Matt Stell has burst onto the country scene with his single “Prayed For You“. The track written by Stell, Allison Veltz and Ash Bowers has already racked up over 13 million (with an “m”) streams on Spotify, is featured on listener favorite playlists like Hot Country and New Boots and has just gone to radio.
Matt hails from a small town in Arkansas. One which he is grateful to have grown up in, and makes a point to get back to see him family as often as he can. The Arkansas native’s first love, was not music however, but basketball. It was basketball that took him to Drew University in Springfield, Missouri. It was there, Stell’s love for music kicked in as he found himself hiding his developing songwriting career from his college basketball coach much of his senior season.
Now, after landing in Nashville over five years ago Matt’s career as an artist is looking bright. He’s surrounded himself with an amazing team including Ash Bowers (whom you might recognize as a producer and writer on breakout star Jimmie Allen’s debut album, Mercury Lane). But Matt’s road to “Prayed For You” is not the one most traveled. In fact, it includes some serious, fork in the road, life-changing decisions Stell had to make that lead him to this very moment.
Walk us through your time after college leading up to deciding to move to Nashville.
Matt: Right after college I fell head-first into country music. My first taste of music had a lot to do with the Texas scene. I spent a lot of time in a van and trailer touring the South and Midwest on my own. I had some success writing some songs with some bigger artists there that did well on their charts. I finally decided to see if I could do that in Nashville. After being in and out a week a month I finally moved here full-time about five years ago now.
You went on a mission trip in Haiti after living in Nashville for a while that lead to you applying and being accepted into the pre-med program at Harvard. You made a choice to turn down your acceptance and stay in Nashville to pursue music. How did you go about making that huge decision?
Matt: I knew music would always be a part of my life, but didn’t know how much of my life exactly. I moved to Nashville with writing songs on my mind. I love being an artist, but I love writing songs equally. I had had some irons in the fire and had some things that didn’t pan out, luckily. I was asking ‘how much time do I dedicate to this without seeing the results I want?’ Looking back it was a blessing that it didn’t work out because I fell in with the team I’m a part of now that I’m so thankful to be a part of.
Probably six weeks before I got accepted to Harvard, I met Ash Bowers who runs a publishing and management company that I’m a part of now. We met through two great friends I co-write with, who had mentioned me in a write with Ash one day. I almost felt that with that opportunity with Ash, if I left, I would be leaving a stone unturned. I felt like it would be quitting if I left and I couldn’t stand that. It was a real pivotal point. I’m a big believer in taking advantage of opportunities even if you’re unsure and I haven’t regretted that decision once.
Do you have more music coming soon?
Matt: I’m glad you asked that question, we’re actually working on new music right now. I should have some mixes back on the next day or two on some songs I’m really excited about. We’ll have an EP coming this spring.
Every artist is influenced and inspired by dozens of other artists throughout the span of their career. With that said, if you were to pick your musical parents who would they be?
Matt: I would say it’s a tie between Bonnie Raitt and Alanis Morissette as my mother. I love alternative 90’s music. Even in the studio now, when I’m co-producing, I find myself making choices off things I heard in Jagged Little Pill. I I would flatter myself to say Waylon Jennings would be my father. I love his balance of sweet love songs but also this outlaw side. I just want to approach music in a similar way.