Matt Stell is an artist on the rise with his breakout single Prayed For You shooting up the charts.
The song has already had more than 40 million streams and it’s the lead single from his EP Everywhere But On, which is released on Friday. Stell almost pursued a career in basketball but the call to make music proved too strong.
I caught up with Stell a few weeks ago to talk about the success of Prayed For You, find out more about his upcoming EP and to discuss his feelings about making his Grand Ole Opry debut (which he went on to do on 27th April).
I’m loving Prayed For You. Where did the inspiration for that song come from?
I wrote that song with two of my best friends in music – Ash Bowers and Allison Veltz. Ash and I were in the office and Allison was running a little bit behind but she called ahead to let us know that she had an idea. She came into the office and she said, ‘I just met this guy’ – who is now her husband – and she said, ‘the title just came to her and it was bigger than I could fathom, I didn’t know you from Adam but I prayed for you’. We started writing at that title and we worked on it two separate days and came out with a song. That was the genesis of it. Allison and I took our experiences from that and other relationships and tried to tell a story of a guy who is a lot like me, and is a lot luckier than he deserves. He just fought the good fight long enough to let this thing happen. In the song that’s a bad relationship but really we were thinking about it in terms of anything in life whether it’s a job or getting into school or graduating or having kids. If you persevere and you fight the good fight you give a chance for good things to happen. That’s what we were thinking about when we wrote the song. When we get down we were pretty excited about it. You know how it will be received but we knew we had done what we set out to do that day.
The song feels very big and something that should be lapped up by radio. It’s already had more than 40 million streams. What’s the reaction been like for you?
Man, honestly it’s just been game changing for me. I got into music and always wanted to write songs because music makes me feel a certain way. My favourite songs make me feel a way that only songs can do. Watching this song resonating with people is really a dream come true. It’s really humbling. Folks are kind enough to drop a message on social media to let us know that they like the song or that they’re going to use it in their wedding, or that they’re going to use it to propose or something like that. It’s really, really cool to see that song resonate with folks.
Your EP Everywhere But On is out soon and it features a collaboration with Jimmie Allen, Home in a Hometown. How did that come about?
Jimmie is a good friend of mine. We have some of the same folks working with us management wise so our paths cross quite a bit. I wrote this song with Ash Bowers and Matt Rogers, who is is very talented. We wrote the song and thought it would be so cool if we had Jimmie come on and feature on it because he’s got such a great voice and such a great way of interpreting songs. He heard the song and dug it, and wanted to be a part of it. It was really, really fine watching all come together and I can’t wait. It really, really makes the song special to have Jimmie on it.
Jimmie is over in the UK quite a lot these days and audiences here absolutely love him. Next time he’s over, you’ll have to come with him…
Oh yeah for sure. I’m going to quote you on that and I’m going to tell him that I have strict instructions to accompany him across the pond next time.
Do you have any plans to come to the UK or is your focus on the US right now?
Right now our focus is on radio for this song but the first chance I get to get over there, you rest assured I will be there. I can’t wait. I’ve not travelled abroad and I would love to do that, especially with folks that I have something in common with, which is a love for music and a love for Country music.
We would love to see you over here and it’s a good time to come over as Country music has really found its feet in the UK…
Yeah, that’s great. That’s exactly what Jimmie was saying. I love Americana music and folk music too, and I know that there’s a common ground there. I know that a lot of folks that I love to listen to either tour there extensively or are from Europe and the UK as well. I can’t wait.
You were recently invited to make your debut at the Grand Ole Opry. How are you feeling about that?
I’m so excited about the Opry debut, I can’t wait. I have so many fond memories. My dad passed away a little over a year ago but before that he and my stepmom along with two of their friends came to Nashville to visit me. We went to the Opry and watched Will Hoge and Luke Combs that night. It was really great. It’s a memory I cherish from that time. I remember thinking that night what it might be like to step on that Opry stage and step in circle, and I get a chance to do it. I’m just beyond excited. I got a bunch of friends and family coming to town for it as well so it’s going to be really special.
Does it feel like a kind of validation that you’re on the right path and that you’re being accepted by the community?
In a way yeah, it really is. I don’t know many artists that the Opry doesn’t hold a special place in their heart about playing there. It’s definitely a venue that everybody wants to play, especially in Country music. It’s really special that there’s this venue that means so much. It’s going to be something else.
Before you decided to focus on music, you almost pursued a career in basketball. Why did music win out in the end?
I was playing basketball in college. I graduated and my eligibility was up, and my chances of playing professional basketball were slim especially since I was just really tired of it. The being done with basketball part was really just me graduating. I started playing music in college over Christmas break. There’s a winter break here and basketball’s a winter sport and the whole school was on winter break but for five weeks I had to stay on campus and I was bored. Video games were starting to be boring too. My mom had gotten me this guitar when I was 12 and I asked her to bring it up. I just sat in front of my computer learning old Country songs, bluegrass songs, Southern Rock songs and things like that. I started writing songs just about as soon as I could rope four chords together. I knew right then that the bug had bit me and that’s what I want to do even though I wasn’t ready to fully commit to it.
You have a really engaging traditional Country voice. When did you first realise it might take you places?
I always thought I could carry a tune but always thought of myself as an athlete and a basketball player. I just try to be as authentic as I can when I’m singing. That’s my M.O. in writing as well too. It humbles me to think that I have a voice that people want to want to hear. It’s interesting.
What else are you hoping to get in this year?
Packing in radio visits with folks that have a passion for music is going to be a lot of my summer and fall. I get to jump on tour with a few of my artists buddies. I can’t really say much about that yet but that’s going to be fun. Playing these festivals is going to be a blast. Hopefully watching my song hit new folks’ ears and seeing how they respond to that is going to be really exciting as well. I’m just taking it as it comes now because it’s kind of a whirlwind.
Matt Stell’s EP Everywhere But On is released on Friday 24th May 2019. Watch the music video for Prayed For You below: