We had the good fortune of connecting with Matt Norden and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Matt, what do you attribute your success to?
The lesson I relearn at least once a week is ‘if you want something done right, do it yourself.’ The less you have to rely on other people the better off you are. It’s difficult because as an unsigned DIY artist you have to be a jack of all trades: writing, recording, mixing, promoting, performing etc. But with the help of advancing technology and professor Google it has never been easier to be a bedroom business. I’m also a bit of a perfectionist so the more control I retain over a song or merchandise, the better off it’ll be.
The other half is steadfast discipline. I believe in life things are only worth what you’re willing to give up for them. To be an artist requires a tremendous amount focus and practice because when the creative juices stall, and I promise they will, there’s nothing harder than finishing that song or four hour show. Forcing yourself to rehearse or record that single when all you want to do is watch Netflix is paramount for success.
I especially think there’s a great deal of discipline singers need to succeed. Being a singer is similar to being a professional athlete: your body is your instrument so you have to practice daily, diet well and maintain yourself cautiously to prevent injury.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m a singer-songwriter who generally produces rock-pop music. I’d say what sets my music apart is the delicate wordsmithing and its mildly experimental nature. I love to paint with colorful words. It’s the poetic nature of my work that stands out from a lot of modern music. Additionally, I try to experiment with fresh song structures and chords; I’m all for finding subtle ways to break away from conventional songwriting. Whenever I’m trying to write new craft, my first question is ‘well what’s different from what I’ve heard?’: I call it commercial music with a twist.
When I just began singing, one mental obstacle I had to work through wasn’t the fear of failure; it was literal failure. In high school I intended to chase the musical theater dream. One summer I did a Broadway intensive in Philadelphia. They brought in Broadway stars and notable college audition teams to critique us. In a mock audition I sang “Your Eyes” from Rent to the best MT audition reps in the country and when I finished they mumbled “…well acting must be more your thing right?”
I was humiliated; weeks away from auditions and my favorite part of musical theater was my weakness? It was in that moment of despair that I knew what I wanted more than ever; I wanted to be killer musician. Music was what drew to the theater first place and was what I longed to be good at. So I took voice lessons, cleaned up my guitar chops and eventually started performing more and more. I took my lowest moment and converted it into inertia to propel myself forward!
If I’ve learned anything insightful it’s that nothing beats hard work. Not natural talent, not money, not charisma, not looks, not even luck. Working hard is the one thing you can control and the most important piece for progress.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well I’m pretty new so take what I say with a grain of salt. Nothing beats a Santa Monica beach sunset and a BJ’s Pizookie for dessert. If you ask me again in 3 months I’ll have a better answer!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My largest pillars of support have really been my education, friends and family. I went to an artsy high school called Abington Friends School (AFS) and got my degree from Berklee College of Music. AFS gave me a worldly education and deep understanding of what our role as humans should be; that rigorous education mixed with an emphasis on how to be a compassionate human has been important for me to create meaningful art.
Berklee offered all the tools, facilities, contacts that a musician could ever need to hone their craft. Everyday there was filled to brim with a critical learning experience whether it was music theory, performance techniques or how to wrap a tangled mic cable. Also, to be surrounded by likeminded individuals and brilliant professors is what really pushed me to work tirelessly to be a better musician.
On the subject of friends and family, I can’t even tell you how many bar shows I’ve done where the only faces there were the people I grew up with. They’re the people who believed in me before I believed in myself, who I run my songs by (90% which aren’t so hot I apologize) and who keep me grounded when this demanding industry gets overwhelming.
Headshot – MHamiltonVisuals