A Candid Convo With Matthew Koma: BreatheHeavy Exclusive

A Candid Convo With Matthew Koma: BreatheHeavy Exclusive

He’s California magic.

Matthew Koma lent his songwriting talents to many musical greats, including Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, Ryan Tedder and Tiesto. His keen sense of self and awareness propels his songwriting abilities to new heights, most recently attaining insurmountable success with his radio-friendly anthemic “So F**kin’ Romantic” single.

BreatheHeavy.com caught up with the 28-year-old to discuss his latest catalogue of work, including new collaborations with Britney and Shania Twain, his outlook on Hilary Duff’s halt in promoting her recent “Breathe In. Breathe Out.” record, his mainstream smash and a heartwarming perspective on staying grounded in a volatile biz.

Fill us in… what have you been up to this summer?
“Mostly focused on the fact that it’s pumpkin season again and trying to incorporate pumpkin in as many drink and meals as possible,” Koma joked. “The best part of September is the pumpkin is back in season. I’m just focusing a lot on that and as far as music is concerned… I’m pretty much wrapped with my record finally. I feel like for so long I’ve been saying ‘I’m finishing my record.’ Been working on a bunch of different stuff… hopping all around on the touring front, got a couple of songs coming out with some other artists, just working away – writing a ton, touring a ton – excited to put my record out. It’s an exciting time for sure.”

And you’re signed with RCA now.
It’s great. I was really fortunate… previously signed with them to be working on a lot of their records, a lot of artists on their roster, so I got off to a really good relationship with their team and a lot of people in that building that when the conversation kinda started as to where to put my record out and where to release my music, it was a very easy transition because we had already such a great rapport and such a great relationship working together. It’s rare. You hear a lot of stories about artists that team up with a label or management where it doesn’t mesh, and to have the opportunity to have already worked on things creatively with this team and know that it does work is such an incredible feeling. I’m very happy to be a part of that family and to continue my career in the same place where I’ve been able to be a part of so many other artists’ records.

Anyone in particular you’ve worked with there that sticks out in your mind?
I’ve been really fortunate to work with people all over the map. For different reasons, everybody has kind of taken a place in my musical heart. To be working with someone like Britney Spears is such a cool thing because when you work on a song with her and you hear her sing, you get to create that time we all sort of lived in. Being a part of that creative process and hear your product back is really, really neat. Very similar to dealing with Kelly Clarkson. She recorded a song of mine called “Someone,” and to hear her take on something that I wrote in my freaking bedroom is mind blowing. It’s really humbling and really inspiring. Honestly, because it’s so different with each artist, it’s hard to necessarily pick a favorite.

What kind of songs do you have for the legendary Britney Spears?
It’s the kind of thing where it’s just respect to her and her project, from a creative standpoint, that’s definitely something she should speak about. As far as getting in the room with her, she’s just such an inspired [artist] and into music. She’s just a fun person to listen to music with because she has brilliant taste and she’ll be referencing things… [that will] definitely influence where her record is going and influence her sound. She works hard! She shows up and puts the time in. She obviously puts a lot of thought and energy into who she is and where she wants to go creatively, and it’s great to be around that kind of energy, especially an artist that’s been around and had it for as long as she’s been, to know she’s still passionate about it and still puts the hours in like that it’s a great thing and a great attribute.

You mentioned Kelly Clarkson. What’s your mindset going into a session with her?
With her it’s crazy to think we still have not met yet. We’ve spoken a little bit but the song she had heard of mine… she loved it and related to the lyric. I think it was one the first songs she actually recorded for the new album [Piece By Piece] right after she gave birth which is wild in itself. It’s one of those things where you work on a song and you have a vision of what it is or what it could be, but when someone like Kelly, who has such an incredible instrument as her voice, it just brings a whole ‘nother dimension and brings it to a whole other level. There aren’t that many incredible singers out there you know? Being a great artist doesn’t necessarily equate to being a great singer, and she’s one of those few examples of somebody who’s just such a gift of a voice. To hear her sing lyrics and melodies that you bring in, it just puts it on steroids. It’s an amazing feeling as a writer. You want somebody to deliver it with that kind of care – the same way you put care into the words of the music – with her it creates a very humbling thing to hear that song for the first time – when I heard her version of it, because it’s very few and far between you don’t have any comments… the first time I heard it I’m like ‘OK, great.’

You haven’t met her before in person… do you prefer to be there in the room?
Everything influences the creative process. When you’re shooting a video it’s influenced by that, when you’re traveling it’s influenced by that, working with someone that sends you a track or gave you a reference to what they want to execute that influences it. There’s so many ingredients that go into the pot to make whatever it is you’re making. I don’t know if I have a preference versus I like doing it at all. I love working with other artists. I love talking to an artist and feeling like, ‘Oh, we spoke on the phone a few times, or we spoke through Twitter and we spoke about things that we liked’ or stuff that we’re fans of and that lead to this song being created… It’s not a preference as much as it is a factor. It’s part of the equation that makes it unique.

What has your experience been witnessing “So Fuckin Romantic” blowing up on the radio?
The truth of the matter is… when you write a song or when you produce an album… my favorite moment of it is when it’s you alone in the room with the song, and you’re listening back to it and you’ve kind of gone through all your OCDs, looked over it, created it, sculpted it, did you destroy it? From that moment on you don’t get to really decide what other people think of it. You don’t get to really determine how the public is going to react or how your fans are going to welcome or not welcome it and no matter what happens – if it sells one copy or a million copies – it doesn’t change. I think that stress of being exposed or being under a bigger microscope is more of a psychological thing or a mental thing. Whether you define the success by the numbers or not I just feel good about the fact that the song I had fun making and it’s one of many songs I wrote and it’s part of my story and part of my record and catalogue and it’s great to see people reacting to it. You don’t know what people are going to react to. I’ve written songs before that I never would have expected to be the ones that connected the most and they do. Others that you’re sure that are going to connect and those aren’t the ones. You just have to enjoy the ride and let each song be and just kind of sit back. Once it’s set free it’s not just yours anymore. It’s yours in that room when you create it and then it becomes everybody’s. You almost can’t be as emotionally attached or take it personally as much as you enjoy the benefits of it.

Do you prefer to be behind-the-scenes or in the spotlight?
I love both so much. I’m the kind of person that gets very bored very easily. I constantly need to be doing something, and constantly need to be things that are different which is why I love working with Britney Spears and I’m bouncing to my record, and then I’m working on the Shania Twain album which is a country record. I like to constantly shift… If I didn’t have one of those two things I wouldn’t feel balanced. It’s the exposure to both that keeps me able to fully invest in both.

You’re working with Shania Twain?!
It’s been awesome. Initially hooked up via the Internet – she heard some of my music. She Tweeted a photo of herself singing along to one of my songs. I reached out and I’m like ‘hey, that’s awesome.’ [laughs] I’d love to come see your show. We hit it off and it kind of organically evolved… we both come from different places but in a weird way come from a very similar place with our spirit and work ethic and moral and what we like and I think it made for a very unique relationship and the music is coming natural. I don’t feel like we sat down and intentionally said, ‘we’re going to do this and we’re going to make a record!’ It just kind of transitioned into her sending me some song ideas and me working on productions for them. It’s been a very organic process. If you listen to her song ideas and you’re like ‘oh yea that’s the voice and that’s the perspective of some of the songs that live on to be 20 years later so strong because they’re incredible,’ and that person is still writing the songs. It’s amazing to be a part of that.

You wrote several songs on Hilary Duff’s “Breathe In. Breathe Out.” record, but she seemingly stopped all promotion for the record. Does that bother you?
No! Because look, at the end of the day artists are artists for a reason, because it’s part of their personality to follow their intuition. That’s their right to be in a creative state to deliver a sincere performance. In her case, she’s someone who wears many hats. She’s an actress, and she’s a writer, and a singer and a performer and all these different things. I think whatever it is that she’s feeling in her gut that is the lane she needs to pursue. I can’t speak if she is or isn’t promoting the record. I know she focuses on a lot of things she’s really passionate about. She does them all really well… I’m happy for her… she’s pursuing the things she’s pursuing and I’m glad we got to make some rad music together. I love “Breathe In. Breathe Out.” I think it sounds rad.

What do you consider success in music?
Creating songs of quality. My favorite moments are writing songs. I love writing songs. It’s what I’ve always loved doing. It’s an amazing gift to be able to do that. For me, the success is creating something that feels sincere and honest and feeling good about it. Whether it’s with one person or thousands of people… being that connection with people relating to it. Seeing people connect to a new song and hearing it for the first time and liking it or seeing people sing along to ‘Clarity’ and know every word because it means something to them. That’s the success. It’s feeling good about what you’re doing and being proud of it.

What’s something that you live by that you can share with us?
I feel like I constantly share this with everybody, that it’s about happiness, and your friends, and health and family and everything else is bullshit. It doesn’t matter what it is you’re doing or what level of “success” you’re trying to reach. It’s only about whatever it is you’re currently and presently in. I can’t tell you how many things over the course of the past couple of years most people would assume to be extreme highs, but without the real core things none of it matters. I think constantly keeping in check… the fact that it all goes away if you’re not happy doing what you’re doing. For me, happiness is focusing on family, friends and health. It makes everything a lot more fun and a lot more enjoyable. It’s everything to me.