words: Marla Cantrell
Images: courtesy Matt Jones
An Arkansas Artist Making Waves in LA
Matt Jones is a singer/songwriter from Fayetteville, Arkansas, currently living and recording in Los Angeles. He grew up listening to a lot of Motown records, some rock and roll, and pop songs, so his music is a blend of all those. He calls it “Alternative R&B.” His new EP, titled Not So Long Ago, features material he’s recorded over the last seven years. Some of the songs are older tunes he used to play around town in Fayetteville, and some are brand new.
Do South® sat down with Matt to talk about what it’s like to earn a living as a musician, and what he misses most about Arkansas.
What instrument did you first play?
I got my first guitar when I was probably two or three years old. Just a little toy one that I could play around with. I remember being maybe about four and getting a full-sized guitar for Christmas and just falling in love with it. As with most kids though, I preferred playing outside to playing chords. It wasn’t until I was twelve or thirteen that I took the guitar seriously and really started to learn the instrument.
When did you know music was going to be your career?
I can’t pinpoint exactly when I first had the thought but it feels as if I’ve known pretty much my whole life. I do know when I was a teenager I thought it was going to be this amazing thing where I’d be rich, famous, with the world in my hand, you know? It wasn’t until my early twenties that I realized that’s not really what I was craving. It was then I turned my focus to writing songs that really deal with being a human on this crazy planet. I found peace knowing that what I wanted to do was to connect with people, no matter what kind of salary came with it.
When did you first perform for an audience?
I think I was fourteen years old. It was at U.S. Pizza on Dickson Street in Fayetteville, and a good friend of mine and I played in the set break for his dad’s band. It was probably horrible, but it felt amazing. My mom once told me she felt like I was singing straight out of the womb. She definitely helped me early on to grasp melodies and such. Still, to this day, I credit her as the reason I can pick out harmonies at all.
Who are you listening to these days?
My playlists range from Bob Marley, to Tool, to Clapton, to Queens of the Stone Age, to The Temptations. One of my favorite bands of all time is Third Eye Blind.
What does it feel like after you’ve finished writing a
song you’re particularly proud of?
The best songs feel like I’ve just magically stumbled upon this fully-written song that someone left behind for me to find. It’s kind of like falling in love, really. Your heart swells and you are lifted into a higher state of consciousness. There’s nothing else like it. In this world, at least.
What made you decide to move to L.A.?
My girlfriend is the main reason I decided to move. She really encouraged me to head out west and pursue my dream, and that was long before we were even dating. She’s just been the most amazing supporter of my music and the best friend anyone could ask for.
One thing people get wrong about L.A. is?
That it’s nothing like what you see in the movies. It’s not all Beverly Hills and movie stars. I mean, there are those things, sure, but it’s the minority. But the weather is exactly what you think it is: perfect.
What do you miss about Arkansas?
Sweet tea! And the southern hospitality. There’s a slower speed that everyone runs on in the South and that’s a nice breath of fresh air when I come back to visit. Not to mention the actual fresh air!
What’s the hardest lesson the music industry’s taught you?
That success is something you ultimately have to define for yourself. Others will try and define it for you based on things like how many albums you sell, or how much money you make, but it really comes down to what makes you happy. Do you enjoy your life? Are you fulfilled in what you’re doing day-to-day? If so, you’re probably more successful than a lot of people in this world.
What would you tell an aspiring artist who’s feeling a little hopeless right now?
I’d say, “Every single artist I’ve ever known has been exactly where you are right now. And sometimes, we find ourselves back there from time to time. The key, as artists, is to find a way to put that into our craft, because the truth is most human beings have feelings of hopelessness. You’re not alone. These emotions in songs (and all other forms of art), are what draw people into the song itself. The more honest you can be about how you’re feeling actually has a redeeming quality to someone listening, who’s feeling exactly like you are.”
What’s the biggest thrill of performing for a live audience?
There’s such an interesting relationship that develops between a performer and an audience. It’s sort of intimate while still maintaining a good distance. It’s hard to describe, I suppose. The thrill for me comes from the fact that I’m literally sharing some thoughts that I wrote down in a private journal somewhere and am now basically just sharing them in front of a room full of strangers.
What are you doing for Halloween?
I will be in my favorite place, the recording studio.
Where can we buy your album?
My new EP is available digitally on my website (mattjonesmusic.net) as well as iTunes™, Google Play™, Amazon™ and tons of streaming platforms such as Spotify™ and iHeartRadio™.