Hope you are doing well during these times of social distancing. Taking care of yourself and others. Just wanted to say thank you to everyone doing their part as we ride out this global health issue.
A while ago I interviewed a piano colleague of mine named Matthew Mayer. If you enjoy my music then you’ll enjoy Matthew’s music. At the end of the interview is a playlist of our music and more to help you focus and calm during these times. Enjoy!
PW: Hi Matthew. Thank you kindly for taking the time to talk to me today.
MM: Thank you Philip, I really appreciate the opportunity to chat with you!
PW: Please tell us about your background?
MM: My background traces back to a small town in South Dakota where I grew up. It’s a town called Canistota and had about 700 or so people. Looking back on my childhood, I realized just how lucky I was to grow up in that kind of community. You were involved in everything from music to sports, to helping out your neighbors when needed. After high school I went to college at the University of South Dakota. Started out as a music major, but then switched to business and was close to a music minor still taking collegiate piano lessons, composition, aural and written music theory etc. After graduation, I started at course with a professor called “The Business of Music” which combined the Fine Arts and Business Departments into a special topics course. It was a lot of fun. After that, I worked at NBC’s Access Hollywood for a couple of years, and then eventually came back to get my MBA.
PW: What did you want to be when you grew up?
MM: When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a doctor. I was always reading about the human body. I was also a naturally smiley and outgoing person, so I think fate was pointing me in a direction of being around people regardless:)
PW: How old were you when you first started playing the piano?
MM: I was around 12 years old. Ironically it was shortly after my Grandpa Gene Webster had passed away (who was an amazing piano player).
PW: Who where your earliest music influences?
MM: For sure, my earliest influence was George Winston. We had his records at home, and I remember one song in particular “Thanksgiving” would just hit me to my core every time I heard it. There was a sense of both beauty, and desolation in that song and the way he could get a melody like that out, had me hooked. Also his music made a lot of sense to me as he grew up in Montana and I had similar changes of seasons in South Dakota. His seasonal approach to music, I understood.
PW: What got you into playing the piano?
MM: When I was 12, I seemed to just have “picked it up”. My first teacher, Art Cooper, really stretched me in the beginning. He had me learning Rag Time pieces like “Alley Cat” and “Maple Leaf Rag” out of the gate. He also played with a vigor I really liked…..(and no, you can’t have too much sustain pedal?). I think the Rag Time style really helped me with my left hand, as there can be a lot of keyboard space you have to cover in the left hand given the way it jumps around. I then started to understand composition and I was finding a lot of fun coming up with stuff on my own. It was like a playground to me, and I could explore away.
PW: When did you know that you wanted to be a solo piano artist?
MM: When I was in high school, I knew I wanted to release a solo piano album. I didnt have the funds or means to do it, until I got into college. I joke with people that I wasn’t old enough to go into bars, but I did release my first album when I was 20:). When I finished that album, I knew that it was the start of a life long journey of being a solo artist.
PW: What inspires you musically?
MM: So many things. People, travel, life in general. I like writing from a space of contemplation and to try and get the listener to not just hear notes, but to really think about the title, the story before the song, and I want to relate with whoever is listening.
PW: Your most favorite song in your catalog?
MM: There is probably a tie on this one. Beyond was a song I wrote when I lived in California, and it is one of my all time favorites. I also like my first variation of Dreams, which was released on my first album “Crossing the Bridge”. I end my concerts with song, and since it was a melody I had written when I was in high school, it is one that helps me realize dreams do come true.
PW: Biggest joy in your career/life?
MM: Besides family, I think for me it’s the joy of being able to Create. There is nothing more satisfying to me then “making” something, or creating something that has never existed before.
PW: Biggest struggle in your career/life?
MM: That’s a good question. I would answer struggle…… in more of a general way……..As in, we all have to overcome hurdles when we strive for our own goals. It can be a struggle when you are doing things that feel like you are a lone ranger out there……that’s when you have to be 100% confident in your subconscious and STILL follow it. Sometimes that comes with a lot of struggle, but that’s when you also explore new territories and see the fruits of labor produced by taking chances, working hard, and being uniquely you.
PW: Advice you’d give to up and coming artists?
MM: Listen to your inner voice and ACT on it. Even when it’s challenged (and it’s going to be). Not always challenged in the way of “you can’t” but challenged in the way life can try to distract or cloud your creative goals. Don’t let it. Also, be in it for the LONG term. If I had been in this for money, I would have quit after my first album in 1999, 20 years later releasing albums and in a way I feel like I’ve just started! Have fun, Be You, and GO FOR IT!
PW: How do you want to be remembered?
MM: As someone who made a difference, in a positive way, in this world.
PW: Thanks Matthew!