason, Coming to America. I don't know why! I've always wanted to do a video like that. I picture the girl who's perfectly walking down the aisle, but you don't know how good her love is.
What artists shaped you?
All of those artists I was forced to listen to in the car with my mom [Laughs]…Of course, there's the old school guys like Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder. Then, Whitney Houston was huge in my house. I'm a huge Coldplay fan. Coldplay changed my life when I heard them. I'm a big Kanye West fan and a huge diehard Kendrick Lamar fan.
Have you heard Mateo yet?