Published on July 3rd, 2020 | by Al Geiner0
Q the A …Matt Westin
Matt Westin is an international country recording artist. Born and raised in a blue-collar, middle-class suburb of Pittsburgh, PA, Matt has been acting and singing since he was young. While attending Carnegie Mellon University pursuing a degree in engineering, Westin taught himself to sing. He found true fulfillment in acting and singing and walked away from a promising career in engineering. With the influences of many legendary artists ranging from Johnny Cash to Garth Brooks, to Frank Sinatra, Matt found his voice. The thrill of live performance fed his passion as he honed his vocal ability in bars and clubs around Pittsburgh for over a decade.
Tragically, after a bravely fought battle with Leukemia, in April 2016 Matt’s father succumbed to complications with chemotherapy. A true family man, Matt was devastated and struggled day to day with the reality of his father’s death. After months of depression, Matt decided to honor his father’s memory by finally pursuing his music career, as his father had always encouraged. Deciding to make a country record in his father’s honor, and being introduced by a mutual friend to world-class musician/songwriter/producer Bryan Cole, the stage was set.
Bryan took on the project as a producer, believing in his talent and vision and guiding Matt in making a world-class country record. Bryan recruited longtime friend and mix engineer Doug Kasper to record and mix the record at nearby Tonic Recording Studios. With the right songs, legendary musicians Mike Brignardello (bass) and Steve Hinson (steel guitar), and an amazing up and coming musician, Adam Ernst, Matt released his debut record “Legacy,” in honor of his father in 2018. The album was later dubbed the IMEA Country Album of the Year.
Matt is currently in the process of recording his upcoming single “Thin Blue Line,” and is slated to play Johnny Cash in the independent film 116 MacDougal that will start filming later this year in Pittsburgh.
What first got you into music?
I’ve been involved in music since I was a kid in school, playing different instruments in the band and orchestra throughout the years, but I didn’t get into singing until I was in college. Honestly, I couldn’t sing very well when I was a kid. So, I taught myself to sing by emulating guys like Sinatra, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks, and Toby Keith. It became a passion of mine. Basically, it all started by singing in the shower, in the car, at church, and eventually at karaoke bars and with cover bands.
Who inspired you to make music?
My father greatly enjoyed my singing when I was a karaoke DJ, and he always encouraged me to pursue it. When he passed away in 2016, after going through a very dark and difficult time, I decided to honor his memory by dedicating an album to him. My debut album “Legacy” ended up changing my life forever. With the help of God, my family, my friends, and music, I was able to turn a tragedy into triumph and give my life a new path and purpose.
How would you describe the music that you typically create?
My music is country-rock, including elements of classic and outlaw country, with a bit of a modern influence, but staying true to the classic country roots. It’s not the pop music they pass off as country music today.
What is your creative process like?
When I’m writing, whether it’s alone or with a partner, inspiration can really come from anywhere. I always say that it’s important to throw any idea out there, even if it sounds stupid, because it may lead to a great idea. I can’t force a song. My head has to be in the right place in order for the creative flow to work. But, having a basic outline of the story or message of the song and what feeling or thoughts it’s conveying to the audience really helps to kick start the creative flow.
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
There are so many artists I’d love to work with, past and present. But off the top of my head, I’d currently like to collaborate with Toby Keith. I know he’s kind of past his prime, but his kind of music has rubbed off on me. The testosterone, the humor, the fun, the rock edge, the patriotic, and relatable messages have all resonated with me. Plus, I’d like to hear his Willie Nelson stories.
If you could go open a show for any artist who would it be?
Garth Brooks. I recently saw him in concert, and it was obvious how much he enjoyed being up there and engaging the crowd in a personal and wholehearted way. His shows have amazing energy, great fans, and he’s one of my influences going all the way back to when I was a young kid.
What is one message you would give to your fans?
Thank you for your support through this journey I am taking. I hope I can be an inspiration to people through my story of tragedy to triumph.
Do you sing in the shower? What songs?
Of course! That’s how I learned, remember?! Nowadays, I usually sing my own tunes in the shower or songs that I’m trying to learn. I’ll never forget the one time years ago that my parents came home to me singing New York, New York in the shower. I had no idea they were home. As soon as the water turned off, I heard my dad from downstairs yell “hey New York” to let me know that they were home. I was so embarrassed, but I’m sure they were smiling and got a real kick out of it.
What would you be doing right now, if it wasn’t for your music career?
I’d probably still be pursuing acting. I lived in LA for a year, but my father passed away and I had to move back home to Pittsburgh for my own mental and emotional health. Although, I am still involved in acting. I was cast as a young Johnny Cash in the upcoming film 116 MacDougal. So, my love for music and acting have collided in a wonderful way.
Where have you performed? What are your favorite and least favorite venues? Do you have any upcoming shows?
I, unfortunately, haven’t performed in many places for my own music, but I sing in a rock cover band with my cousins in a handful of local venues (all of which have been canceled due to the pandemic). I have performed my music at a New Year’s Eve event in Pittsburgh and also at a large community event at my high school, where I was honored as one of their distinguished alumni recently. I’m currently trying to build a band so I can perform more regularly when the venues are back open for music.
How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?
The internet has made it possible for me to get my name and my music out there to the entire planet. I’ve charted in countries all over the world, and my music has played on jukeboxes all over the country. However, I am one fish in an enormous pond, due to the relative ease in which people can get their music out there. So, it’s really a double-edged sword.
What is your favorite song to perform?
My favorite song of mine to perform is “Hey Bro”. It’s about the bond between people who go through hell together, your “brother from another mother”, the people who you’d die for, and the love and trust that can never be broken. This song means a lot to me, and I dedicated it to my cousin who almost died last summer. He gets choked up and pumped up every time he hears it.
What is the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?
I’ve never been grounded. I’ve never been arrested. That’s not saying I’m perfect, it just means I never got caught! But I’ve managed to avoid trouble for most of my life, so I am very thankful for that. I credit my faith and my upbringing for that.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
Be true to yourself. I tell everyone that. I’ve realized that pleasing other people is a sure way to make yourself miserable. I “wasted” 10 years of my life in pursuing and working as an engineer, just because I did what I was supposed to do and what was a safe path that was available to me. I found out very quickly that happiness is more complicated than that, and my heart was screaming for a creative outlet and a sense of purpose and passion.
If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be? ·
There are so many things that should change, but one thing that really upsets me in the current stage of my career is that streams don’t make me much money at all. I have hundreds of thousands of streams, from enough people to fill multiple stadiums, but I’ve only made a couple of hundred bucks. It’s very discouraging and frustrating.
What’s next for you?
I will be releasing a new single called “Redneck Hallelujah” in the coming weeks, and then recording a handful of new songs to complete my upcoming second album. I’m planning to record in Nashville. I was originally scheduled to record at Sony in April, but the pandemic shutdown forced me to postpone it until later this summer.
How important is the current climate crisis to you and how do you think you could help?
I think if we just do our parts personally to be good stewards of our planet, while always working to improve technology, everything will be just fine. I don’t buy into the alarmism from politicians and activists who all have agendas. I actually read an article today about a brand new book called “Apocalypse Never”, from an award-winning and renowned environmental policy writer and climate activist, about how alarmism actually is hurting all of us and that there is a ton of misinformation being fed to us. But regardless of my views on climate, I always personally do my part to conserve energy and live in the most environmentally friendly way I can!Tweet