Catapulting onto the country music scene with the back-to-back #1s smashes ‘Prayed For You’ and ‘Everywhere But On’, RECORDS Nashville Multi-Platinum artist Matt Stell has now really found his sound and voice with new his new EP ‘One of US’. UK fans will be able to see Stell in action live at next month’s C2C festival in London, Dublin and Glasgow and I’d urge you to grab a ticket now!
We last talked to Matt in September 2022 ahead of his tour with Elvie Shane and you can read that interview right here.
An Arkansas native, Stell slips easily back into his roots for ‘One of Us’ matching lived experience with universal truth. Three tunes were co-written by Stell with hitmakers Jessie Jo Dillon, Chase McGill, Randy Montana, and more, while others were sourced from the likes of Michael Hardy and Tyler Hubbard. Exploring themes like aching hearts and nights that hurt so good, or big dreams that drive small-town kids from home, featured songs include Stell’s latest single ‘Man Made’, hard-rocking power ballad ‘One Of Us’, and a jacked-up romance in ‘Shut The Truck Up.’
This EP is so good, in fact, that the listener is left a little frustrated and wanting more by the end of the six tracks. Only four more would have bumped it up to a full album. I know there’s an age old adage that all entertainers should leave the crowds wanting more but in full album form, this would have been HUGE! Stell and the label must have their reasons why: commercial, artistic, who knows? But like a greedy Augustus Gloop, I just wanted more!
Matt Stell has always been an artist capable of producing fabulous songs. His love of the guitar and his penchant for rocking out live has left him a little frustrated, at times, in terms of people seeing him just as the ‘Prayed for You’ guy and with current single ‘Man Made’, another ballad, at Country radio, there’s a danger that that stereotype will only be exacerbated further, but in ‘One Of Us’, Stell shows off a range of styles, sounds and tempos all woven together by the binding narrative of his voice and guitar. There is a cohesion on this EP that he has never quite managed to capture before.
If you love songs of his like ‘If I was a Bar’ then you’ll love ‘This One’s Gonna Hurt’. The story of a rowdy night out, ‘…Gonna Hurt’ is the perfect concert opener for Stell in this next phase of his career. Loud without being dumb, rowdy but not vacuous, it’s a great uptempo song and vehicle for Stell to show everyone he isn’t just a ballad guy.
Similarly, ‘One of Us’ rocks out in the same vein. It’s an inclusive story about a town full of people and friends who share the same characteristics with you and I. Some settle down forever, some try to leave. Some are party animals, some are family guys. The overriding message of the song is that we are all the same, no matter where we come from. There’s an umph, power and muscle behind this song that will also make it a live favourite as Stell tours this EP for the next 18 months or so.
Despite not wanting to be defined by his ballads, Stell has produced three ‘Stellar’ (I know, it’s a lazy pun but I couldn’t resist) ones on ‘One of Us’. ‘Man Made’ is a heartfelt and emotional tribute to the power of women. Stell even took his mother onto the Bobby Bones show last year to talk about her influence on his life and career! ‘Somewhere Over the Radio’, meanwhile, is even better. It’s a powerful, piano-driven look at a man chasing his dreams, from humble small town beginnings to FM fame. The song deals with the difficult decisions that have to be made along the way in a tasteful and heartfelt way and, again, there’s a power in the music and the vocals that really stir up something deep down inside. ‘Roots in the Ground’, meanwhile, is a touching look at love, ageing and families. From the cradle to the grave with a whole of lot of history thrown into the mix too.
Stand-out track, and future radio number one in waiting from this EP has to be ‘Shut the Truck Up’. From its cheeky title to the final chord, this is an outstanding song. Slick, smooth, mid-tempo vibes augment a powerful song about needing to sell a truck for ‘rock-bottom’ dollar because of the memories it leaves of the girl that’s gone. It’s a familiar theme in Country music but in Stell’s hands it resonates with a heart and soul that is both powerful (there’s that word again, are you getting the theme here?) and meaningful. Sometimes songs leap of EPs and albums and you know they will have a life of their own on radio. I felt that the first time I heard ‘Girl Crush’. The first time I heard Cam’s ‘Burning House’. Most recently, the first time I heard ‘Buy Dirt’. ‘Shut the Truck Up’ is one of ‘those’ songs.
‘One of Us’ is a joy to listen to but it’s just not long enough. There’s no filler, there’s no weak tracks, which is why I would have liked more. Let’s hope Matt Stell has some more songs from these recording sessions up his sleeve and the EP can be fleshed out a little more a little further down the road? There’s a power and class to the songs on offer here and a cohesion to the whole project that makes this the defining release of Matt Stell’s career to date. An artist on the cusp, ‘One of Us’ gives him all the ammunition he needs to push on and become the kind of major name that this level of artistry deserves.
Tracklist: 1. One of Us 2. Shut the Truck Up 3. Man Made 4. This One’s Gonna Hurt 5. Roots in this Ground 6. Somewhere Over the Radio Record Label: Records Nashville Release Date: 10th February Buy ‘One of Us’ now