Mateo: Get To Know Me

For those who have not heard the “Underneath The Sky” mixtape series or the latest live EP “Get to Know Me Live! at Swing House” from this new MySpace recording artist, he is quite the phenomenon taking the digital music scene by storm. Mateo, a Morehouse College alumni, who began his career as a consultant, but ditched the lofty lifestyle to follow his dreams in music, sat down with Singersroom and shared his vision and goals about this music game and the general direction of R&B music today. With him ushering in a new genre he calls “Urban Mod,” he offers everyone the opportunity to get to know him.

Singersroom: How did you break into the music game?

Mateo: Music has always been around. Music has always been in the family. When I was growing up, my mom put me in piano lessons at age five; playing classical piano. My grandfather was a really big blues guitarist, back in the day. He played at King’s Records where James Brown would come through. So, yeah it’s always been around.

My grandmother is actually a singer and she toured Canada and the Northeast in her day. So, I grew up doing that, and then I ended up going to school. I had not really planned on doing music, like as a profession. I was going to do it on the side because I didn’t think it was something you could really make money off of. I was kind of like everybody else. You know, you go to college; then you think about getting that good job; get that paycheck every 2 weeks; and so you just push a lot of things to the side. So went to Morehouse, was a Business and Music major and I ended up actually just pursuing business.

Funny story… I was interviewing for a consulting gig, I was trying to get this internship at Boston Consulting Group, and one of the first people to interview me was John Legend, which at that time he was John Stevens. I had read his bio card and I was like ‘Oh, he played with Lauryn Hill, like man I’m going to get this job, it’s going to be crazy, I’m into music [and] he’s into music’. It was a good interview; unfortunately I did not get the job…But he was really cool. I graduated from Morehouse went up to New York to work as a consultant, hated every minute of it, and was like “I’m going to do music.” I quit everything and everything just started flowing for me. I met some people that did music for the “EVE” show out in LA, so I moved out to LA. Started doing some live shows and working on the television show then I ended up meeting Quddus Philippe. He used to be a VJ on TRL. He was working at Myspace Records. He brought me over to Myspace records and the rest is history. That’s how it all kind of went down.

Singersroom: I read in your bio that you describe your genre as alternative R&B or Urban Mod…Describe that to me. What is that exactly?

Mateo: You know that’s funny because when people say alternative R&B I say ‘Wow, that’s actually a pretty interesting term. I don’t know if I would call myself alternative R&B. I don’t know who actually did but I think what they mean by that is…It’s R&B music but, it’s like a lot of urban music now. It’s influenced by so many different genres now. Like now you have Kanye West doing songs with Daft Punk or Jay Z doing a song with Chris Martin from Coldplay. I feel like urban music is changing right now where it’s able to be influenced by all these different types of music. For me the music that I love influences what I do so, of course the R&B/ Soul stuff like Lauryn Hill and India.Arie (people like that) and old skool like Donnie Hathaway. I’m also a huge fan of Coldplay and King and I’ll say a lot of alternative rock music that has come out of the UK. I kind of merge a lot of those types of things in my music. And for Urban Mod, it’s actually a term that I came up with. I think it’s going to catch on because I think it is what’s going on in our music right now. Where you got like these urban hipsters, like Cool Kidz and Mickey Factz and all of these upcoming rappers that are changing the face of music. You know like: the way they dress; what they talk about; and just that whole style period. I kind of relate it to a contemporary version of modernism. I call it Urban Mod because of this new kind of modernism in urban music.

MateoSingersroom: That’s very true. R&B music doesn’t sound like it used to sound, as far as the typical hip hop sounding beat, now all kinds of genres are being mixed together. It ultimately still sounds the same it just has a different feel — this must be why people are gravitating towards it.

Mateo: Right! And that’s how music is supposed to be. It’s supposed to grow and change and progress. So, hopefully I’m a part of that progression. That’s why I call it this new urban modernism.

Singersroom: While we’re on the subject of fusion. R&B, specifically focused on love’s ups and downs, continues to find its way into hip hop… In your opinion, what about the two (genres) coming together makes it hot after so many years?

Mateo: They influence each other. R&B now is more someone singing over a Hip Hop beat. Which has been the really dope thing about music. {It’s still hot because} it gives the music a little more edge to it. But then also, honestly, it has kind of taken away from R&B a little bit too. R&B music used to be about feel, it was like heart music, it touched your soul in a certain way. When a song came out it was emotional. {Now} when purely singing over Hip Hop beats you can’t really get that emotion out. It’s more about the head boppin and the club music and all that kind of stuff. What I’m trying to do is, I want to still include hip hop stuff in my music but it is also about bringing back some of the sincerity and the love music that used to happen before. Go back to the time when certain songs came out and you remember where you were and what you were going through. I remember where I was when Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” came out, like when it first dropped I remember hearing it and thinking that’s a beautiful song. That’s what I feel like we need to get back to with R&B music.

Singersroom: In your opinion, do you think the marriage between Hip-Hop and R&B or even Pop could ever come to an end?

Mateo: Naw, I don’t think so. I feel like it always changes and progresses. I mean R&B music now is so different from R&B music back in the 70s, but we keep kind of calling it the same name. It’s really more of a thing of us trying to categorize music.

Singersroom: Tell me about your album and upcoming projects?

Mateo: The official album is slated to drop first quarter 2010. In the meantime I have two different things that are going on. We just did a live EP. It’s called “Get to Know Me Live at Swing House.” We literally shot like six songs and it’s kind of like a storyteller type vibe where I talk about the inspiration behind the songs and about just my career in music. Everything is Live! We have the audio version that’ll be available on iTunes. Then also, there’ll be a DVD that’s available and that will have the full show you can get it either online or you can get a DVD of it. Then also, I’ve been doing these mixtape series, which SINGERSROOM actually featured. SINGERSROOM did an exclusive feature for the “Underneath the Sky” mixtape series. Which, you know, everybody is trying to figure out ways to get music out to people and mixtapes are the new craze. I wanted to do something really really different this year; we wanted to do this concept mixtape series where it actually tells a story. We actually shot a short film (for) it. So we got two chapters so far. We’ll release one chapter, then we’ll release another chapter like every three or four months and you kind of can see how the love story progresses. We were able to get Kardinal Offishall featured on there, Teairra Mari on there; and we were also able to get that dope feature on, which was really helpful. We’re at about 30,000 downloads for the year for the mixtape alone, so that’s been like a very huge success.

Singersroom: Tell me about the tour you’re going on, how did that come about?

Mateo: This will be a college tour; it’s actually the first college tour I’ve done. Earlier in the year I got to do the Day26/ J. Holiday tour on the West Coast, which was crazy, crazy, crazy. That was actually one of my first tours. So of course I got the bug for it. Now we’re trying to do this college tour from September through November. It’s going to be pretty sick and a part of it is we do a lot of sororities and Greek organizations on campus and also try and jump in on some of the homecomings in the fall, like in Atlanta and other places on the East Coast.

Singersroom: For my final question, what is your vision or mission when it comes to your career ? What do you hope people gain from your career?

Mateo: My ultimate goal is for people to hear the music and be able to see themselves inside the stories that I tell within the music. I feel like that’s my main goal to find common ground with any person…every person out there. Whether it be about love, whether it be about good times or bad times or the past or the future. It’s about just being able to connect at a level that a lot of people don’t get to connect with in a regular day or on the street; and to be able to travel the world and do that all over the world. That’s what my goal is. I want {my} music to touch certain moments for people, so that when a song comes on it reminds them of where they were and what they were doing at that time.

—— By: Interview By Lauren Walker


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