In a music world longing for a new voice, Mat Kearney represents
the singer-songwriter for the 21st century fan. While predominately
keeping with an acoustic base, Kearney subtly incorporates a wide
range of influences that paint his songs with an array of beautiful
textures and sounds. At the same time, Kearney knows how to capture
the words that resonate with one's deepest emotions. Making his
recorded debut with Bullet, this Oregon-raised pioneer
explores an artistic depth that delivers substance as well as
The album features everything -- hip-hop beats, pop choruses,
acoustic folk, spoken verses -- all moving effortlessly from one
influence to another without losing track of the core meaning.
Says Kearney, "Hopefully there is a depth and intimacy of
songwriting that goes beyond the novelty of a funky guy with an
acoustic guitar. When I set out to write, I want to write something
that will rip your heart out and connect with you. Great songs
connect beyond genre and style."
Bullet exemplifies such a connection with "Undeniable,"
a beautiful pop song with an epic chorus and a catchy acoustic
hook. The song itself finds inspiration in a troubled young man
who told Kearney about his need to make changes in his life. Ironically,
he was a student at a local high school, which was under construction
at the time. Kearney, who drove by the school every time he went
to the studio, turned the school's demolition into a metaphor
for the uprooting of the young man's life. “The roots of
that song are really in seeing joy on the other side of pain—of
coming to know God and the undeniable nature of who He is.”
Elsewhere on the album, "Train Wreck" blends ethereal
guitars and hard-hitting drums with pure mass pop appeal. “It’s
a song based on Psalm 139, where David talks about God being our
only source of hope—essentially that he’s been ruined
for Christ and that everything else pales in comparison.”
The Johnny Cash-themed "Won't Back Down" discusses
the country legend's spirituality through a lush, piano-driven
ballad, while on the title track, Kearney taps into his hip-hop
heritage with emcee vocals and drum loops that carry lyrics about
the ultimate love, inspired by John 15:13. “I really wanted
to create a modern day interpretation of the idea that ‘Greater
love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,’
and what that would really look like.” Bullet reaches
an artistic high with "Middle," a catchy song that mixes
spoken word over live drums, elegant strings, and an ethereal
Of course, Bullet's musical scope finds equal depth
in its lyrics. Describing the song "Renaissance" as
an example, Kearney says, "The song is about a friend that
was in a car wreck and another who got dumped by his girlfriend.
The lyrics touch on these moments in people's lives when they
hit rock bottom and question what's going on and what they are
about. In that place of total uncertainty, they start to look
for something real."
Looking back, Kearney first left Eugene, Oregon to play soccer
at Chico State University, the notorious school that was once
dubbed the No. 1 party school in the nation. Kearney, who occasionally
sold weed in high school, fit right into university's wild ways
before eventually hitting rock bottom. "I guess I lived it
up and did what everyone said you should do in college,"
he recalls. "I discovered the depth of depravity, the bleakness
of that lifestyle. It just wasn't working. I finally started understanding
there must be more to life.” It was at this point where
Kearney had a life-changing encounter with Christ. “God
found me when I was at my lowest point. That was the first time
in my life when I really felt like I understood who Jesus was—it
was more than just knowing about Him, I felt like He met me in
that time and place.”
Kearney began embracing the local music scene that he described
as a lot of "Dave Matthews' hippies." The singer, who
actively participated in hip-hop culture as a teen, soon found
himself fusing his vast influences into a revelatory new folk
sound. During this same period, Kearney started studying poetry
in college and writing journals of deep prose about life. When
he finally brought the two worlds together, Kearney forged a songwriting
style that was distinctly innovative with a lyrical and emotional
depth that kept it from being novelty.
Kearney notes, "As my uncle always says, 'If your vibe outweighs
your substance, you're destined to be a novelty.' I think that
is true in all art."
Around this time, Kearney met producer Robert Marvin (Stacie
Oricco, tobyMac), who immediately wanted to work with the new
artist. Later, when Marvin moved to Nashville, Kearney decided
to come along for the summer. While there, the two continued making
music and soon found label interest. Kearney, however, actually
turned down recording offers to continue developing his sound.
Deciding not to leave Nashville, he and Marvin started recording
Kearney's debut on their own before the singer eventually signed
a deal with Inpop Records. In the end, Kearney got to make the
exact record he wanted to make with no compromises.
Kearney concludes, "My artistic goal was to write something
that's one hundred percent real and true to me and to this world.
I tried to touch on truths that really connect with people from
every avenue of life. Ultimately, when you write from a vantage
point of faith, humility, and openness to the world around you,
people have to respond because those same truths are instilled
in them. Honestly, I don't have any agenda other than being sincere,
real, and passionate about these songs and the music I make."
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