BroBible Talks With Matthew Koma about Clarity, Bruce Springsteen and Acoustic Covers
BroBible: What is your other favorite song besides Clarity that you’ve written that you enjoy playing most acoustically?
Matthew Koma: I’d have to say Spectrum was an interesting song to write because it kinda felt like we cracked the code or the recipe that kinda worked with that song. Especially while touring through Europe, that was one of the songs that [the fans] really responded to have and come to know. There’s definitely something special about that song, kinda being the firestarter as far as the first song I featured on in that world and kinda the beginning of Zedd and my collaborations, which we’ve done a bunch of since.
I saw your a big Springsteen fan so when/how did you make that transition to working with these modern day “EDM” artists? I know you’re signed through Interscope, were they kinda like “Hey we got these artists that we want you to work with.” or was it something a bit more organic?
Zedd’s manager Dave Rene had heard my voice on some other hooks and other songs I’ve written. He came up with the idea of doing a bunch of writing on stuff outside of my usual lane because I had written and done so much production for other artists. He sent me a track by Sebastian Ingrosso & Alesso called ‘Calling’ and asked me to write on it and I wrote the song that Ryan Tedder sang on called Calling (Lose My Mind) and that was the first song I had written in the “EDM” world. From there Years came and although Zedd and I were friends for about a year prior, Spectrum was the first thing we sat in the room and worked on; it was kind of an accident to be honest. I never listened to “EDM” or belonged to that particular scene and came from a different place in the way that I approach writing those songs which is why there is a unique marriage between the way I write songs and the way the DJs I collaborate with do.
It’s been really cool seeing you getting picked up and shopped around as a vocalist and songwriter for the titans of the electronic music scene, yet you listen to your solo work like your latest single One Night and it’s such a wildly different side of your persona. It’s awesome to see the gap bridged that way artistically.
When it comes down to it, I think there’s no way of knowing what people will react to. I think there has been a bit of a learning process to see people reacting songs to Spectrum or Clarity or Years; you don’t know that kind of reaction is being born or that there is that kind of attraction to what you do until you see it happening. It’s kinda like you’re throwing a bunch of fish out there and one will be caught. There has been a bit of an adjustment to seeing people respond to that part of my personality; it's probably my most sincere part. A song like One Night is also a part of my personality; it’s fun and it’s different from I think what people are used to hearing me from but it’s definitely exciting to find ways to bridge the gap and have people connecting the dot between the voice that they’ve been hearing on these songs and what my record is, which can appeal to people in those worlds but it’s also something that’s been rooted for my entire life in something quite different.
I can’t even imagine. I’d read that you had been working on your album for a year and a half and you go out out on the road and, maybe it’s the fresh air or just being in the live environment and away from the studio must’ve really struck a chord with you. What’s that creative rush like when you go back to the studio and record “Arcadia” in 3 weeks? That has to be something unlike what most artists get a chance to experience.
I think I'm a bit schizophrenic when it comes to my music and even who i am at times and i think i enjoy that. The only way i know how to get out of that space is to get into a new space and continue writing songs and i tend to write a lot of songs and experiment a lot with different productions and thats why i enjoy working on other artists’ songs because i feel like you have an outlet without having to be overly precious about it. It’s not yours, you get to design a tshirt for someone else to wear and if it looks cool it looks cool and if it doesn't then it’s not something you have to wear if for your life. But with my music, i’m not precious with it, but i’m precious with it while it’s being made so I think if a process or recording spurt can be inspired by something like a tour where there’s a lot of fan connection and you’re seeing what people are responding to firsthand then thats valuable information to have.
Yeah its a little bit like product research; I remember reading awhile back that Mumford & Sons does almost all of their writing while on the road and tests new material out live. If the song gets a huge reaction then great, but if it doesn’t really do much for the crowd they kinda scrap it and start from square one.
Yeah, you can get so in your own head and I think there’s while in the creative process you always have to be obsessed with what that process is and obsessed with whatever art is coming out in that moment but I think when you’re talking about whether or not it appeals or connects, its not really up to your or in your knowledge base to know what will. I think eventually you develop an audience who you’re speaking to and it’s a lot easier to know what your connect is with them but as you're a new artist developing that, it remains to be seen. Growing up i never thought that the beginning of my audience would be a platform of people listening to EDM music…it’s never been something that i’ve ever related to in that way so it would be hard to ever foresee that but here we are.
You’ve definitely worked with some of the biggest names, even on the writing end, like writing Clarity with artists like Porter Robinson & Skylar Grey and obviously Zedd, that kind of mashing of the minds & being in the room with such talented people had to be a great experience for anyone who loves music…
…Never met Porter; I was never physically in the room with him. I think Zedd and him worked on a track which they then put the 'Clarity' acapella on top of if I remember that process correctly. Zedd had sent me another track that I had written 'Clarity' to and when I sent it back, him and Porter had a track which he felt the vocal was more appropriate for. So, even that process, as with most things, there's 10,000 different ways a song can come together, ya know? Sometimes it's the magic of all being in the same room and I've had special sessions like that when four minds are in the room and all feeding off eachother. Other times, such as with Clarity, Zedd and Porter have a track that they worked on way long ago and I’m writing on a song when I’m on tour and those co-exist; it’s definitely interesting to see how those things piece together.
Literally just walking here I heard a song blasting Clarity so it’s interesting to think that that now exists in the world. I think that was something that was a private moment for all of us individually whether it was my writing it or zedd working on his portion or porter working on his portion; it’s interesting to think that all those private moments that seem intimate can connect in that wide of a way.
It’s interesting, because even One Night being the kind of song that resonates closer to my roots, there’s something about the songs I’m writing in the EDM world that are seeming to mean something to people which is just as important as a song that makes people feel good or makes people forget things and laugh or have fun. Music is everything, music is motion it’s something you take on a journey it’s something for entertainment it’s so many things but it’s definitely been a rewarding process to see that music that i’ve been a part of has been able to live in people’s lives, it’s something that makes me feel something.
It’s crazy you’ve known you wanted to do this for such a long time. You got a publishing deal at 16? That’s crazy.
I grew up in NY and I had bands that i had played in since i was 14 and kinda punk rock bands and did the circuit for a long time and toured independently for a long time…kinda been all over the map so it’s been a long road to be a “new artist” that everyone’s discovering but those were important years and those were very important experiences to have under the belt to kinda be where we’re at right now, we wouldn’t have been here without those experiences.
I know this is kinda a generic question but do you have a dream collaboration in mind…
I worked with Springsteen last year which was awesome; I produced his last single which was incredible and an insane experience. He had a song which they came to me and asked me to produce a remix because they wanted to release it as a single, so me and Ron got to work on it. It was definitely a dream come true being able to hear that on the radio and having been a part of it.