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BGS 5+5: Matt Koziol

Apr 8, 2024

BGS 5+5: Matt Koziol

Artist: Matt Koziol
Hometown: Linden, New Jersey
Latest Album: Last of the Old Dogs (out April 5, 2024)

What was the first moment that you knew you wanted to be a musician?

I was probably 4 years old and I saw Elivs on TV. It was like watching lightning in a bottle and I wanted to do it. No one in my family really listened to him, but I heard the sounds and the voice and knew that what he did, I loved. It introduced me to every kind of music that has been an influence for me. Rhythm and blues, country, gospel. It all played a part in the music that moves me. I think hearing Elvis for the first time turned a light switch on in my head. It made me realize music was what I wanted and something I would always be working towards.

What’s the toughest time you ever had writing a song?

The toughest time isn’t just one moment. It happens often. Co-writing with people, my brain works fast. I had a great writing friend, Jason Nix, once say “dare to be wrong” and it changed my approach to writing in group settings. It made me fluent. When I’m writing alone is when the tough parts come, especially if it’s a subject I feel strongly about. It’s like painting, and you don’t want to use the wrong color you imagine in your mind. Sometimes you have happy accidents, but I’ll use a word or a phrase to describe something in a song and it just doesn’t always make me feel how I felt when that moment happened. The way I’ll work around it is to try and just say what happened out loud like I’m talking to a friend. Then I try to write it in simple language, but every once in a while I just get stuck. And, I mean STUCK. Not a single word comes to mind, or I’m playing the same chords that I’ve used in another song, or a melody that I’ve repeated. At that point, I just put everything down and walk away. I come back to it later, or the next day. The story will still be in my head, but if I can’t serve that feeling justice, then I’ll wait until I can.

What has been the best advice you’ve received in your career so far?

I was in high school, and I made a demo for the first time. I brought it to my middle school music teacher (Reggie Turner) and had him listen. He told me to come back a few days later to get his thoughts. What I didn’t know is that he would play it for 20 of his sixth grade students and have them write a short review on how they felt. Now, if you ever want brutal honesty, let a bunch of 10 year-olds review your songs. He then showed me the notes and it was ruthless. They said I sounded like I had a frog in my throat, that they couldn’t understand what I was saying. They said they liked the guitar, but it felt messy. I was trying, at that time, to emulate my heroes. I wanted to play like them and sing like them, but it wasn’t my voice. He then said something I’ll never forget:

“You have your own fingerprint. No one else has yours. If you sing like someone else, and try to be their fingerprint, you’ll always be number two. However, if you sing like yourself, you’ll always be number one. No one has your sound, and no one has your fingerprint.”

I take that with me everyday.

Since food and music go so well together, what is your dream pairing of a meal and a musician?

This is such an awesome question, because I love both of these things so much! I grew up in an Italian household so for me, pasta and wine go with jazz or crooners. Something about good wine and an Italian-made meal feels like Tony Bennett. It feels like Frank Sinatra. When I’m having a good steak and bourbon, I tend to lean towards bluegrass. Something about a rustic meal with my favorite drink bleeds Appalachia. I usually follow up that meal with a fire and more bourbon and a cigar. All those smells and flavors are my favorite. It also depends on people’s tastes, but for me, those are my two ideal pairings for food and music.

How often do you hide behind a character in a song or use “you” when it’s actually “me?”

I have very seldomly put a song out that’s a “character.” Songs like “Work All Day” or “You Better Run, Son” have been songs that are stories for me. Things that I’ve read or seen in movies that give me the feeling and I want to write it down. The only other time I’m writing like that is when I have a person in my life whose story I’m telling because they don’t know how. Everything else, however, is me. I’ve lived it. I don’t always love that I have, but I love that I made it through. One of the things said in writing rooms, especially in Nashville is, “How do we make this relatable?” My response to that is always, “Just write what happened. You’re not the first for it to happen to, and you won’t be the last. Someone else has been through this before, they may just need your words to get them through it.”

I think relating with a song comes from the honesty of the writing. I know that I didn’t have the exact same thing happen to me that caused John Mayer to write “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room,” but I sure as hell had something happen that made me relate to the lyrics. It was his story, and I had mine. I needed his words to find a way to understand how I felt. That’s the power of writing. If it’s honest for you, It will be honest for someone else.

Photo Credit: Kaiser Cunningham

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BGS 5+5: Matt Koziol
BGS 5+5: Matt Koziol