Matthew Mayfield is one of my favorite artists. Hands down. With every release, he strives to find something to change, and he continues to build. It is baffling how he has managed to surround himself with such supportive artists, friends that help him in his development. Currently, Mayfield is raising support to help get the latest EP, Irons in the Fire, the proper promotion it undoubtedly deserves. For more information on how you can take part in this project, check out the following link: Pledge
Why the choice of doing a new EP, rather than an LP?
Mayfield : Well it's somewhere in the middle. Eight tracks. Four brand new songs, two remasters, an acoustic tune, and a remix of 'Fire Escape' from Catherine Marks (The Killers, PJ Harvey) featuring John Paul White of The Civil Wars. I'm gonna make it a point to keep the price low for fans that may already have a couple of the tunes.
What did you and Paul Moak focus on this time around? Was it just you guys in the studio again? If not, who did you bring in?
M: Moak and I have a unique musical kinship. It took us a while to learn each other as artists, but once we did, we started seeing that we were truly sharpening each other and challenging each other. He's a brilliant, musical mind. I wanted to try some new things and get some fresh sounds in the mix while keeping the organic elements at the forefront.
How did the material for Irons In the Fire come together (writing wise)? Did you write it during a specific time frame?
M: As always, it's a bit all over the place. I wrote 'Miles & Miles', 'Look Me In The Eye', and 'Follow You Down' on the road with NEEDTOBREATHE this past fall. When it comes to creativity, I'm either on fire or I'm burned out. Being around talented folks like the NEED(TOBREATHE) boys and Good Old War inspires you in a bit of a subliminal way. You don't know it's happening, but all those sound checks and shows paired with 9 different musical minds and the right amount of spare time makes for a perfect storm. I've been on fire ever since.
Would you say that this album is a departure from your previous record? Is it a harder, more rock album?
M: Irons has a little bit of everything on it. The opening track, 'In Or Out', is certainly the heaviest thing I've put out in a while. Felt so good to turn up and dig in again. Songs like 'Miles & Miles' and 'Look Me In The Eye' are new territory for me especially when it comes to the guitar sounds. I wanted to keep the acoustics in the back and let those jangly electrics be the foundation. I kept referencing Springteen's The River in the studio because there's a magic to those guitar tones that I wanted to try and find. So rich and warm, but never overkill.
M: Today it's 'Miles & Miles'. I struggled to find that song. I chased it relentlessly for months. I had a great verse, but couldn't find the chorus to save my life. It was like a fight with your girlfriend, sometimes it's best to step away and come back when the dust has settled a bit. One night I came home from the bar and sat on the floor in the dark. I went through the verse once and the chorus just arrived out of nowhere. Those moments are gifts. I didn't sleep a wink that night. Nothing gets me more riled up than a great melody.
You have a very loyal fan base; what would you say is the key to developing one?
M: I'm so fortunate to have fans that not only support me, but seem to understand who I am as artist for the most part. They allow me to try new things and to explore new territory. It may not always be their thing, but I'm grateful for the opportunity. I think the most important thing is to realize that at the end of the day, your job as an artist is to deliver your best art to anyone who will open their ears. I focus on giving them content more than anything. My heroes didn't win me over with gimmicks. They won me over with songs. That's all I ever hope to accomplish. The rest falls into place naturally.
Where did the idea to do a covers album come from? Did your devotion to karaoke fuel the idea? Do you have any hints on the Covers EP or the release date?
M: I think the same part of me that loves Def Leppard's 'Pyromania' also loves the idea of drunken anthems being shouted to the heavens at 2 am in some dive down the street (laughs). But this set of covers came about a bit differently. The Covers Collection is a record for the fans. They have asked for these songs for quite a while and the time was finally right to give it to them. I enjoy exploring these songs and making them my own, but I mostly just wanted to give my fans what they'd been asking for. It will be available exclusively at Pledge Music, so every dime we make will go towards the promotion and marketing of Irons.
How did the live EP come together? Who did you work with? Where was it recorded? Are you pleased with the result? Release date?
M: The live thing was a lot of fun. On the last tour, I had a lot of recording capability at my fingertips since I was out with a band that carried their own console. My friend Mikey Reaves (NEEDTOBREATHE's monitor tech) was running sound for me every night, so we found a good mic and just went for it. It's 5 songs, 5 cities. Just me and my guitar. Mikey did an incredible job on the mix by incorporating the dynamics to keep the live feel. It's another exclusive at Pledge Music .
You recently tweeted that you turned down "The Voice." What motivated you to make that decision?
M: A lot of folks thought it was a jab at other folks who have gone that route. It wasn't at all. It's just not me. I mean, can you see me up there with a big smile on my face during Tina Turner night on Team Adam? Me neither. I also know myself well enough to stay away from anything that has a shot-out-of-a-cannon vibe. My personality could never handle that kind of swing. If I get there at a steady pace, then great. But you don't wanna be on the cover of People Magazine when all you've done is sing karaoke on TV and gotten a record deal that won't last. I don't want fame without true fans. One minute you're flying high, the next you're doing commercials for the local car dealership. I'd rather jump off a building.
Over the years you have seen some huge successes within your close community of musicians. How would you say you celebrate the successes of your peers? Are they ever bittersweet?
M: Man, it's been amazing to watch. The NEEDTOBREATHE guys, JP and Joy(The Civil Wars), Will Hoge, too many to name, honestly. I couldn't be happier for them because they've truly paid their dues. They are blue collar acts. They've worked their asses off for years and years and it's starting to pay off. It always gives me chill bumps to listen to these huge crowds singing songs I've heard for years. I feel like a proud mother. Ha. I may have cried like one sidestage a time or two as well. Tears of joy are a rarity.
You will be using PledgeMusic.com again to help raise funds to promote the projects. What initially attracted you to this process? What can fans look forward to seeing in the pledge levels this time around?
M: I was introduced to Pledge by my old manager, Brian Klein (Joe Purdy, Fitz & The Tantrums). He's a DIY hero and taught me so much about the new world while we worked together. This time, my favorite incentives are The Live EP and The Covers Collection. I love being able to deliver music to the people who want it most. If you pledge, you'll get something that only a few folks have. I also have some handwritten lyrics, guitars, private shows, etc available. Every dime will go towards the promotion and marketing of the next release. I hate it, but properly promoting a record as an independent artist is really expensive. I figure the best way to get the money is to make sure everyone wins and gets quality, exclusive content. That's my favorite part about the service Pledge provides.
I know you've answered this for me before, but this is worth repeating: What kind of advice would you give to an artist starting out?
M: The best advice I can give is this: do everything yourself. Learn how to be your own manager, agent, label, and promoter. I've been through seasons where all of those elements were in place and others where none of them were. You've gotta adapt if you're gonna survive. That's the new world. I wish we could all be rock stars with no worries besides where to find more cocaine and who was getting us to the tarmac for the next jet ride, but sadly those days are gone.
What have some of the advantages and disadvantages of going the "independent" route as a musician, and adopting many of the DIY practices?
M: I got signed to a major label when I was 21 with my band, Moses Mayfield. We were wined and dined. I thought I had won the lottery because all I had ever dreamed of was being a rock'n'roll star. We got a big advance and made a super expensive record in some of the country's most incredible studios. But that was 8 years ago. The industry has completely changed and been turned upside down by the digital wave as well as the streaming wave. Artists have to find other means of paying expenses. Everything costs money: gas, food, hotels, guitar strings, drum heads, oil changes...the list never ends. Our expenses are moderate in the studio and insane on the road. So it's important for music fans to realize that buying a record, coming to a show, and spreading the word about the music you love is more important than it ever has been. Supporting independent artists isn't about charity, it's about believing in the underdogs. It's about artists who view music as a true craft, not a means of becoming rich and famous. It's about knowing that if the fans don't make waves and create buzz, the artist will never be able to survive in today's climate. It's brutal.
In every love story there is a potential for both euphoria and pain. as you mentioned, many of your songs focus on post-breakup stories of grief and pain. What about all of the good parts of a love story? Does this show up in your writing?
M: There are good parts? Surely not. <laughs> No I certainly write about the good things. Quite a bit. 'Follow You Down' from the new EP is a perfect example of that. It started as a hypothetical. Someone asked me to write a song for a film and all they gave me was a two sentence synopsis of the couple's story. I started with that line 'first time to meet you, or could I be wrong?' and it all spilled out from there. That song quickly became about me, but not a single experience. It's about the idea. The Fight. I've never believed in anything more than I believe in the Fight. Good things aren't easy and human beings are often selfish and extremely hurtful towards one another in relationships, myself included. But that's the beauty of realizing the strength of what we're up against and how helpless we truly are. It's so important to acknowledge that fact, but to never give up. I can't give up.