web analytics

Mat Kearney wants pop peers to know genre blending is cool

Trending Articles

Mat Kearney peforms his new album “Crazytalk” at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Feb. 27. (Courtesy Dylan Reyes)

Nashville-based singer-songwriter Mat Kearney is a firm believer in heeding metaphorical messages from the universe. So in 2016 — when his wife Annie lost her father unexpectedly, then received the news she was pregnant with their daughter Olive the very next day — he sensed much deeper implications. “And it was just a moment, like, ‘Life is short. What am I doing and what do I want? And more importantly, what don’t I want?’” he said. After some serious discussion, the couple decided it was time for a few sweeping, career-related changes.

Since Kearney — who plays Oakland next week — had signed with name-brand imprint Columbia for his 2006 sophomore effort “Nothing Left to Lose,” which featured his first breakthrough singles, “All I Need” and the title track, the business had changed dramatically. In the Spotify-streaming era, record companies had lost their cachet and relevance, and could no longer deliver the hits like they once did. “And I’d been on a major label for four records, and I was tired of the bureaucracy,” he said. “So I thought, ‘Let’s get out of this game and get more DIY.’ And we did.”

Bravely, the composer, 39, switched management, crowd-sourced the funding for his rock-solid new album, “Crazytalk,” then licensed it to hip indie Caroline afterward. Aesthetically, it’s his most inventive, as well; there’s a bubbly electronica edge to his usual classically crafted material, like “Kings and Queens” and “Better Than I Used to Be.”

“There’s kind of a chill tropical house influence there,” he said. Reviews, he recalls, initially savaged his “Nothing” disc for its combination of folk and hip-hop sounds. “But now, every artist blends genres — the kids are borrowing from everywhere, and that’s always been very exciting for me,” added the maniacal music fan, who listens to every new release he can each Friday.

It’s a message the trailblazer wants to share with any of his pop peers who feel trapped in the showbiz system. “A lot of times, you don’t know a lot, because you’re kind of like a spoiled kid,” he said. “So you only know one way: You make a record, wait three years, then go make another. But the music world now is not working that way, and it’s almost like the ’50s, very single-driven. But because I know my fan base, I know what I can accomplish on my own.”

In fact, only one aspect of Kearney’s life eluded change: his signature stage fedoras, of which he has nearly two dozen mothballed at his Nashville digs. On tour, he totes three or more along in a protective hard-shell case. “The hat is like my Superman cape,” he said. “If you take it away, I lose all my power!”

Mat Kearney
Where: Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 27
Tickets: $36
Contact: (510) 302-2250, www.ticketmaster.com

Click here or scroll down to comment