The life of a Nashville songwriter can be a bittersweet journey, even in the best of times. The process of having your songs recorded and turned into hits by someone else can be validating, even empowering, but the urge to step out from behind the pen and paper and feel the heat of the stage lights for yourself is undeniable. Jason Matthews has arrived on stage, front and center.
The man that co-wrote Billy Curringtons #1 smash hit "Must Be Doin Somethin Right" knows that nagging feeling. "Dont get me wrong, I love it when other people record my music," Jason says, "but the opportunity to try it in front of people with nobody in between is pretty awesome. For me, its really a continuation of the creative process. I want the opportunity to be heard myself."
Even before the #1 single that earned him Music Rows 2006 Breakthrough Writer of the Year, Jason was building an impressive catalog of hits including cuts for Luke Bryan ("Country Man"), Julie Roberts and Trace Adkins ("Break Down Here"), Kevin Denney ("Thats Just Jesse"), Tammy Cochran ("Life Happened") and James Otto ("The Ball"), among others.
But Jasons reputation as just a songwriter is set to change with the recent release of his debut album Hicotine. "The idea and concept behind Hicotine actually came before the song did," he says. "My wife Debbie and I came up with the idea of the cigarette box, and it just hit me were not selling nicotine, were selling Hicotine!" he laughs.
"Its an album for everyone," Debbie says simply. Jason agrees. "Weve pretty much run off all the guys in country music theyre all listening to talk radio and classic rock these days. I want to bring guys back to this format!"
If the response to the first single "Thats What Mamas Do" is any indication, however, the message in Jasons music appears to be universal. "Thats the most special song Ive ever written," he says slowly. "I know a lot of times music gets boiled down to money and chart position, but thats not what its about. Its about making music that touches the person listening to the music. The response weve gotten from this song just means the world to me, knowing that Im making music that matters," he says. "Its more important and gratifying than any sales position."
Aside from his proven skill as a songwriter, the other quality that separates Jason from many of his peers is his voice. A genuine soul singer by definition, Jason has just enough twang and attitude to disguise the fact that Motown and the British Invasion had just as much influence on his musical upbringing as Music City did. "The common denominator has always been the ability of the artist to reach out and touch the listener," he says.
"My heroes have always been people that sing from deep down in their soul and get you to believe their song, including people like Conway Twitty, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Merle Haggard, Jackson Browne," he says passionately. "Great singers are believable, and I want to be believable when I sing my songs. Im trying to communicate something to people."