I came across Matthew Mayfield a few years ago when he was giving out some free music as he usually does each year as a ‘thank you’ to his fans for supporting him throughout the years, and I’ve been a listener and doting fan since. Matthew is such a genuine, down-to-earth and comical guy who treats all of his fans and friends the same. He’s the real deal in this often-times difficult, yet exciting business. This is my second interview with Matthew and we learn something new and insightful each time. Find out what he had to say about the music business, how he became solo and his advice to female and male guitarists (Hint: it’s good!)
Matthew is currently on tour with The Rock Boat from February 24-March 1st, and features such notable acts as Brandi Carlile, Tony Lucca, Sister Hazel, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, and Ben Rector, and many more.
GGM: For those that are unfamiliar with your music, please sum it up with three words.
MM: Two-faced folk/rock.
GGM: How do you think male and female musicians are bridging the barrier between what has been, for many years, a definitive line between women and men in music?
MM: For me, there’s never been a line. Women have written and performed some of the greatest music this planet has ever heard. I’ve seen certain genres outside of the folk/singer/songwriter world with very few female success stories. But when you see a legend like Joan Jett or a contemporary like Alison Mosshart (The Kills, Dead Weather) get up there with that sexy swagger with their boots up on the monitors, you realize it has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with the numbers. Women are simply outnumbered in rock ‘n roll. I hope more and more chicks pick up electric guitars and crank the amps to 10 in the future. We all need it.
GGM: Contemplating on the above question, what are the differences between women and men in music?
MM: I think the main difference is the obvious, more primitive observation. There’s a certain amount of testosterone required to do a specific set of things and there’s a certain amount of estrogen required to do a different set of things. A woman’s voice can change the temperature in the room I’m sitting in. Certain female singers can make my heart race and my jaw drop. There’s a raw tenderness in certain performances (Patty Griffin’s ‘Nobody’s Crying’) that can bring you to tears and there’s a biting viciousness that can break you in two (Stevie Nicks in ‘Silver Springs’ from The Dance tour). We’re just built differently and I love how we affect each other differently on a musical front.
GGM: You started out with Moses Mayfield, and shortly thereafter went solo. Why the change to solo Matthew Mayfield?
MM: That band was so much fun — some of the best times of my life. But we caught the final wave of the old school major label model. We signed to Epic, toured with some huge bands, spent an insane amount of money on the record, etc. only to get dropped and hung out to dry as a result of a regime change at the label. Once that happened, the wheels started to fall off. Once they did, I decided to make an acoustic record in a basement on the cheap and call it my name. Grey’s Anatomy called and that kickstarted the solo thing back in 2008. Been at it as a one man show ever since.
GGM: Tell us about your upcoming The Rock Boat Tour; how’d that come about? Any more tours in the future planned?
MM: The Boat should be a lot of fun and has potential to be quite the disaster :laughs: . A lot of my friends are gonna be on that boat, so there’s bound to be many stories to tell. Hopefully we’ll all make it back alive. As for touring, we’re working on some Spring/Summer dates as we speak.
GGM: Who are your favorite female musicians?
There are so many who I admire…all for different reasons. Patty Griffin and Brandi Carlile are up there on the list. Their voices and their writing blow my mind. They’re the kind of artists that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Patty has that angelic, pure tone…it puts me in a trance. Brandi is a powerhouse. She goes from a whisper to a scream so gracefully and I believe every word she sings. There’s a conviction in her live performance that’s unmatched. That’s the kind of passion that truly inspires me.
GGM: Anyone who knows you fairly well, knows you’re a pretty big fan of G N’ R; have any other bands/singers who fit in similar proximity?
MM: Guns was my first love as 9 year old kid. They’ll always have a special place in my rocknroll heart :laughs: . I love any band who can make your heart pound with a drum kit, a bass, a couple guitars, and a singer. Everything from Zeppelin to Aerosmith to Skynyrd to current acts like Foo Fighters, Jack White, Ryan Adams, and The Gaslight Anthem. They all are real players with real stories and real chops to back up their records. Nothing is perfect about them – which I love. The imperfections in live performance are what keep it human and in turn, interesting.
GGM: Have any advice for aspiring female (or male) musicians?
For females: Develop your chops because it will stand out. There are way to many chicks with guitars playing 3 chords over and over and only a few slots for success in that arena. Be the next Bonnie Raitt. Write amazing songs, play guitar like a pro, and figure out how to stand out in the crowd. Do it all yourself. Don’t rely on the promises of the most fickle industry on the planet.
For males: Don’t try to be the next Jimi Hendrix or Eddie Van Halen. Make it about the songs. Make it about the band. Too many dudes get too focused on chops and lose sight of the songs. There a thousand people that can play guitar better than you. Figure out a way to blaze your own trails. It’s crucial. I’ve been at it full time for 11 years and still grinding away. Patience and perseverance are everything these days.
GGM: What do you think of the overall music industry today? Think it’s getting better, in-between, or faltering?
MM: Depends on what day you ask me :laughs: . Sometimes I get really inspired by the new direct-to-fan thing. I think it’s cool to connect with the people who support your art. However, I miss the magic and the mystique of the bands I grew up listening to. I miss having to use my imagination as to what a live show would be like til they came through town. I couldn’t just go on the Internet and see everything they’ve ever done, watch every interview, and see every photo. There was something about the lack of access that made it so much more fun. But that’s all gone now and I’m adapting as best I can. You have to in order to survive in this climate. It’s easier than ever to make a record in your bedroom. In some cases, that’s amazing. In others, it’s awful. I know people who have ‘put records out’ who recorded it on their phone and uploaded it to Soundcloud. There’s an art to making a proper record and I value having producers and engineers around to help shape the sonics and get to the core of the song. Call me old school, but unless you’re one of the few virtuosos you’re going to benefit from surrounding yourself with talented, driven individuals.
GGM: If you weren’t playing music, what would you be doing?
MM: I suppose the only way that would happen would be if I lost my arms in some sort of accident. If that were the case, I guess I’d have to learn to play and write with my toes. I’ve always heeded this advice: If you have a plan B, go do that. Because if you do, you’ll never survive much less succeed in music.
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