Texas singer-songwriter Matthew McNeal shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. In the last few months, he’s finished off a tour with Israel Nash (check out our coverage of their show at the Turf Club here) and released a new single. Now he’s fresh off of SXSW and is ready to hit the road on a headlining tour.
I had the chance to catch up with McNeal and talk about his DIY approach to music, freeform grooves, and touring life. He’ll be making a stop at 7th Street Entry on May 8.
MIM: Can you describe your music for anyone who is just checking you out for the first time?
MM: The gang and I love so many different types of music, we’ve started to really bring it all together over the past few years. We’ve spent most of each year on the road since 2016, so that gives you a lot of time to listen, learn, and absorb music, not to mention being able to apply that to a show every night.
Every show is a little different depending on our mood and what we’re into at the time. Some shows are more rooted in R&B, others lean into the world of indie rock. We aim to let our DIY colors show and give a room an experience and a sound they haven’t heard before.
Mainstream references: Early Kings of Leon meets mid/late John Mayer
Underground references: Bahamas meets Rayland Baxter
MIM: You’re just coming off of SXSW – tell me about that experience this year.
MM: It’s been a blast! (I’m) currently driving back home as I answer these actually. We played our showcase during the first weekend – our city (Fort Worth) hosted a killer multi-day event at SXSW this year, and it was a blast to bring our city’s vibe and culture to Austin.
After our showcase, we switched gears from performing to capturing audio for a couple of festivals and parties through our label Matte Black Sound Company. We recorded and worked with Shakey Graves, Nathaniel Rateliff, Matthew Logan Vasquez – a ton of really great artists that we’re looking forward to mixing/mastering when we get back home. It was great to see so many friends from all over the world come to Texas and celebrate music. So many great bands, so many great people.
MIM: As someone from Texas, what is it like to be part of SXSW? Is it something you aspired to do as a Texas musician?
MM: Since we’re so close to it all, we’ve always felt like we’ve been a part of the event. We’ve been attending SXSW for the past seven years (he thinks), always coming into the city to catch day parties and pop-up shows, and we’ve been playing at the event for the past four years, I believe. It’s wild to see a whole city turn into a cultural epicenter.
MIM: When you recorded your latest album, Good Luck, you got to work in Israel Nash’s studio, and he even played on the album. How did that partnership come about?
MM: Andre and I cut our first studio album Compadre (2015) with Joey McClellan (Midlake, Elle King, The Fieros) and he quickly became a really close friend. He plays guitar in Israel’s band so we ended up meeting Izz shortly after and hit it off. We’re always running around with that crew, so it felt natural to get the whole gang together and make music in a space that was comfortable for everyone. I think that’s what makes the record translate so well, there’s a lot of love in the room during that session.
“Good people are everywhere if you pay attention.”
MIM: It seems like you’ve spent a lot of time touring the U.S. throughout the last few years. Your songwriting is usually from a storytelling angle. Do you get a lot of writing inspiration while you’re traveling?
MM: I do. Getting out of the small town that Andre and I both grew up in and being able to see all of the different parts of the country and meet people from all over the place, it’s broadened my worldview. You learn to appreciate everything each region has to offer – the scenery, the culture, the quirks. Though there’s a large spread of differences, it’s the similarities within all of the places that really inspire me. Good people are everywhere if you pay attention.
MIM: Now you’re going back on tour and headlining this time. What have your experiences in Minnesota been like over the years?
MM: Andre and I both fell in love with the city when we came through to play for the first time in 2016/17 at Lee’s Liquor Lounge. Plus, playing Turf Club with Israel last fall was a dream come true. We had a booking email sent out to 7th Street Entry the day after; we knew that we had to be back in the city as soon as possible!
I’m a huge fan of both “The Purple One” and Bob Dylan. My family and I drove to Minnesota when I was a kid to pick up a windmill, it was the only time I had ever really been out of state or seen real snow. (laughs)
MIM: Who are you taking on the road in your band this time around?
MM: I’ll be with my right-hand man, Andre Black on the drums. We tour as a power-duo most often, running my guitar through all sorts of different amps and effects while he holds down the groove. We’ve been playing together for 10+ years, so the freedom of leaning into in-sync freeform grooves is my favorite thing about playing shows.
MIM: What artists and albums do you think will soundtrack your time on the road this spring?
MM: There have been some good releases recently that I’m really digging. Matt Sucich out of NYC just released a great record, my buddy Eric Pulido (Midlake, BNQT) just released a killer album under the moniker E.B. The Younger. Durand Jones & the Indications is always phenomenal. Dylan LeBlanc just put out a new single. I believe there’s a new Mac DeMarco release coming up as well. Plus, we’re getting a lot of our hip-hop fix through a Fort Worth dude named Solar Slim who just put out a great record.
“We’ve been able to see that the only limits set for you are the ones you put on yourself.”
MIM: You released a new single, “Michael,” early this year. It almost has a Bruce Hornsby vibe to it with the piano and soaring guitars. It feels like you’re exploring some new spaces musically. Should we expect some of these characteristics in the future?
MM: Most definitely. Now that we’ve been doing this independently for a while, we’ve been able to see that the only limits set for you are the ones you put on yourself. We started our own record label in 2017 so we could continue “breaking the rules” and doing what feels right and what inspires us, blending genres and being true to ourselves. I think that’s what art is all about.
MIM: Do you have any more new music coming to us in 2019?
MM: Always new music ahead!
Tickets go on sale for Matthew McNeal at 7th Street Entry on Friday, March 22. Be sure to check him out on May – hopefully he’ll explain that Minnesota windmill story more that night!