Two kids with wet cement living down in their souls, they say what gets carved when you’re young stays there when you’re old” says Mat Kearney on the title track of his 4th full length album “JUST KIDS.”
“There’s something incredibly vulnerable about middle school for me," says the singer and songwriter. "We’re really impressionable during that period. The cement’s still wet, so to speak, and a lot of things later in life are born during that season.”
“JUST KIDS” is full of nostalgia and youthful energy written almost as a love letter to his northwest upbringing in Eugene, OR. “A lot of my family has moved to Nashville, where I now live, which is awesome for me personally but it severed some the physical roots I had to Oregon. I found myself writing a lot of songs about my hometown and how it shaped me today.”
While on the road promoting 2011’s critically acclaimed Young Love, Mat began to compile ideas for what would eventually become his latest offering. In fact, it was a fan favorite from Young Love, “Ships in the Night”, which kicked off the creative process for his new album. “Ships genre blending style really resonated with me and other people, and it became a touchstone for the new album,” he adds. “All of the songs on ”JUST KIDS” stretched from it.
For the first time, Mat brought a laptop and a portable studio on tour with him. He wrote in between shows, and he recorded everywhere from Los Angeles and Sweden to his home studio in Nashville, personally producing a lot of the songs and also enlisting the production talents of MDL [Maroon 5, Justin Bieber] and longtime collaborator Josh Crosby.
“I set up to explore by myself,” he explains. “I literally made fifty tracks, and I spent hours alone doing things I wouldn’t do if other people were around. To experiment like that and take the reins as a producer was very different for me. I was out in the wilderness, making music full of swagger that I wanted to play in my car for friends.”
That process yielded songs like the single “Heartbeat”, which merge vintage synths, a slap bass, handclaps, hip-hop cadence, and uplifting melodies. It’s instantly irresistible and indicative of Mat’s creative approach.
“I picked up my guitar, and the song basically fell in my lap,” he goes on. “It was so simple. I wanted to bring in some 90’s influences and make it groovier than people would expect from me. I was inspired by Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’, and it puts a love song in the context of Nashville where I live.”
Meanwhile, “Billion” bounces with a distinct energy as he paints a vivid picture of true love. "It's really about the idiosyncrasies of the person you love,” says Mat. “You can either be annoyed by them or celebrate the things that make the person you're with unique."
Throughout moments like the poetic “Ghosts” and nostalgic “Los Angeles”, he summons a style that’s equally rooted in singer-songwriter storytelling and rap bombast. “I kept asking myself, ‘what would it sound like if Paul Simon and Kanye West were in a room together?” he admits.
Mat confidently slides into his own space, building on a bevy of accolades and achievements. His last album, Young Love debuted at #1 on the Billboard digital chart and #4 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. In addition, Young Love was the first album to oust Adele’s 21 from its resident iTunes #1 spot in 2011. His music has been featured in countless television shows and films ranging from Soul Surfer and Parenthood to The Closer, NCIS, 30 Rock, and Vampire Diaries. His 2006 major label debut Nothing Left to Lose has sold over 450,000 copies, while 2009’s City of Black & White hit #13 on the Billboard Top 200. In between it all, he supported everybody from John Mayer to Keane on the road.
Ultimately though, Just Kids will prove to be his most impactful statement to date. “It’s the most honest record I’ve done,” Mat leaves off. “I tried to bleed each lyric as opposed to just writing songs. I wanted it to be filled with undeniable moments you don’t forget. In that way, it’s like childhood."
Will Anderson: Lead Vocals, Guitars, Piano
Kit French: Saxophone, Keyboards, Vocals
Johnny Stubblefield: Drums
For the members of Parachute, the name of their third album, Overnight, could well be a sly commentary on the hard work and commitment it’s taken for them to experience the success that’s been building over the last four years and first two albums. Their 2009 debut Losing Sleep featured the Top 15 single, “She is Love” (boasting more than 6.5 million views), while 2011’s The Way It Was included the #1 iTunes Rock Song “Kiss Me Slowly” (co-written with Lady Antebellum) and the Top 15 hit “Something to Believe In.”
Or it could refer to the late evenings put in by chief songwriter Will Anderson, burning the midnight oil, writing in his new Nashville base, after moving from the band’s hometown of Charlottesville, VA (where they were discovered and signed to Dave Matthews Band’s Red Light Management out of college). Anderson composed more than 50 songs for the album with a variety of collaborators, including Ryan Tedder (the first single, “Can’t Help”), as well as Grammy winner Chris DeStefano [Kelly Clarkson] and Ashley Gorley [Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban] on the title track.
“Even though there’s plenty of pressure to break through on your third album, the actual recording process was much less stressful,” says Will about the band’s sessions at Ocean Way in Nashville with producer Oren Yoel, a young contemporary who has worked with hip-hop phenom Asher Roth as well as Miley Cyrus, among others. “All of us were on the same wavelength. We all kind of knew exactly what we wanted without having to say it out loud. There was a weird sense of peace that we knew where we were going and where we needed to be.”
From the pop fervor of “Can’t Help” and the powerful simplicity of “Hurricane,” composed on acoustic guitar by Will after a long frustrating day, to the ‘80s Phil Collins-meets-U2 flair of “Waiting for that Call” and the slow Peter Gabriel/John Mayer jam of “The Other Side,” Parachute prove adept at combining guitarist Nate McFarland’s Edge-influenced arena-rock guitar licks with Will’s melodic sense of what will resonate with their passionate fan base.
It’s no surprise for anyone who has followed the band’s history. Will has been playing with drummer Johnny Stubblefield, bassist Alex Hargrave and saxophone/keyboardist Kit French since they were high school classmates in Charlottesville almost 10 years ago. Anderson met Nate while attending University of Virginia together, and the guitarist joined the band six years ago.
“We’re just now getting to know one another as musicians as well as we know each other as people,” says Will. “We wanted to capture a sound in the studio that reflected us as a band. And we all know which parts each of us had to play to get that sound.”
The band’s stylistic palette can run the range from old-school legends like Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Paul Simon and Bruce Springsteen to newer acts like U2, Coldplay, Weezer, Ben Folds, Maroon 5 and John Mayer.
With producer Yoel, the band has even begun to stretch the boundaries, with Will’s spoken word vocals adding almost a hip-hop flavor to a new song called “Didn’t See It Coming,” about an actress friend of theirs in Hollywood excited to land a gig, only to discover it was an X-rated feature.
“That’s probably the catchiest song I’ve ever written,” he says. “I just laid down this spoken-word track, thinking we’d replace it later, but everyone loved it so much, we kept it on.”
Anderson is most proud of “Hurricane,” a song he wrote before going to sleep by strumming an acoustic guitar.
“It’s like the feeling you get when you think you’re never going to be able to write another song,” explains Will. “Once I started, it all came spilling out.”
Anderson credits guitarist Nate with creating parts that were “just perfect” for each song. “He really nailed it, with a unique spin to every song that made them epic, but at the same time, within a pop framework. That’s something we’ve always tried to do, melding his rock guitar to my sensibilities, making it work both for the arena and within the melodic sense of strong hooks. I think we really nailed it this time.”
Having played more than 400 shows over the last few years, touring around the country with everyone from NeedtoBreathe to Andy Grammer, Parachute’s live show continues to grow and impress. They’ve also played before several million at a New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square, as well as appearing on NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, ABC’s Good Morning America and Jimmy Kimmel Live and CBS’ The Early Show. The band’s songs have been featured on MTV’s The City along with CW’s One Tree Hill, Vampire Diaries and 90210.
“It’s so nice to have three albums’ worth of material to choose from in concert,” says Will, while the band has always played an eclectic variety of covers, from Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Loving” to vintage tracks from Elton John, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, the Commodores and Motown. “We’re just now hitting our stride as a live band. We’re better musicians who have come to trust one another. We all have our pocket and fill it. But we still have a long way to go.”
Overnight has a little something for everyone. Longtime fans will recognize their favorite band, with a fresh sound bound to intrigue newcomers.
“The last album was like taking a brand-new car straight off the lot,” says Will. “This album is just as fun to drive, but it’s like a vintage Mustang, a little more muscle and grittier, built to last.”
On their third Mercury Records album, Parachute is firmly in the driver’s seat.