Matt Stell Talks ‘If I Was a Bar,’ Life During the Pandemic and New Music
When Matt Stell bowed out of attending Harvard University’s Extension School Pre-Med program to pursue a career in country music,…
Matt Stell; Photo by Matthew Berinato
When Matt Stell bowed out of attending Harvard University’s Extension School Pre-Med program to pursue a career in country music, he never imagined he’d make it this far.
Since bursting onto the scene with the multi-week No. 1 Platinum-certified hit, “Prayed For You,” Stell has quickly become one of country music’s hottest new artists. The wedding-ready anthem has accumulated a whopping 198 million streams and counting. Now, he’s turning heads with his follow-up single, “Everywhere But On,” which continues to climb the charts at country radio, making its way into the Top 20 this week.
Co-written by Stell, Paul Sikes and Lance Miller, “Everywhere But On” finds the rising star grappling over a heartache that he can’t seem to shake. The song’s honest lyrics and clever wordplay showcase Stell’s knack for storytelling and is proving to be his next big hit.
While “Everywhere But On” continues its run at radio, Stell recently satisfied fans’ craving for new music with the release of “If I Was a Bar.” The Arkansas native tapped into his creative side for the recently released music video, portraying the role of 13 characters throughout the clip.
“Doing it reminded me of some of my favorite scenes in my favorite movies,” he previously shared of the innovative music video.
Country Now recently caught up with Matt Stell to chat about his success, “If I Was a Bar,” life during the pandemic, new music and more. Check out our exclusive Q&A below.
Congratulations on the success of “Everywhere But On,” can you talk about the response to that song?
Well, you know, it’s really one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written. To see it connect with folks is pretty special. It really means a lot to me.
And to come after the success of “Prayed For You,” that’s awesome! I was just looking at Spotify and that song has millions upon millions of streams. Did you ever imagine that your music would touch so many people?
It’s pretty incredible. I mean, not really, to be honest with you. I never had any kind of…my aspirations were just to write the best songs that I could and kind of see where the chips fell from there. And luckily it worked out for us and a dream kind of became a reality. It takes a whole lot of luck. It’s a lot more than I ever dreamed in terms of people listening, but man, I sure am glad that they are.
Are you one that follows the charts each week, or do you just wait for your team to update you?
I really just kind of wait for my team to update me. There’s really nothing that I can do, you know, at this point. My work is kind of been done in terms of, you know, the song has already been written, the cake’s been baked. So, it’s just kinda like taking it out to the people at this point. Anything I can do to help them [my team], I definitely do, but, I just kinda let them do their thing and it’s pretty great because I have a great team from top to bottom. So, I just kind of let them fill me in.
That’s probably smart. I’d imagine it would be easy to become obsessed with checking it.
Yeah, for sure. I can’t really affect any change there at that point. So I definitely don’t want to stress over something like this.
Let’s talk about “If I Was a Bar.” Can you share the story behind the song?
This was actually written by three of my favorite songwriters in Nashville: Jonathan Singleton, Zachary Kale and Dan Isbel. And those guys knew that I was looking for songs. I’m in a position now to where, you know, before I was a songwriter, so I would be pitching my songs to artists or writing songs for myself. But now, in addition to writing songs for myself, I’m getting some of these great writers in Nashville pitching me songs. They sent over that one, I think the night that they finished it, and I knew immediately it was a song that I wanted to cut and I wanted to get to play live. It’s a really, really cool song. It does this kind of happy heartbreak thing that country music’s pretty good at and some of my favorite songs are that way. I was really glad that they, they trusted me to cut their song ’cause I knew it was going to be something that was something special.
How about the music video? How involved with you with the concept and planning for it?
I had a big hand in terms of playing the characters as they were laid out. Dustin Haney, the director, this was kind of his brainchild. And then we took that and kind of started to execute that vision. I just basically packed a bunch of bags. It looked like I was going on vacation to Europe for a month and took all the clothes that I owned! We tried to make some characters out of those guys. And man, it ended up being just a ton of fun.
Did you have to tap into a different side of yourself to play the various characters?
For sure. I mean, a lot of it is sort of exaggerating parts of you, you know what I mean? It’s like, I’ve got a little bit of some of those characters in who I am at any given time, mainly the bartender. But, the others were fun. It was guys that I got to kind of build a character around based on either people I’ve known or stuff that I’ve seen. So it was a lot of fun to do something like that.
I saw that you have been doing virtual meet & greets. How has that experience been?
It’s been a really cool experience because I’ve been able to stay connected with folks, even in this time of quarantine and social distancing. Social media, you know, it has some downfalls, but some of the grace is that you can stay connected with folks. I started playing music because my favorite songs made me feel a way that no other songs do. And I wanted to make music that maybe did that for folks. So any chance that I get to meet people who the music seems to matter to, it’s just really cool and I really enjoy it.
There’s so much talk about live music right now and everyone is trying to figure out what works. What are your thoughts on the drive-in shows?
I totally would be up for anything where we can play music in a live setting again, whatever that’s going to look like going forward. We’re kind of having to be creative about that stuff. So, it seems to be something that is sort of working out. As soon as we get the opportunity to play, we’re definitely gonna do it because we’re, we’re chomping at the bit to get back out there.
Has it been a big adjustment for you to be at home so much when you were used to being out on the road constantly?
Definitely. I haven’t spent a lot of time at home in years… I’ve never spent this much time at home. I like being home, but man, a lot of times, the road feels like home. I’ll be so glad to get to get back out there and do it, the thing with the band and crew and back into working to what seems normal for us.
Have you picked up any new hobbies?
I’ve worked out a little bit. Not as much as I probably should have, but it’s hard to do at home. I have played a lot of golf. So, I’m getting a little better at that.
Have you been golfing with any buddies?
Yes, my buddy Jameson Rodgers and I golfed the other day and I’m a big fan of his. Ray Fulcher and I golfed some and Chris Bandi and I golf a little bit. That’s been fun.
I know you have shared some new music during your “Penned Up” series over quarantine. Fans want to know if and when they will be able to hear those songs again and if a full-length album is on the horizon.
There is a full length album on the horizon. The dates are kind of tentative right now, but we’re looking at something like late summer or fall to release some new music. I’m really excited about that because one silver lining during this whole social distance time has been how much time I’ve had to write and be creative. So that’s something that I’m really proud of. Some, I played on the “Penned Up” series, some that I’ve written since then… We’ll kind of go in and get all our songs together and record some more and then hopefully have some new music out, sooner rather than later.
Fans can keep up with Matt Stell on Instagram.
Lauren Jo Black
Lauren Jo Black, a University of Central Florida graduate, has immersed herself in the world of country music for over 15 years. In 2008, she co-founded CountryMusicIsLove, eventually selling it to a major record label in 2015. Following the rebranding of the website to Sounds Like Nashville, Black served as Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years. Currently, she assumes the role of Editor-in-Chief at Country Now and oversees Country Now’s content and digital footprint. Her extensive experience also encompasses her previous role as a Country Music Expert Writer for Answers.com and her work being featured on Forbes.com. She’s been spotlighted among Country Aircheck’s Women of Influence and received the 2012 Rising Star Award from the University of Central Florida. Black also spent time in front of the camera as host of Country Now Live, which brought live music directly to fans in 2021 when the majority of concerts were halted due to the pandemic. During this time, she hosted 24 weeks of live concerts via Country Now Live on Twitch with special guests such as Lady A, Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, Brett Young, and Jon Pardi. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of conducting interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent stars, including Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lainey Wilson, and many others. Lauren Jo Black is a longtime member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.