Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – J. Matthews

Photo courtesy of Pressed Fresh PR.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

Indie-pop extraordinaire J. Matthews is all about courage.

The namesake of his EP released earlier this year, ‘Courage’ chronicles Matthews’ college struggles and romantic insecurities as he evolved into his adult self and features four tracks – “Courage For Fools,” “Wanderlust,” “For You” and “Nothing To Fear.”

Matthews leans into his natural lyric-writing abilities to support both himself and his fans’ outlooks on life. As bleak as it can be sometimes, there’s always a deeper message beneath the words themselves.

The Music Bugle had the opportunity to talk with Matthews about which of his new songs “speaks to him” the most, what the creative process for ‘Courage’ was like and much more, which you can check out below.

Music Bugle – What was the moment that made you want to pursue music? 

J. Matthews – The moment that truly made me want to pursue music was when I performed at my high school talent show. I was a pretty insecure kid and didn’t put myself out there in fear of rejection, but my senior year, I decided to get up on stage and change that. That talent show turned out to be one of the best nights of my life. I sang “My Way” by Frank Sinatra and killed the performance, so much so that the applause actually kept me from finishing the song. I always thought I had a talent and passion that people could appreciate, but that moment showed me it wasn’t just in my head. Since then, I’ve been working towards my dream of pursuing music in realization that my dreams weren’t ever that far-fetched. 

Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music? 

J. Matthews – My style of music is both fluid and exploratory, resulting in what I’d describe as a fresh and exciting pop sound. I appreciate every genre of music, from Beethoven to Skrillex to N.W.A to John Mayer. I find that some genres capture certain emotions and stories better than others and if I wouldn’t limit myself as a listener, why limit myself as a writer? When writing songs, I find the genres of music that best reflect the story I’m trying to convey and combine them to give my songs originality. 

Music Bugle – What was the creative process like for you making your EP ‘Courage’ – what was your overall goal? 

J. Matthews – The creative process for the EP was a bit messy, but full of growth and honesty. This EP was my first time making and performing original music, so I had to teach myself new skills. I have always been a singer/songwriter and haven’t had much experience as a producer, but after support from my team and finding my groove with production, things started to come together. This autobiographical EP tells the story of my personal growth over the past 4 years. I titled the EP ‘Courage’ because I’ve found that courage is instrumental in trying to grow or change. The goal was for listeners to resonate with each step of my journey towards confidence and for that narrative to ultimately aid them on their own respective self-love journeys. 

Music Bugle – Which one of your new songs “speaks to you” the most? 

J. Matthews – Everything I write is close to my heart in some respect, but if I had to choose one song, it would be “Wanderlust.” This track perfectly captures the depressive feelings I was experiencing at the time. Back then, I felt like my life wasn’t as cool or whole as the lives of other people I saw traveling and partying through social media. I didn’t know if I was living my life wrong, or if I was doing too little and was running out of time to do certain things. I saw people succeeding, or at least putting on the appearance of success and often wondered how they got there and why I couldn’t get there. On top of the FOMO, my love life made no sense and my friends couldn’t give me advice because they were struggling with the same things as me. All of this uncertainty with relationships, success and the pressures of time took a serious toll on me and I didn’t even know how to talk about it. I wanted to escape, mentally and physically, so I decided to write a song about the emotions I was processing. The lyrics poured out of me in 10 minutes and eventually turned into “Wanderlust.”

Music Bugle – What makes you the most proud about where you come from?

J. Matthews – The hard working nature of my family and our culture makes me proud of where I come from. I come from a family of Italian immigrants and old-school American farmers and so my family has determination ingrained in their DNA. My grandfather moved to the UK at the young age of 15 to work and send money back to his family in the US. My grandmother worked in the fields of her family’s farm alongside her brothers from the moment she could walk. The pizza and pasta my grandparents made for us growing up is some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had, proving how much they cared about cooking and family even after working long, hard days. I’m also very proud of the small town I grew up in in Connecticut. It is full of humble, down-to-earth people that helped mold me into the man I am today. I made lifelong friends and memories there, which I will cherish forever. 

Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians? 

J. Matthews – I think that social media is half positive and half negative for musicians. Social media provides artists with the power to promote themselves and connect with fans across the globe. This is an invaluable asset for independent artists, being as though not many of us have the money to launch massive campaigns for our new releases. In my eyes, social media is all about interesting content and producing a lot of it. The more an artist feeds TikTok, YouTube and Instagram algorithms, the more those platforms work to boost awareness. The issue with this process is that artists often don’t have the time or energy to generate massive amounts of interesting content while managing their music, working 9-5 jobs and spending time with friends/family. Most artists would prefer to make music and outsource marketing strategies, but indie artists don’t have the monetary assets to support that system. Social media also creates a terrible environment for mental health. I get severe FOMO from social media, which I express in my song “Wanderlust.” 

Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep going? 

J. Matthews – There are many quotes that motivate me, but I’ve learned that the best advice tends to come from being honest with yourself and trusting your own experience. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I was raised to see the positive aspects within every mishap or bump in the road. The quote that keeps me going is, “For every shadow, there is a light.” This quote serves as a reminder that there can be a lesson in every mistake, opportunity for change in every tragedy and good in every human. Sometimes, light isn’t right in front of us, but depending on your life outlook, it can be right beside you or within you – waiting to be found. 

Music Bugle – What was the last show that you binged? 

J. Matthews – The last show that I binged was “Narcos” on Netflix. I’m a huge Pedro Pascal and Boyd Holbrook fan and I love films and shows based off of historical events. I got hooked pretty quickly because the show did a great job of breaking down the history of the drug war in South America. Wagner Moura was phenomenal as Pablo Escobar and his performance kept me hooked the entire time. Most of the show is in Spanish and it made me want to learn more about the language. I have a few Spanish-speaking friends and ever since finishing “Narcos,” I’ve been pestering them to teach me the language!

Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need a break?

J. Matthews – One place is this vineyard that is close to my hometown. It stands on a hill overlooking the surrounding towns and there is always a cool breeze up there. There is also a magical place in CT called the Thimble Islands that I go to decompress sometimes. These islands are all private, with some having a singular house and others having multiple. I’ve written a lot of music while relaxing in both of these spots, so they both hold a special place in my heart. 

Music Bugle – What does today’s music industry need less of?

J. Matthews – Today’s music industry needs more authenticity and less trend-related content. So many modern hits come from TikTok or other social media and almost all of them are tied to some viral trend. My goal for creating music is for it to be timeless and unique – not forgotten about as soon as a trend dies off or is replaced with a new fad. Although, I think the quick fix of one-hit-wonders is indicative of my generation’s shallow nature, I’ve recently noticed an increase in new artists that have real substance and genuine personality, like David Kushner and Lizzie McAlpine. Artists such as these give me hope that we as a society are getting back to music with soul and raw emotion.


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