As he preps for the release of “Midnight” on Wednesday, Ian Matthew took a break from quarantine to chop it up with Hxppy Thxxghts. The CT-native discusses the new single, the evolution of his music, keeping content engaging for fans and plenty more.
Enjoy the full interview below and pre-save “Midnight” now on your favorite streaming platforms.
Alright, man, first things first – how are you doing with all this Corona wildness?
I mean, I’m kind of a homebody as it is, so I don’t really mind it. It’s not really scary but it’s kind of like, oh shit, this shit is real. I’m not mad about it because I know it’s for the right thing and we got to stay healthy, so if this is the only way we can do it, then cool. But I’ve just seen all those kids on spring break in Miami and shit…man, that shit is wild.
Man, it’s absolutely wild.
It’s just so irresponsible as far as humans go.
And it’s all a bunch of kids.
I know! And they’re not worried about getting it but, at the same time, they aren’t realizing that when you go home you’re not gonna go see your grandma or your niece or nephew or something? Who knows what’s going to happen, you’ll end up giving it to them.
It’s nuts, man. Moving on though…you’ve got “Midnight” dropping this Wednesday, March 25th. How are you feeling about that record?
Yes, sir! I’m really happy with this one. I think it’s a really good follow up to “Hold Me Down” and I think it’s a fun record now that the warmer weather is coming. It was one of those records where we were sitting and writing, and it kind of just happened. Like, oh shit, that’s really dope! Let’s just go put this down and see where it goes, you know? By the end of the session, we had the full song. So it was like, yo, I think this may have to be the next release ’cause this sounds like it’ll be a great follow up to “Hold Me Down.” We’re really excited about it, like I said because it’s getting warmer and it’ll bring us into the spring months, so hopefully we won’t be all quarantined for too long.
Who produced the track?
He’s a dude out of Toronto, Omito Beats is his name. James, my manager, put everything into the work. We were in the studio and he’s like, “yo, I’m talking to this dude.” And he sent over the demo and it was like, yeah, let’s do this.
How did you and James – man, I’ve known James since like elementary school – how did you guys first link?
Oh, word? We had mutual friends – I don’t know if you know any of the Alfonos – and James hit me up one day through social media. He told me he worked for a social media marketing agency and he’s like, “I really think you’ve got something going here and I want to see how we can take my knowledge of social media marketing for bigger companies and see if we can use it for music.” And he always wanted to get into music. It was really cool how it happened because he came over one day and said he had a couple ideas he wanted to run by me. He comes over and it wasn’t like a little napkin with a couple ideas jotted down. He had like an entire Word document that was three pages long just on how to grow Facebook. And another three pages on how we can approach Instagram. All these different ways we can make ourselves more appealing and shit like that. So it was like, damn, he’s not playing. As soon as I saw what he wanted to do and how serious he was, it was like, hell yeah! So we teamed up and made it work.
He’s a good dude, man. He’s got an ear for music, too.
Yeah, he’s probably the main person who sends me most of my music. On some, you gotta check this out. He’s always got his ear to something.
Got a lot of good memories with him, just hanging out, being dumb. He’d rock these incredible freestyles, too. So it’s cool to me that you two ended up linking.
He actually helps me write a lot of my songs, to be honest with you.
That doesn’t surprise me at all. He’s a smart dude but when it comes to the music, he’s always been witty and quick with it. He knows what he’s doing.
What served as the trigger that brought about the change in your style and your music, especially over the last year or two? I’ve mentioned this in the write-ups and shit, but it’s becoming more and more like a full experience. It’s more of a complete package now. You’re not just trying to kick bars anymore – you’ve got singing and layered production and it’s become more of a listening experience. Personally, that’s what has attracted me to your music in the last couple years. I can’t remember the song, I think it was something with the word “feeling” in it…
That’s the one! James sent that to me in early 2018 and that was the first time I heard one of your records and was like, oh fuck. Since then, I remember “Ashtray” coming out and “The Storm” and the stuff you’re putting out now…to watch that evolution has been so cool because it just feels like you’re stepping out of a comfort zone. It’s not, I’m just going to spit bars and that’s cool and you’re now stepping into this deeper arena of artistry. So, what influenced you to do that?
I always grew up playing blues music, rock & roll…my first time ever being in a band, I was in a punk band when I was like 11 or 12 years old. We would do shows and shit. But I grew up around different genres of music. And I started in bands but I got into the hip-hop thing because by the time I got old enough to have time to put into it, everybody else who was in the band or also musicians was doing baseball practice or they got grounded. Whatever it was, they were never around, so it was hard to get all these people together when all I wanted to do was make music. I ended up making music on my own, which was hip-hop. I fell in love with the aspect of songwriting and being able to have it where it was just me and a beat – I could tell you everything I wanted with that. Once I got into that, I wanted to stay into that because I felt like I needed to stay true to hip-hop and stay in one lane and pay my respects to hip-hop.
In reality…I remember one time, James came in and he saw me playing guitar and he’s like, “bro, nobody knows you can do that.” I was singing “Purple Rain,” playing it on the guitar and he’s like, “how come nobody knows you can do that?” Like, what do you mean? I’m a rapper. He laid it out how that was great content and we started doing acoustic stuff and people accepted it. It gave me more options to play with, you know what I mean? If it’s going to be accepted and it’s not going to turn people away? And we noticed it actually started bringing people in. Ok, shit, let’s keep running with it.
And it wasn’t like I even stepped out of my comfort zone – it was more like I could step out of my public zone, you know? I always played blues music and I always wrote R&B songs. Man, some of these songs I’m releasing now are old songs I wrote back in the day that I’m finally having a chance to put out because I’m doing this genre now. I wrote a pop love song back in the day when I was still just doing bars but it never came out because I didn’t want anyone to know I wrote it. Now, I’m bringing them out.
Ah, that’s what’s up, man. That’s cool to hear. Like I said, and this obviously isn’t me trying to be disrespectful or any shit like that, but the stuff you’re putting out is so well-rounded now.
I feel like the engineer I’m working with now…when we first did “Ashtray” together…the first song I recorded with my engineer when we started working together was “Lights Out.” We looked at each other like, damn, that was really dope. He’s like, what else can we do? The next session we had was “Ashtray.” Like, what’s going on? We got a good thing going, so we just rocked with it. His name is Tbigs – helps a lot, man, he really helps us out a lot. James, too. He’s always finding new beats and sending me shit, you know? He keeps me motivated.
I’ve noticed with a lot of the videos you put out, even going back a handful of years, Zach Greaton…
Yeah, Zach Greaton, he’s a good dude.
It seems like you’ve got a nice little team building around you.
The funny thing is, the way we all linked up was I went to communication school out in Maine. That’s where I met Zach and that’s where I met all my homies from the Kids Up North crew. I met Zach out there and we’ve been working since like 2010. It’s definitely cool – Zach is a dope dude.
You planning on a visual for “Midnight?”
Yeah, I just met with the videographer the other day and we’re planning on it. Now we’re trying to figure out how to do it without having ten people in a room. I think we may hold off on shooting the visual but we wanted to make sure we were releasing content for everybody who’s waiting on it. We didn’t want to leave people short just because we couldn’t all get together. So, the visual will come and we hope everyone will be pretty understanding. I think right now is going to be a pretty cool time where you see a lot of content and a lot of people are going to be coming up with new ideas of how to promote themselves from their crib. I mean, I just saw Keith Urban do a concert on Instagram Live which was cool.
Yeah, I think we’re about to get a lot of those.
I think WWE needs to chill though. I saw that Stone Cold Steve Austin one…
Oh, man! I fuckin’ loved that shit. I love it. The novelty is going to wear off but for now, I’m loving it.
Give me a hell yeah!
You seem to have a pretty good grasp on the roll-out process – you’re not over saturating listeners with content and, when new releases do drop, it feels more meaningful. What goes through your mind with that whole process of releasing new music?
It’s been trial and error, figuring out what does work and what doesn’t work. What we’ve noticed is, you can post the cover of your new song all day long but eventually people get sick of that shit. People don’t want to see that all the time, people get bored. How can you get content out that’s engaging, catch the viewers eye, but also let them know the song is out and they should go grab that? A lot of times it’s easier to do that with a visual of the performance of the song with cool lighting and stuff like that. It’s just taking time to make sure the visuals are cool and the actual promotion of it is there.
Also just the interaction – getting fans to actually engage with you rather than just listen to the song and let it go. Literally like, “yo, how do you feel about it?” Once other people see people interacting with it, then they get a little more curious and they want to check it out. Our roll-outs now are very strategic for sure but I don’t really want to give out the formula but we definitely have a formula for when to drop the announcement, when to drop the cover and things like that. It’s definitely trial and error but I think we got it pretty good right now.
It’s also a matter of making sure you’re capitalizing on your follow-up. If you have one song that’s really good, you don’t want to just fall off. You definitely want to continue promoting your older songs but you want to keep yourself relevant and make sure they have new content to eat off. You’ll have people who have been fans from the jump, and they’ll have the new song soon as it comes out. But if you catch a late fan, they’ll hear the new song and still have the entire catalogue that dropped throughout the year to go listen to.
I like what you do with the fact that you can sing, too. You’ll go back to old records and drop the unplugged visuals. That’s a good concept because you’re returning to the old music but you’re putting a new spin on it. And, touching on something you mentioned earlier, you’re showcasing the different layers and levels to what you, as an artist, are capable of.
I listened to punk rock music and other rock music growing up and a lot of covers were always cool because they were putting their own spin on something. With the acoustics, it’s cool to take a dance record and break it down. We can just have fun with it. And it’s also good content to show everybody – hey, go check out this song, here’s a different version. And a lot of times, people end up requesting that we do a full version of the little snippet we post up.
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That’s dope. You got anything else you want to cover or touch base on?
Keep looking out for new music. And stay clean, keep washing your fucking hands.