Matt Stell on Crafting His Most Authentic Music Yet with ‘Born Lonely’: ‘I Wanted It to Be a Passion Project’ [Exclusive]

Stell poured his heart into this 10-track collection.


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

June 7, 2024


9:02 am

Share on:

Matt Stell; Photo by David McClister

Matt Stell dishes out the truth while reflecting on the good, the bad, the fun times and the deepest of heartbreak in his debut album, Born Lonely. Available Friday, June 7 via RECORDS Nashville, this 10-track project can easily be deemed some of Stell’s best recordings to date. 

The multi-platinum hitmaker had a hand in co-writing every single song on this collection, and it definitely shows. While discussing the project with Country Now, Stell revealed that his main goal when putting together his first full-length collection as a signed artist was to let vulnerability and honesty take the lead. He was able to achieve his mission by wearing his heart on his sleeve and drawing inspiration from real-life experiences to show fans a softer side to his artistry. 

“I wanted it to be a passion project. I wanted to tell the truth…So all these songs, whether it’s about growing up in a broken home thousands of miles away from most of my family, saying goodbye as a kid a lot, whether it’s that stuff or it’s spending time with the right person in the cab of a truck in the middle of nowhere, I just wanted to make sure that I was coming from a real place,” he explained. “Those are all real places for me, mentally and physically, and I just wanted to stay true to that.”

Stell went on to explain that as an artist, he often feels the pressure to only make the kind of music that other people want him to make, however this project gave him the chance to break out of that mold and let his truth speak for itself. 

“Sometimes people want you to be one thing and I get that, but I’ve just never been good at it. I got tired of trying to do that. I just said, ‘well, I’m just gonna tell the truth and whether it’s those kinds of tough things to talk about, whether it’s fun things to talk about, it was just going to come from that real place.”

Turning The Title Track Into A Tattoo

The title track is what started it all, Stell admitted. Not only was it the first song written for the project, but it also ended up creating a domino effect of creativity because once this song came to life, the ideas for the remaining tracks began to flow out. 

To commemorate just how special the song “Born Lonely” became for Stell, he decided to give it permanent recognition in the form of a tattoo on his upper arm. 

“’Born Lonely’ was the first song that I wrote for this project and I was really proud of it. I felt like I was talking about some stuff that I have wanted to talk about for a long time. Once I got it done, it felt bigger than a song, it felt like it was the start of something, and it turned out to be that album.”

Matt Stell; Born Lonely
Matt Stell; Born Lonely

The large space of ink features an image of a head of a “lone wolf” separating the words “Born Lonely.” What Stell didn’t realize at the time was that this epic piece of artwork would also end up being used as the cover of the album. 

“That lone wolf just kind of came from the creative process of writing the record. I didn’t really know that that was going to be the album art,” he explained. “I just knew that that’s something I want to wear from here on out cause I was really proud of the song and project.”

Blending His Influences With Modern-Day Sounds

In addition to the title track, Stell set the tone for the Joe Fox and Chris DeStefano-produced album with early releases such as “Take The Girl,” “Built By Broken Hearts,” and his latest single, “Breakin’ In Boots,” which currently making its way towards the Top 35 at Country Radio.

The remainder of the collection offers a steady mix of self-reflective anthems, aching ballads that allow listeners to get a clear look at his heartbreak, and exposure to the “One Of Us” singer’s past experience with love and loss. Sonically, he began by pulling inspiration from some of his musical inspirations growing up and blended that with his own modern-day sounds. 

“I was working with one of my best friends, Joe Fox, he produced this project, and we talked a lot about the direction that we wanted to go and really tried to honor that. The first song on the album, ‘Built by Broken Hearts,’ name drops a couple of songs like Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill and Randy Travis’s Storms of Life, which are two records that I listened to whole lot growing up. They really shaped me in a lot of ways, so I knew I wanted it to live in those worlds. It’s like country songs that were played by an alternative band from the ‘90s or the ‘2000s. That was kind of where we started from and then we sort of let the sound come the way that it wanted to and I’m really proud of what we ended up with.”

YouTube video

Ending The Project On A Motivational Note

The album concludes with a country take on the concept of living one day at a time. Throughout this mid-tempo tune titled “One Cold Beer at a Time,” Stell encourages listeners to slow things down by “taking the lows and riding the highs, as it comes and as it goes.”

“That song was about life lessons I’ve learned,” Stell shared. “It’s sort of that taking it one day at a time, as cliche as that sounds, but it’s so true. I’m the kind of person, I have FOMO (fear of missing out) really bad, I hate thinking I’ve missed out on anything, but I’ve also learned that time’s gonna pass like time passes and the best thing you could do is just be a passenger sometimes. That’s what that song’s about, controlling things you can and understanding the things that you can’t. And the beer metaphor works in the kind of music that I like to make,” he added. 

YouTube video

Born Lonely Track List:

1. “Built by Broken Hearts” (Matt Stell, Seth Alley, James McNair)*

2. “Breakin’ in Boots” (Matt Stell, Nate Cyphert, Joe Fox, Ben Stennis)*

3. “Born Lonely” (Matt Stell, Jake Mitchell, Benjy Davis)*

4. “Girl Gets Gone” (Matt Stell, Joe Fox, Jordan Minton, Travis Wood)*

5. “Into the Sunrise” (Matt Stell, Chris DeStefano, Kyle Sturrock)+

6. “Smooth” (Matt Stell, Chris DeStefano)*

7. “The Hard Stuff” (Matt Stell, Ray Fulcher, Jared Mullins)*

8. “What We Do Best” (Matt Stell, Andrew DeRoberts, Jon Nite, Kyle Sturrock)*

9. “Take the Girl” (Matt Stell, Chris DeStefano, Joe Fox, Nate Cyphert)+

10. “One Cold Beer at a Time” (Matt Stell, Jaron Boyer, John Marlin)*

Matt Stell performs at the Chevy Riverfront Stage on Thursday, June 6 during CMA Fest 2024 in downtown Nashville.; Photo by Nick Zimmer/CMA
Matt Stell performs at the Chevy Riverfront Stage on Thursday, June 6 during CMA Fest 2024 in downtown Nashville.; Photo by Nick Zimmer/CMA

Celebrating The Album Release At CMA Fest

The new project lands amid Nashville’s massive CMA Fest taking place in the heart of Music City’s bustling downtown area from June 6 to June 9. Matt Stell celebrated his release alongside family, friends, and fans while performing on the Chevy Riverfront Stage on Thursday, June 6. 

There’s no better celebration for a release day than playing a show so we’re definitely going to treat that CMA Fest set as a celebration,” Stell noted. “We’ve got stuff jam packed all that day, but it’s just going to be great to get to spend the time with my band, my crew and my management and folks from my label help make all this stuff possible…And I’ll have a little family in town. My mom’s coming so we’ll play, get to hang out a little bit and then we take off after our set on Thursday.”

As soon as he wraps up his CMA Fest set, the country star will jet off to his next show in Rice Lake, WI on Friday, June 7. 

Share on:

Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.