“IF I HAD TO CHOOSE BETWEEN PLAYING SHOWS AND WRITING SONGS, I HONESTLY DON’T KNOW WHICH WAY I’D GO. THERE’S SO MUCH THAT I LOVE ABOUT BOTH. IT’S REALLY HARD TO IMAGINE DOING ONE WITHOUT THE OTHER.”
Matt Stell’s own words about how he sees himself as an artist are revealing—and when you attend one of his shows or listen to his music for the first time, you soon come to appreciate his love of writing and performing music.
Whether it’s on stage opening for the biggest country acts of the last decade (Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Chris Stapleton, Gary Allan, Jason Isbell, Jake Owen, Easton Corbin, Eli Young Band, Casey Donahew, etc.) or performing in a local bar with just a mic, guitar, and hard-earned songs, one thing is clear; Matt Stell is his own kind of real. Equal parts songwriter and entertainer, Matt is an artist who succeeds in drawing people to his music. He creates songs that you feel are written and performed by the kind of guy you want to party with.
Matt’s love for music runs deep, “I know the strong reaction I have when a song really hits home. Nothing else feels that way. When I first heard Randy Travis singing He Walked on Water, Bonnie Raitt’s recording of Papa Come Quick, or DBT [Drive-by Truckers] doing Zip City, I kind of knew that I wanted to be part of something that can affect people the way these songs affected me. . .it just took me a while to get up the courage to actually write and perform.”
Born in Central Arkansas and raised there as well as Central Florida, Matt’s path to making music was unconventional for sure. Before The Sound and the Story, Vestibule Blues, and A River Through It were written and recorded, Matt’s main focus was sports and specifically basketball. He was offered an Athletic Scholarship to Drury University and was a team captain and four-year letterman. Little did anyone know that heading to Springfield, MO would set in motion that string of events that put Matt in the spotlight.
College basketball is a winter sport which means the season extends through the Christmas holiday break. After fall finals, the only responsibilities a player has revolve around training, practice, and games. This leaves some free time, and this free time ultimately led to the musical path Stell chose. “I was sitting in my dorm bored and sore one day after practice. For some reason I remembered that my mom had gotten me a guitar when I was about ten, and for some reason I thought I maybe could learn to play it during all this downtime. I called her and asked her if she remembered if it was still in a closet somewhere. She looked, found it under some coats or something, and brought it to me when she came up to watch us play. Everyday after practice I sat in front of a computer and tried to play songs from guitar tab websites. I learned chords as I needed them to play my favorite Merle Haggard, Skip James, Pat Green and Skynyrd Songs.”
“As soon as I had a handful of chords learned I started to try my hand at writing songs. Not long after that, I started playing those songs out live at a place called the Snorty Horse Saloon that catered to live original country music—What I quickly learned was called Texas, Red Dirt, and/or Americana music. From then on I was hooked. I wrote songs, learned new ones, and played shows under a pseudonym so my basketball coach wouldn’t know I was moonlighting as a singer/songwriter. When I graduated and moved to Fayetteville, AR for graduate school I kept at it. By the time I finished my Master’s degree, I had cut a record and was touring fairly regularly—with a newly formed band—to support it.”
Along the way, Matt wrote songs with artists like Casey Donahew, Bart Crow, and John D. Hale Band. They put these songs on their CDs, and, in some cases, released them as radio singles. Whiskey Baby and Small Town Love, two songs co-written with Casey Donahew, both reached number one on the Texas regional radio charts.
Following through on the success of these songs and other music he released, Matt decided to make the move to Nashville to pursue writing and making music at the highest level. When he’s not playing shows across the South and Midwest, Matt currently spends most of his time writing songs for himself and other artists. His attention to the craft of songwriting, sharpened by the hard lessons learned from years of extensive touring, combine to make his shows a blast and one of the real reasons that Matt’s songs truly matter to people. “Nothing is better than writing music that moves people. To watch people having a ball and singing the very words to the songs you wrote, is unlike anything else I know. I’m drawn to the cycle of making music I care about and entertaining people with it.”
Matt continues to write and tour. Country Love Song--the recently-released first single off his untitled new project, comes complete with a music video that can be viewed on this site. “I’m so excited to release new music. I feel like these fresh new songs are the best I’ve ever written and I can’t wait to share them,” he says. Look for his eagerly anticipated new project slated for full release in late 2016.