American musician Mat Kearney has always bent genres with his blend of folk, rock and hip-hop. He brings that same creativity to his third album “Young Love,” which he has been promoting this summer on tour with pop-rock band Train. Kearney spoke with the Daily Bruin’s Jenna Maffucci about the influences in his new album, the evolution of his style and how his faith plays into his music.
Daily Bruin: What kind of story does your album “Young Love” tell?
Mat Kearney: Getting married and falling in love directly influenced most of the songs. I think when you get serious about committing to someone, you’re forced to deal with other areas of your life, so there’s songs dealing with learning to love again and confronting the past. The record was really formed by the two years of my life (when I was) meeting and marrying my wife.
DB: For what reason do you think your music has been described as unclassified?
MK: It was never a plan; I was an English (student) who wasn’t really good at music and started writing poems. I picked up my roommate’s guitar and could play like two or three chords and so I would blend this writing style with my roommate’s acoustic guitar and then from that, the songs started growing out of that expression and I became a better musician as time went on but that really was my foundation. I think that’s why my style is so undefined.
DB: What influence does your faith have on your work?
MK: It’s a huge part of what I do, how I write and how I see the world. When I was a sophomore in college, I was picking up a guitar but I was also really being confronted with this idea that God is a gracious being and I think that really influenced how I write and it’s continued to do that. I love writing about everything in life from meeting my hot wife to my dad … being confronted with his past, and I see the gospel in all of that. There’s definitely a thread that ties together all my ideas and songs.
DB: But you wouldn’t classify yourself as a Christian artist.
MK: All these years, I haven’t had a good answer to that question. As a person I would consider myself a Christian but I don’t know what Christian songs sound like. The way I grew up, we listened to Michael Jackson on the way to church. That’s just how I view life. Music doesn’t really do well if you put it in boundaries or a specific boundary. It’s difficult to monetize what you believe, and finding a genre for it, where only the people who agree with you can buy that record; that doesn’t feel like why I got into it or what I’m supposed to be doing.
DB: Can you tell me a little bit about the tour right now and what it’s like to be playing with San Francisco-based pop-rock band Train for a second time?
MK: It’s great, you know we’ve been on tour for almost 11 weeks. I feel like a sailor; I haven’t seen land for a long time. I’m not quite as much of a deer in the headlights this time around and I feel like I’m holding my head a little higher because we bring a little more to the table and people are showing up to see us.
DB: So what’s next?
MK: I’m still exploring. I feel like I’m pregnant, but I’m only like a month pregnant, so I’m not really talking about it yet. I don’t know what sex the baby is … I’m listening to a lot of Paul Simon and a ton of Springsteen, and then a lot of hip-hop music too, so somewhere between all that, my album will come out.
Email Maffucci at [email protected]