For Black Music Month, new R&B singer/songwriter Mateo speaks to Aries from UrbanBridgez about his upcoming debut release, being discovered on MySpace, the current state of R&B, his essential R&B albums and much more!
UrbanBridgez.com: How did you get started?
Mateo: I went to school down in Atlanta, I’ve always been singing it’s always been in the family. I was on business track, so I actually moved to New York. I started working a business corporate job for a second. I hated it (laughs), it was like the worse ever. I was like insulted. I left there and decided I wanted to do music. Then I met a producer who was apart of the EVE camp. He was like you should come out to L.A. and help work on the music for the TV show. So that’s basically how I came out here to L.A. and started on the music. I started doing music television for a second. Then just started doing shows, you know. I was able to get a buzz in the L.A. area, I took off from there. So that’s really how I started. I was like I don’t wanna do this corporate thing, I’m gonna move to L.A. get into music and start doing shows somehow. Then I got on MySpace and eventually ended up being signed to MySpace Records.
UrbanBridgez.com: What do you hope to bring to R&B, that may be missing?
Mateo: I wanna bring back that feeling.. I don’t know if you remember. But do you remember when albums came out and they marked a certain time period or point in your life? Remember when that Lauryn Hill single came out or that whole album really, it was like freshman year…
UrbanBridgez.com: Oh yeah! (laughs)
Mateo: (laughs) See, it needs to get back to that! Like an event and speak for certain times in your life. I feel like we kind of lost that. R&B is now, it’s all about kind of singing over Hip-Hop beats. Nice beats to dance to, but it’s not about the feeling anymore. That’s what I want to bring back, just the ability to feel the music. I don’t think people do that anymore. That’s my main goal in the music industry.
UrbanBridgez.com: Let’s talk about your debut album, many have been waiting awhile like myself. Tell me about the process so far and people you worked with?
Mateo: It’s pretty exciting actually. We been working on these mixtape series for the past 5-6 months. In the process, we’ve been able to get some of that original music out there and get the sound out. It’s really cool, because it’s starting to evolve. Music that is organic and has that kind acoustic field to it. But still has other elements you know. Has some of the alternative music in there, some good electro sounds, just a merger of alot of different sounds. It’s really cool because that’s where urban music is going. Anytime you got Kanye doing something with Daft Punk, things are changing. That’s the type of album we’re trying to create, just do it for R&B. So it’s really a dope process. We got my homie JL Brown who has been working on alot of stuff. Brian Kennedy is on it. We got a couple people who are gonna be really instrumental about getting the project off the ground. We’re gonna work with Krucial on some stuff, so I’m looking forward to that. It’s gonna be a really, really dope experience. That’s the whole point, to make your album an experience. Like let me listen to that again, let me go to that place.
UrbanBridgez.com: When will it be released?
Mateo: In the fall.
UrbanBridgez.com: “Human” really got you exposure early on, did you think people would accept you so fast?
Mateo: No, “Human” was the first song I put on MySpace and I didn’t expect it to get the response it did. Around that time period also, I was like music is hard. It’s hard to get accepted, it’s hard for people to look at you and be like I like you as an artist. It’s just hard to do that initially. So when I put it up and I was getting responses from everyday people. It wasn’t industry people or television people, just regular people. And they was like, I like that song. That was my re-up right there. That’s what gave me the motivation and momentum to keep going. To keep pushing forward with the music. Time it went up, I was getting mad play. It was a great expense. That song was also a test to me. I was just hanging out with one of my homies who’s a guitar player and we were just playing melodies and it came out perfect. It was a pretty good look.
UrbanBridgez.com: When did you learn how to play the piano?
Mateo: Oh man, I was one of those kids where my Mom would say, why don’t you just play something (laughs). At like Thanksgiving or something, yeah I was one of those kids. I started out playing when I was 5 or 6. It was mostly classical music, that’s my background. Classical piano. You can kind of hear it in certain songs, like “Complicated” for instance. The way I’m playing it, kind of reminds you of something classical and has that influence. So that’s how I came up playing piano.
UrbanBridgez.com: You graduated from Morehouse, how was your college experience?
Mateo: It was fun dude! Like Atlanta, it’s just like all those black colleges in one place. It’s just ridiculous. It was alot of fun and the doppest thing, I got to see people like myself just doing well about their business. Like you could go hang at a party and not be concerned about a fight breaking out or whatever (laughs). You know, it wasn’t none of that kind of stuff. It was just good times, you go out, hang out and everything is poppin. You have a lot of fun, plus you get inspired by the teachers and just the people you’re around. The musicians were amazing down there also. That’s what kind of helped me develop as a musician and singer.
UrbanBridgez.com: I love your whole vibe and your musical style, who are some of your influences?
Mateo: So many people, from old school to new school. I would say Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, love Lauryn Hill, I just mentioned her earlier. I miss her right now, I’m feenin for her to come back. People like India.Arie, Justin Timberlake, Coldplay, Radiohead, all those different people. They were all instrumental in helping me develop my sound. Also Musiq Soulchild.
UrbanBridgez.com: What’s your thoughts on the current state of R&B?
Mateo: I think R&B has kinda slowed down a little bit. I think in those times, music starts to turn around and change into something new. It’s great, I mean we still have really great artists like Ne-Yo, Usher, who’s working on his album now. You look forward to those artists coming out. But I think alot of it is changing, like Hip-Hop is changing, urban music is changing. In Hip-Hop you got like Drake, Mickey Factz just all these new people. Like the Cool Kids, different types of artists. I feel like that’s gonna happen in R&B. It’s gonna be like a new style. It’s gonna infuse all types of different genres. It’s gonna be cool to have a song that’s like kind of inspired by something. It’s gonna be like alot of different things coming together. I think the new wave of artists are going to bring that out. Like Jazmine Sullivan, I’m a huge fan of hers. She’s doing great things and I think things like that are gonna start happening. So it’s pretty exciting for R&B music I think.
UrbanBridgez.com: How were the shows with Day 26 and J. Holiday? I seen some of y’alls tweets about it (laughs).
Mateo: (laughs) Yeah. It was hell of fun! It was crazy, we had a very good time. It was cool to meet Day 26 and J Holiday, they were just great. I definitely respect their hustle and music. It was fun man, like we did really well. People were loving the music. It’s always good when you get on stage and specially in front of alot of people who don’t know your songs. And after they come up and they’re very appreciative of you and they like the music. I think that was like the best part of it. That’s the part I love actually. I’m not really a studio guy, I would much rather be on stage. That’s the fun part, you know. It was a good tour all around.
UrbanBridgez.com: Off the top of your head, give me the top 3 essential R&B albums you think every R&B head should have?
Mateo: Good question! I would say the top three would be… Man only three? Okay I would say, the Donnie Hathaway album with “A Song For You.” Actually just get the greatest hits of Donnie Hathaway, that’s one right there. I would say D’Angelo’s first album and then my girl Lauryn Hill. I have to add four, Usher’s “Confessions” album.
UrbanBridgez.com: What’s next for you?
Mateo: We’re gonna continue with these mixtape series. We already got Chapter I out the way and Chapter II just came out. I’m excited about those because, it’s a different type of mixtape. Most of the time you just kind of remake songs that are already out. Well with these, we actually created a story and a short film to it. It’s just dope, a dope little concept. Hopefully everyone checks it out. We got cool features on this chapter, Teairra Mari, Out of Sight and Kardinal Offishall. So we’re just gonna keep building on that. We got some more chapters to go. So working on that, the album of course. And trying to get on some more tours. I wanna get to the east coast and do some shows.
UrbanBridgez.com: Any last words for your fans?
Mateo: Thanks for the support! And being on this journey with me, it’s definitely a journey. Hopefully we all rise together and make 2009 a great year and all of the years after that. So I really appreciate everybody being around.
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Also download Chapter 1 & 2 of “Underneath the Sky” for free!