Matt Maeson

May 25 2023

7:30 PM
The NorVA 317 Monticello Ave, Norfolk, VA

Growing up in Virginia, Matt Maeson got his start performing for inmates atmaximum-security prisonsacross America at age 17. “I’d get up and do these acoustic songs on my guitar, and they’re still the bestshows I’ve ever done,” says the Austin-basedsinger/songwriter. “You’re playing for all these people whoare treated like they’re monsters, and it feels like spreading some light into a really dark place.”On his debut albumBank On The Funeral, Maeson uses his deeply incisive songwriting to explorethetension between light and dark in his own life. The albumredefines the limits of the classicsinger/songwriter’s sensibility and shapes a sound that’s richly textured and gracefully experimental.And with his soulful vocal presence, Maeson again reveals the raw-nerve vulnerability thatpromptedTIME to praise him as“never afraid to investigate his past and his demons, resulting in songs that areclear-eyed in their honesty and raw around the edges.”Centered on Maeson’s candid storytelling and gritty poetry,Bank On The Funeraltakes its title from itsclosing track: a quietly hypnotic number written for a beloved uncle, who was murdered when Maesonwas six-years-old. “He was a criminal when he was younger, but once he got himself together he’d goout and minister to the people he used to hang around with—the people the church would never try toreach—and then one of those guys ended up going crazy and killing him,” says Maeson. “What inspiresme about him is how he’d go to the places no one else would go, and talk about the things no one elsewould talk about.”ThroughoutBank On The Funeral, Maeson brings a similar courage to his songwriting, imbuing everytrack with an often-brutal self-awareness. On the album-opening “I Just Don’t Care That Much,”he firesoff a litany of confessions (“Maybe life was just a bet/That I lost to drugs and cigarettes”), brilliantlyoffsetting all that heavy-hearted deliberation with his bright melodies and upbeat rhythms. Later, on thefast-paced and horn-laced “Legacy,” Maeson’s spirited and sometimes-howled vocals relay someborrowed wisdom about self-salvation. “That song’s about a night in Virginia Beach when I was drunk onthe street with my friends, and an old man came up to us and started talking about life,” Maesonexplains. “The lyrics are basically me writing out everything I remember him saying.” But for songs like“The Mask,” the album shifts into moodier and more darkly ethereal terrain, a potent backdrop to hisgently urgent vocal performance. “‘The Mask’ is about how everybody has a mask they wear and howthat always roots back to something—some point in your life where you started pretending, and theneventually started believing that’s who you really are,” Maeson says.One of the most arresting tracks onBank On The Funeral, “Beggar’s Song” begins in hushed guitar tonesand softly pleading vocals, then unfolds into a stubbornly hopeful epic with gospel-like intensity. “Iwrote ‘Beggar’s Song’ when I was broke and hungover at SXSW, and everybody was partying and I wasjust over it,” Maeson remembers. “It’s about spending the last two years on the road and what that’sfelt like—that line ‘I’m a beat-down, washed-up son of a bitch’ has definitely been true on multipleoccasions.”In the making of Bank On TheFuneral, Maeson drew equally from his instinct-driven songwriting processand from the natural musicality he’s honed since he was a little kid. Originally from Norfolk, Virginia, hewas born into a music-loving family, including parents who played in heavymetal bands throughout hisearly childhood. The same uncle who inspired “Bank On The Funeral” gave Maeson a drum set when hewas a toddler, then left his nephew his own drums after he died. At 15, Maeson learned a few guitar chords from his father and soon began writing songs, playing his first live gig at a Chick-fil-A open-micnight and then moving on to the penitentiaries. “My dad was a criminal growing up, but he ended upturning his life around and becoming a youth pastor,” Maeson says. “Later on my parents started aprison ministry, and I went along with them to play my songs in the prisons.”As he built up his body of work, Maeson increasingly relied on songwriting as an emotional outlet. “Istarted getting into a lot of trouble, doing a lot of drugs, getting arrested,” he says. “Music became away of getting things off my chest, and I started writing with more honesty.” In addition to workingconstruction 12 hours a day and doing community service on his time off, he began traveling the countrywitha notebook and a guitar, often going back to play in the prisons where he got his start. In 2015 hebegan posting his songs online and quickly drew attention for “Grave Digger,” a starkly powerful trackabout “trying to figure out how to navigate life after realizing that everything you were told growing upisn’t necessarily true,” according to Maeson. He soon signed adeal with Neon Gold/Atlantic Records,then made his debut withWho Killed Matt Maeson—a 2017 EP featuring his breakthrough single“Cringe,”which hit #12 on Spotify’s US Viral 50. With his sophomore EPThe Hearsearriving in spring2018, Maeson next headed out on tour with Bishop Briggs and took the stage at major summer festivalslike Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo.In bringingBank On The Funeralto life, Maeson continued to tap into the cathartic power of makingmusic. “Songwriting’s always been very therapeutic for me,” he says. “Wherever I’ve lived, there’salways been a secluded closet or bathroom where I could sing really loud and not bother anybody.” Andthough he regards his songs as “conversations with myself,” Maeson’s underlying mission is to includeothers in that catharsis. “What I try to do is help people know that, even if their problems feel so specificto their lives, everyone’s going through something that feels just as specific,” he says. “If I can writeabout what’s upset me or what I’ve learned from, and somehow help other people feel recognized andunderstood, that’s always the ultimate goal.”Last year saw Maeson share thestandalone single, “Nelsonwood Lane,” joined by an official music videodirected by DeFlorio and streaming now at YouTubeHERE.In addition,Maesonalso unveiledUSERx, anextraordinary musical partnership with his longtime collaborator, producer/designer Rozwell.Pronounced simply as“USER,”USERx made their beautifully warped debut with2021’self-titledUSERxEP, available nowHERE. The EP–which sees the two hometown friends sharing lead vocal duties, withMaeson on guitar and Rozwell programming and producing–includes such remarkable tracks as“MyBody Left My Soul (Feat. Pusha-T),”“Waterman,” “Above (Feat.Masego & West Banks),”and“Headsick(Feat. Manchester Orchestra)Now based in Nashvile, TN, Maeson prepares to share his sophomore album out later this year, beginningwith “Blood Runs Red” and a return to the road

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