Interview By: Rachel Rocks
Matt Freedman, Writing Music that Touches Your Soul
Matt Freedman and I met through Instagram, and I was instantly hooked when I started listening to his music. His country music originals definitely resonate with my soul. I’m so glad I got the chance to interview him and find out more about his musical journey.
Rachel Rocks (RR): Tell me about yourself? What made you pick up a guitar and learn to play? What has kept you playing?
Matt Freedman: Thanks to PA Musician Magazine, I’m blessed and humbled to be a part of this issue and tell my story. I’m a father of 3 girls living in PA and traveling often to Nashville to play, record and meet with my publisher/label. It’s been a long road to get to this point, where we’ve been blessed to open for acts like Miranda Lambert, Brett Young, and so many others. I got my first guitar when I was 13, but was a drummer growing up. I have been playing in bands since middle school, and have always written songs as far back as I can remember. They weren’t all good, trust me! I always looked at the guitar as a vehicle to tell a story. I could never really shred, but I always felt that I could capture people’s attention and their emotion when I picked it up to write a song. The joy of playing, writing, and recording has kept me doing this for over 18 years.The rush you get when you come up with a great hook, melody or write that great lyric is like a drug to me. On the other side of the coin, playing live is the best release and therapy that exists on the planet. Being able to write stories about my life and have them relate to others who consume the music is the reason I do what I do.
RR: Why Country Music?
MF: I’ve always loved country music, and have been writing songs in this genre for about 13 years. It just seems that country and americana music have the best blend of honest lyrics, hooks and musicianship, especially working in Nashville where the best musical talent on earth resides.
RR: I saw you said you wrote 100 songs between March and December of 2020. How did you come up with so many songs?
MF: I shoot for a song a day. My day is not complete before I have the guitar in my hands and have something written. My writing process really comes from anything. It takes the full simultaneous use of all of your senses to be aware of your surroundings, to pull out the emotions of the moment and tell that story. I’ve written many songs with other people and enjoy that collaboration very much. My band has a number of amazing singer/songwriters in it, like Dustin Napoli, Mike Cali, Rae Radick, Matt Dorsey, as well as amazing players and musicians like Pier Giacalone, Eric Ahern, Chris Leonetti and Kevin Soffera. I’ve also loved working with writers from PA like Matt Gorman and Frank Viera, and many more in Nashville and around the world.
RR: You’ve been playing for years, but I see it seems you just started releasing music in 2021? What made you finally shoot for the stars and release your music to the world?
MF: This is my first foray into the world as a solo singer-songwriter. I honestly feel that all of the work and preparation I’ve put in over the years led me to this moment. I’ve also had to take time away from music to raise my 3 little girls, but realized during the pandemic, there is never a perfect time to do anything. You have to take control of your life and the things that really matter to you, because nobody else is going to do it for you. If you want to achieve anything you need to create it, and go earn it. I’d be nowhere without the support system and the people that have helped me along the way. I’m HUGE on the quote “Rising tides raise all ships”. I try to do everything that I can to help people, because I know how difficult it can be.
RR: Any particular fan favorite songs? What’s your favorite song you’ve ever released and why?
Hah, this is a fun question. Fan favorite songs of ours are probably 2, they are “Hey Man” and “Rum Summer”. “Hey Man” is about my journey growing up and playing all of those shows at the beach and people seeing me carrying a guitar around, saying things like “Hey Man, where are you playing tonight? or, Hey man, what are you drinking? The next is “Rum Summer”, which became a kind of summer drinking anthem, and my Uncle Frank (who is a MAJOR supporter of this project, as well as his wife, my Aunt Sandy), burned the words RUM SUMMER into his beach chair in OBX last summer.
RR: Where do you record your music at?
MF: I work with a lot of different people to put music out, and today the recording process is not as streamlined as one would think. The best experiences I’ve had here in PA have been at Hopetown Sound, with Pier Giacalone. He’s become a very close personal friend and is the keyboard/guitar player in my band. I’ve worked at probably a dozen studios in Nashville including OMNISound, Hilltop Studios and with about as many producers over the years, and all have amazing talent and stories.
RR: Where can people find your music?
MF: As of right now with the singles, mostly on streaming platforms! There is an album coming out late summer/early fall that I will press CD’s and vinyl.
RR: I see that you are a full-time musician thanks to the encouragement of your wife, any advice for others who want to make the leap of faith?
MF: My wife Lindsey and I have been together for 18 years. I do have a job to support the family and music takes any minutes of the day that I have left. Of all the things I do, being a dad is #1 by far. Raising my girls is the greatest gift that I have in this life and they are the most important thing to me. I don’t have a ton of advice for others, but I would say that if you have something in your gut that’s telling you that you need to do something, don’t ignore it. I’m not talking about money, fame, etc.. I’m talking about creating something. And if you do decide to go and pursue whatever that thing is, expect to fail. I use my past failures to fuel my ambition and to drive me to keep going, I like to say it is my competitive edge. My life’s success has nothing to do with awards, accolades or fame. It has to do with my success as a father, and my relationship with GOD and my wife. Everything outside of that will take care of itself.
RR: I see that you book shows as a solo acoustic and as a band. Can you please tell me about your band members?
YES!!! I am so proud of what we’ve done in such a short period of time.. and even more-so, I’m proud of the individuals and their journeys as songwriters, musicians, producers and engineers. We have an unbelievable year coming up with festivals, tours and some amazing opportunities.. like CMA Fest in Nashville and others! I do tour as a solo act, a duo, trio and everything in between. I’m especially proud of what Dustin Napoli and I are building as a duo, Dustin and I have been friends for 25 years, and grew up playing in the Jazz Band together in Bucks County. He performed a cover of Eric Clapton’s “Sunshine of Your Love” by himself and it was amazing.. we were in 8th grade haha. We’re also major guitar-heads, we buy and sell so many so we nerd out on the hunt for that next perfect guitar. I’m incredibly proud of him, his commitment to this project and his amazing musicianship. He has a pitch-perfect ear, and amazing sensibility when it comes to playing, and writing. The crazy thing about Dustin is that he plays guitar in our acoustic duo, but plays drums in our full band.. and has played keys on stage at festivals like SXSW.. I wouldn’t be able to do what we do without Dustin, his friendship and his talent. Two other singer/songwriters in our band are Rae Radick and Matt Dorsey, both of whom are out of this world talents and amazing people. Rae just embarked on a leg of her solo acoustic tour, and tours the country with American Bombshells and an 80’s cover band called Jessie’s Girl. Rae was the one growing up that would sing the National Anthem at basketball games who was just a gifted, undeniable talent from a young age. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a performer like her, who is so powerful vocally, but engages with a crowd like nobody I know. Matt Dorsey is the one person other than my wife that pushed me to go on the solo singer/songwriter journey. I was in a place where I was writing a ton of songs, and couldn’t get the performance monkey off my back. Matt is one of my best friends, and an unbelievable singer/songwriter, and he forced me to get on a stage in Doylestown, PA and play some solo songs. Almost a year after that date now, and I still can’t believe he made me do that haha. However, I can directly attribute all of the success of this project to him. Matt is one of the best guitar players and vocalists that I know, and he is about to release an EP project of his own. I’m super proud of the father and family man that he is as well, and the musical connection we have on stage is a special one. Pier I mentioned who owns Hopetown Sound, and is an amazing friend and musician himself. He’s also the most technical/scientific musician that I know, and knows every piece of gear ever created. Eric Ahern our bass player may be the most gifted on his instrument that we have. Eric SPEAKS bass. When he picks up the bass, it stops everybody in their tracks to listen to what he’s playing. Eric is classically trained, and teaches music so he not only plays by feel, but also plays by knowing, which is foreign to me as someone who is self-taught and never had a lesson. Mike Cali is a co-writer of mine who also plays in the band, and was on a FOX Network TV singing show called “I Can See Your Voice”. Mike is one of the most naturally gifted vocalists and melody writers that I’ve met. When Mike picks up an acoustic guitar, he’s got that magic thing that just makes everything sound beautiful. I’m incredibly blessed to be on this journey with Mike as a songwriter, and there is not a harder working, more prepared and humble person in the industry. I owe a ton of where I am today to Mike Cali. He’s available 24/7 when I send him random thoughts, song ideas and voice-notes at odd hours. One of the purest talents in country music, and a rising star as a country music producer. I’ve known Chris Leonetti for over 20 years, and we grew up playing in bands together in Philly and the Jersey Shore. Chris was our front man, our captain and our lead guitar player. I remember specifically, one time, Chris was singing the lead to a song while an electric guitar behind his head. Chris is an amazing supporter of this project, and probably nobody has had a closer front row seat to the entirety of the journey I’ve been on. I remember being in my basement as an 18 year old writing and recording songs, waiting for Chris to sing on the demos. Lastly, we have invited a new studio pro-drummer into the fold for some summer touring and we’re thrilled to be working with him! He’s another PA guy, named Kevin Soffera. He’s an unbelievable talent both live, and in studio. We’re stoked to work together!
RR: What would you say was your best or favorite show and why?
My favorite full band show ever was probably the Citadel Country Spirit Festival. It was a magic experience with so many friends and family at the event and the energy there was surreal. I’d also say my favorite acoustic experience has to be at The Listening Room in Nashville, where I played a writer’s round. People spend their hard earned dollars to hear the songs written by songwriters, and actually LISTEN! You can hear a pin drop in that place, and it just shows the respect that the songwriters deserve when sharing their art. It’s my favorite stage in Nashville to play.
RR: I see you spend a good amount of time in Nashville and all around the Philly area into New Jersey, etc. How do people get in touch with you to book a show?
MF: DM would be the best place to get in touch – IG – @ Mattfreedmanmusic If you want to follow our story, please follow on Instagram, Youtube and my website – mattfreedmanmusic.com
RR: Speaking of shows, I see the events on your website, are there any not on that list?
MF: YES – We’re playing CMA Fest in Nashville this month at three different venues! I just recently was asked to do this, and it’s an overwhelming thing to even say out loud. I was asked to play several of the venues both as a solo acoustic songwriter, and a few with other bands. I’ll put more out on this on social media, but we’re headlining one event at CMA Fest which is crazy to me. Stay tuned 🙂
RR: Is there anyone you would like to thank for their support?
MF: Hah! I think I’ve done quite a bit of this already with my wife, my kids, my parents, and the band for sure.. but I would love to thank YOU and PA Musician for the opportunity to be a part of this article! It’s been such a cool experience and I Hope to do more! All of my friends, and family that are my support system here in PA are the reason that I’m doing this and I’m very grateful to be able to do what I’m doing. I would also like to shout out Marilyn Anderson from 3 Minutes Away Publishing, my publisher in Nashville! She’s an incredibly gracious person and we just started working together. She’s already gotten me in touch with some amazing writers and artists to begin working with.
To follow along with Matt Freedman and his musical journey, you can check out his website, www.mattfreedmanmusic.com.