Hailing from Pittsburgh, PA, Matt Westin’s debut album, “Legacy” is dedicated to the memory of his late father. Matt gave up a promising career as an engineer to be a country musician and actor. Matt’s first single, “Our Redneck of the Woods” reached the IndieWorld Country chart and the European Country Music Association charts. Matt was also on the Top 200 International Country Artists chart. His second single, “Farm Town” also received international airplay and charting. His current single, “Stomp On” is from his forthcoming EP, to be released on MTS Records. The single reached the Top 40 iTunes country songs chart and is currently in the Top 100 Airplay Today country chart. He will star as Johnny Cash in an upcoming film production. Matt is the 2018 International Music and Entertainment Association Male Country Artist of the Year. He recently appeared in the October 10, 2018 issue of Billboard Magazine as an Emerging Artist.
- When did you realize this is what you wanted to do, and how did you get started?
Matt Westin: I’ve enjoyed singing for quite a while as a hobby. Whether it was karaoke, or singing with a friend’s band, or singing with my cousins’ band, I had definitely got the bug. Part of me always wanted to pursue it further, but I was an engineer, then I pursued acting after engineering didn’t work out. It wasn’t until moving back home to Pittsburgh from LA, after losing my father to cancer, that I made a decision to pursue music professionally.
- Who are your early musical influences, and who are you listening to right now?
Matt Westin: I have influences from every genre. I love music. But the earliest I can remember is Elvis Presley. My dad gave me a cassette of some of Elvis’ greatest hits, and I sat on my bedroom floor and listened to the entire thing in awe. By emulating him, Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks, and Toby Keith, I basically taught myself how to sing when I was a teenager. Now, I still listen to a lot of the old stuff, more so than contemporary country or rock. I have a Johnny Cash mixtape CD in my car right now, and I asked for a Waylon Jennings collection for Christmas!
- If someone has never heard your music, which keywords would you personally use to describe your overall sound and style?
Matt Westin: Country rock with traditional, outlaw, and modern country influences
- Do you remember the first piece of musical equipment that you actually purchased?
Matt Westin: I think it was a bass guitar, when I was in middle school. I was playing the double bass in the orchestra, and I was interested in playing bass guitar. But, I never really pursued it and it fell by the wayside. I bought an acoustic guitar a few years ago, and I wish I had done that way sooner!
- Do you handle your own recording, production and mastering work or do you outsource any or all of these processes?
Matt Westin: I recorded my debut album “Legacy” and my first two singles at Tonic Recording Studios in Pittsburgh, and my mastering was done out in Los Angeles by Alien Productions. My next single will be recorded at The Vault Recording Studio in Pittsburgh, and mastered by a long-time associate of my engineer Jimmy Hoyson (the name escapes me at the moment).
- Could you describe your creative processes? How do start, and go about shaping ideas into a song?
Matt Westin: Every song is a little bit of a different process, depending on the inspiration behind it. Sometimes it’s more of a storytelling experience and I’m thinking about how to tell it concisely and effectively, other times it’s more of a fun song that isn’t so deep, other times a song will be very visual and paints a very vivid mental picture. I come at songs from different angles, depending on these kinds of things. But, it always comes down to structure of the song, brainstorming the best way to put it all together, and trying to stay focused on the “why” of the song, which is where it all grows from.
- What has been your biggest challenge so far? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
Matt Westin: My biggest challenge has been getting through losing my dad. It almost destroyed me. I’ll never get over it, I’ll just get through it. God, music, family, and friends have been my saving grace and my strength for the past few years. Yes, pursuing music is an incredible challenge, but it was also a huge part of what rescued me. The challenge now is to continue to raise the bar, make my dad proud, and make a living doing it.
- What would you say are the most important elements, tools and/or instruments in creating your sound?
Matt Westin: First of all, the song has to be right. It has to be something that I relate to and believe in. That’s the foundation. With my incredible producer Bryan Cole, we make choices that serve the song, and it usually involves a strong rhythm section, some solid acoustic and electric guitar, tasteful well placed steel guitar, and background vocals that help build a big sound.
- What were your main compositional, performance and/or production challenges when starting out, and how have they changed over time?
Matt Westin: Besides budget, which is always a challenge, I think the biggest challenge has been to keep raising the bar vocally. I continue to improve and learn how to better use my voice, expand my range, and sing with feeling and meaning. Improving will always be my goal.
- Do you have any favorite track in your catalog that has a specific backstory and/or message very dear to you?
Matt Westin: All of my songs mean a lot to me, for specific reasons. However, my recently written and soon to be recorded new single “Thin Blue Line” is something extra special to me. It is all heart, and it is going to impact a lot of people in troubled times.
- How do you handle criticism and/or naysayers in general? Is it something you pay attention to, or simply ignore?
Matt Westin: Luckily, I haven’t had many naysayers, and only a few critics, but I don’t worry about them. I do what I believe in, I am true to myself, and not everyone has to agree or understand or enjoy it. Criticism can be constructive too, so I still listen. But in the end, I am just trying to be the best I can be and not compare myself to others, so someone’s negativity isn’t something that I am concerned with. If I was wrapped up in those kinds of things, my art would suffer.
- How essential do you think video is in relation to your music? Do you have a video you could suggest fans see, to get a better understanding of your craft?
Matt Westin: I think videos are important because it’s another way to engage the audience. So far, I’ve only had lyric videos for the singles I’ve released, but I’m hoping to do a full production music video in 2020. The lyric video for “Hey Bro” is a fantastic example of the power of a video in conveying the deeper meaning behind songs, as it shows soldiers, first responders, bikers, and buddies all sharing a bond of brotherhood that drives home the power of the lyrics.
- What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry and entertainment.
Matt Westin: There is no escaping the fact that the influence of music, and art in general, has always reached far beyond artistry and entertainment, even more so now that the world is so connected. Yes, some of my songs are purely for entertainment and aren’t meant to be deep or make a statement, but some other songs are to convey a message and have an impact. My soon to be recorded single “Thin Blue Line” is one of those songs.
- Creative work in studio environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two do you ultimately prefer and why?
Matt Westin: Nothing compares to performing for a live audience. It’s a total rush, it’s a blast, and it’s instant gratification. The hard work in the studio gets its payoff.
- What would you consider the most successful, proud or high point in your endeavors so far?
Matt Westin: The release of my debut album “Legacy” is the thing I am most proud of, more so than my engineering degrees, my trophies, or any of my other accomplishments in life. It is dedicated to my father, it represents so much of what I believe in and how I was raised, and it is a testament to faith, hard work, and never giving up against all odds.
- Do you consider Internet and all the social media as fundamental in building a career in music today, and what is your personal relationship with all the new technology at hand?
Matt Westin: The internet and social media are a huge part of launching my career. I’ve interviewed with people from all parts of the planet, and my music reaches people that it otherwise never would have. With just my phone, I use Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc. and it’s reaching thousands and thousands of people. It’s very powerful and my goal for 2020 is to create a lot more content.
- What is the best piece of advice regarding the music business that you actually followed so far, and what is the advice you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
Matt Westin: The best thing I have done is expanded my network and opened myself to new and bigger opportunities by pushing myself to make moves that may be outside of my bubble or comfort zone. Something I wish I would have done is pick up a guitar a long time ago, when everyone said I should. That was before I pursued music professionally, and now I kick myself for not learning earlier.
- What do you like best about what you do, and what do you dislike the most about it?
Matt Westin: I love the creativity, the fulfillment and purpose I find in it, and working with incredible people to make a vision become a reality. It’s awesome. The most difficult part is the instability of this lifestyle.
- Tell us something about your latest music release and where fans can find it?
Matt Westin: My latest single “Hey Bro” is a powerful statement about the bond of brotherhood between people who have been through a lot together. The lyric video on YouTube drives home the power of the lyrics. You can find “Hey Bro”, and all of my music, on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, AMI jukeboxes, and most digital streaming platforms.
- Do you have a specific musical vision and/ or goal set in your mind for the future?
Matt Westin: I’m keeping my eyes firmly focused on 2020, and I have big plans to take the next step in my career. With the release of “Thin Blue Line” early in 2020, performing live, working with some incredibly talented musicians and songwriters, and upgrading and updating my website www.mattwestin.com, 2020 is going to be a special year.