Mat Kearney has invested 100-plus hours in songs you’ve never heard, while some of his most beloved hits came together in a matter of minutes. Even after thirteen years, the mystery of songwriting keeps Kearney coming back for more—this time with CRAZYTALK (buy), a “vacation-y” flavored set marked by electronic and tropical textures and, of course, Kearney’s killer hooks.
Over a decade in, Kearney says singing is still a calling, a ministry, a passion—yet it’s also so much more. It’s what connects him with fans but disconnects him from community. It takes a toll and pays the bills. But Kearney’s music has always presented beauty from pain, sharing hopeful reflections from a vulnerable path. In that way, CRAZYTALK is no different.
CCM Magazine: You’ve come a long way from Nothing Left To Lose (buy). Have your motivations for making music changed at all over the years?
Mat Kearney: Still my favorite thing to do is to write songs about what matters to me. If no one paid me, I would be doing that today. But it becomes something totally different over time. When you first start, you’re not making a living or paying for your kids’ diapers with it. It has nothing to do with business. It’s a passion project. After you’ve been doing it for going on thirteen years, it definitely becomes more than just your passion.
It’s your ministry, your gifts and all of that, but it’s also how you pay your mortgage. It’s something that takes you away from your family and makes it harder to be friends with your community. So it becomes a lot more complex in terms of what it means in your life. All of the good things are there, but it’s just like other things in life where it’s not black and white. It means a lot of things to me these days.
CCM: Your sound has changed quite a bit in that span. For an album like CRAZYTALK, is it about setting out with a certain musical vision or do you just cull together songs inspired by what you’re interested in at the time?
MK: What you described as “interest” is a really good way to put it. Whatever I am into or inspired by definitely finds its way into my music. There’s always an exploratory process that comes before a record is made. It’s me trying different things. For this record, I was experimenting with electronic sounds and tropical, almost vacation-y textures, and a lot of space for my vocal. I really liked it. It really fit what I was trying to do. I thought it was awesome because I could lean into classic songwriting and yet there was a fresh, different electronic production. The marriage of those really interested me. The more I started writing and working that way, the more the record started taking shape.