By Erin Orrick
Matt Easton, a senior at the University of Kansas, kick-started his career as a writer, rapper and producer in 2010. He released his first self-produced mixtape, “Intro into Public Speaking,” as a freshman and has become a common face around the Lawrence music scene. In December 2013, Easton released his sixth mixtape, “Grey Area.” I chatted with Matt, who described his musical adventure and what graduating and leaving KU means for him and his future.
You bring a lot of energy and showmanship to your concerts. Any crazy fan encounters during your sets?
ME: Honestly, the craziest fan encounters come from online, through my social media sites. On Facebook, I sometimes have kids from all over the world sending me inbox messages, saying how they are fans of my music. To me, that is a crazy experience: seeing firsthand how far my music is reaching.
Every artist seems to have that one moment on stage they remember for the rest of their life. Have you had that moment?
ME: Yes, during one of my first out-of-state shows, at a fraternity house at the University of Miami. It was one of the first times playing my song “Live Life” in front of a new crowd, and all 300 kids in the fraternity basement knew all the lyrics and were singing them out loud. Then, towards the end of the song the speaker system cut out, but the kids continued to sing, “That’s the way we live life.” I remember standing on that stage with the microphone down at my side, completely in awe. It was the first time I had witnessed kids who were familiar with something I had created.
You actually don’t read music, but play by ear. Has this ever been a hindrance for you?
ME: When I work with trained musicians like Wes Powell, the guitar player I work with, sometimes it can be difficult for me to communicate. I have been able to learn which notes are which, but I have no education in music theory. Playing piano by ear is something I think I learned from my father, but I didn’t really take interest until my freshman year at KU. I started messing around with producing in the dorms, and began learning covers of songs using YouTube. It came very easy for me, to the degree that it has convinced me it was something I was meant to be doing.
If you could collaborate with three artists, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
ME: Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis and Bill Withers. These are three of my favorite musicians of all time. Jimi Hendrix morphed sounds of blues into a new sound of rock, Miles Davis put swagger into jazz and Bill Withers put soul into his music that I feel every time I listen to one of his songs. I mainly listen to music from before the 80s. I really feel the passion that went into the song writing and production in music from the 30s through the 70s. I think this had a lot to do with the social movements going on in America at the time. There was so much passion and emotion going into these songs, something that I think lacks a little in what is considered mainstream today.
What are your plans after graduation?
ME: I plan on making the transition from Lawrence to Chicago. I like the idea of building on the network we have established in the area. The first step was attempting to establish a solid network in Lawrence, and the next step is to build on our Chicago network. Because of the way the industry has been evolving with technology, shifting most of the focus to social media, I think we will still be able to reach the markets we want to reach. I honestly think a strong social media game can allow someone to make it in the music industry, without having to move to LA or NYC.
May 2 will be your last concert in Lawrence before you graduate and head off into your future. Where is your head at right now?
ME: I cannot wait for the show. It will be my first time headlining at the Granada, and I also get to share the stage with some good friends of mine who are talented Lawrence artists as well. The Granada has played such a huge role in shaping me as a performing artist, and I am very thankful to have received the opportunities I have had. Lawrence has been such an influential environment for me beginning my career as a musician. KU is a family I plan on staying a part of for the rest of my life, and I hope to become successful enough to be able to give back to this incredible university. Rock chalk.
Matt Easton’s free farewell concert is Friday, May 2 at the Granada
9:00 p.m. Doors open at 8:00 p.m.
Headlining with Chase Compton and Brian Lockwood
The concert is free, but you need a ticket to get in. Pick them up at Minsky’s on Mass or DM @theofficialCME on Twitter.
Edited by Hannah Swank
Photo by John Reynolds and Tristan Gramling