Matthew Mayfield (The Interview)

Every year, it happens. And every year, I’m still surprised. An artist like Matthew Mayfield will come out of seemingly nowhere and enrich my life, plunging me into a world where I only listen to his songs for a few days or weeks. I always think there will be a final time where I’ll feel this way, but that is never the case thanks to artists like Mayfield. He’s quite a songwriter, and I am thrilled to have found his work.

His new album, Now You’re Free, which was released last week and was listed among our “Most Anticipated Albums of 2011,” is a warm collection of tunes that deals with heartache and hope. In a way, it’s an album about seizing the moment and speaking clearly about what you want out of life. A big task, but Mayfield accomplishes it genuinely and with feeling.

Here, just listen to the most beautiful track on the album, “Element.”

Currently, Mayfield is on tour supporting Now You’re Free. We were lucky to catch up with him over e-mail.

1. Can you talk a bit about how this album came to be, and what kind of sacrifices you had to make to get your songs out there?

This is a record made possible by fans in every way. They pledged the money through PledgeMusic.  I sold handwritten lyrics, setlists, mix tapes, studio artifacts, etc. in exchange for funding for my record.  It’s nice to not have to deal with the politics of a major label and still have the tools to make a proper album. I put everything I have into these songs.  I hope you can hear it in all 11 tracks.

2. There’s a song called “Element” that really blows me away. Emotionally, it’s stunning. Without being too specific, can you talk about what that song means to you?

It’s crazy–I wrote that song 9 years ago.  It’s the oldest song in my catalog–but I’ve always known that melody was special.  Unlike a lot of my songs, I’ve never wanted to trash it. 🙂  It came straight from my heart.  I think when you feel something intensely, songs just spill out.  Heartache is a bitch, but it inspires like nothing else can.  I suppose that’s why I’ve been heavily medicated for long periods of time. ha…

3. Joy Williams and John Paul White of The Civil Wars both make appearances on Now You’re Free. What’s your relationship with them, and what was it like having them on your record?

Joy and JP are some of the sweetest people I’ve ever met in my life. JP and I have been friends for years and written a few songs together for the EPs before Now You’re Free (Better and The Devil Within).  He called me one day and said, “Hey man…I’ve put a new little thing together with my friend Joy.  Let’s do a show together.”  That was summer of 2009.  That “little thing” became The Civil Wars, and I’d say they’re doing alright.  🙂  Very happy for those two.  Good people.

4. What have you learned most about being a solo musician in the past few years?

I’ve learned you have to do everything yourself.  I can’t rely on anyone else to help me.  When my band left the major label scene, I cut ties with my management, agent…my entire crew.  It took me a while to build a new team and a new band–and during that time, I was wearing every hat. No one owes you anything when you’re doing this on your own.  You’ve got to claw your way up.  I played to 300 FANS this past Sunday night.  On Monday, I played to 7 people in a club the size of my living room.  It keeps me hungry.  And it keeps me on my toes.

5. Finally, what was the last great concert you attended, and what did you take away from it?

Honestly, the last incredible show I saw was Foo Fighters.  I’ve seen a lot of bands play great rock n’ roll music.  But the energy that Dave and Taylor have on that stage is so raw and infectious.  They give it everything they have–night in and night out.  They love their fans–but I can tell they’re the kind of guys that are gonna kill it with or without you–so you better get on board.  I love that attitude.  Very few acts are the full package.  So much excess production at the “big shows” these days.  Foo Fighters will show you that arena rock can be HUGE and still change your life.

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