Singer/songwriter/pianist Mateo is gearing up for greatness. With a name that literally means “a gift from the heavens,” this rising star is shooting a path through the music universe at light speed. The 25-year-old Ohio native come from a musical family, and has been singing and playing piano since age five. He’s shared the stage with Erykah Badu, Day 26, and Mario, and has two critically acclaimed mixtapes under his belt: the “Underneath the Sky” and “Love & Stadiums” mixtape series. He has signed with Interscope imprint “Krucial Noise,” the label formed by longtime Alicia Keys collaborator Kerry “Krucial” Brothers’, and is now gearing up for his second release on the label with the mixtape “Suite 823.” With all this musicality, it’s surprising to know that if it weren’t for a career change, his musical talent would be lost to the masses!
Mateo recently took the time out before heading to the studio to chat with Singersroom about everything from the career change that changed his life, what it’s like working with veteran Alicia Keys, his new project “Suite 823,” and what he likes to do for the ladies on a first date.
Singersroom: As an Ohio native, you have a close connection to Ohio’s rich soul/funk music history. Could you tell a little about that?
Mateo: Yeah, a lot of people don’t know Ohio used to be like a music center. My family was a musical family. My grandfather was a jazz and blues guitarist in Cincinnati and he played for King Records, and King Records was based in Cincinnati. He played for James Brown, Charles Brown, just a lot of different artists. My grandmother was also a singer, and she used to tour around and tour Japan, so music was always just a part of the family. I was always forced every holiday to sing against my will or play the piano, so it’s always been around, it’s always been a part of the culture where I grew up.
Singersroom: With all that musicality, it’s hard to believe that a career in music almost didn’t happen?
Mateo: Yeah, I was like many people, like you get out of high school, and you wanna do what everybody else is doing, just try to go down a career path that everybody else is doing, like go to college, get that good job that’s paying you every two weeks, that kinda thing. What I realized, when I was in school, doing internships and a lot of business stuff and when I graduated, and actually got a real job; I realized that wasn’t really what I wanted to do, and that was not my passion. And I had been fighting it for a long time, cause I always had music around me, but I would always just do it on the side, but it was one of those things where my passion just kinda overcame everything else. And I don’t wanna go through this life with shoulda coulda woulda’s cause life’s not a rehearsal, so you might as well go and do what you wanna do. And at that very moment, I literally left the job I was doing as a consultant and I moved to LA and started doing music.
Singersroom: What advice would you give to those who find dissatisfaction in their lives, but are afraid to leave stability in order to follow their dreams?
Mateo: Literally, it’s one of those things (and this is gonna sound weird) but you gotta grab life by the balls, and just go for it. You have to know that you are the captain of the ship in terms of your life, things just ain’t gonna happen to you, you make things happen. I think that’s the main thing, a lot of people think they’re just a victim of their circumstance, but sometimes you can change the circumstances around you. If you’re in that bad job or a situation you don’t like, it’s up to you to change it. It really is, you can change anything you want to. If you want to move to Sheboygan, Idaho, and you want to live in Sheboygan, just make that move and make it happen. It’s crazy, once you start putting energy into what you want to do, then it actually starts to happen, it starts to manifest. That’s really what it is. You have to just put it into action, say “I wanna do this”and start making things happen, start taking steps to make it happen, and it will happen.
Singersroom: You signed with and Kerry “Krucial” Brothers’ label “Krucial Noise” in 2010 after leaving Myspace Records. How did that come about?
Mateo: I was signed to Myspace Records at one time, and it was through Quddus Philippe who was a VJ on TRL. He got me ever since Myspace Records, but he also introduced me to Krucial while I was there to do a remix for this record “Complicated” that I had. I met him then, and Krucial was like “Yo, I want you to be one of my first artists.” And I was really excited about it because he had done so many great things with Alicia Keys from the beginning of her career on, and has such a unique, authentic sound, and I was excited to work with him. And it’s been amazing. The level of which Alicia, I mean, just the sound is at a greater standard. I’m used to making music in a bedroom studio, you know? And he’s flying in certain instruments and vintage equipment which definitely changes the standard of our music creating. It’s pretty dope.
Singersroom: What’s it like working with Alicia Keys and having her support behind you? (I’m sure the inspiration and vibe is crazy during studio sessions.)
Mateo: Working with Krucial is really great. Because of Krucial, I’ve gotten to work with Alicia on some stuff for her album. It’s a dream come true, I’ve grew up idolizing the work that they’ve done, and to be able to be there in the room, just to be in the game, that’s like a dream come true for me and something that I really wanted to do.
Singersroom: “Carry On” is the single from your upcoming mixtape “Suite 823.” What’s the meaning behind the title?
Mateo: Basically, there’s two different meanings. While I was creating the mixtape, I was in New York at the time, and I was working out of studios there in Times Square, but also I was in a hotel like for an entire month. And when I had my breaks, soon as I worked (I really wanted to say and talk about on the mixtape) I was literally in a suite, in a hotel room. It’s kinda a place where you’re left to your thoughts. I was thinking about past loves, thinking about where I’m at now, thinking about what kind of songs I wanna put out to my fans. Thinking about everything, thinking about the new label situation with Interscope, and it kinda became this place for me where the music just kinda came out, and that’s where the title “Suite 823” came from. I was pretty much thinking about my fans and past loves, all that kind of stuff, and that’s how it kinda came about.
Singersroom: All those things you were thinking about in the hotel suite, we can expect to hear on “Suite 823?”
Mateo: Yeah, all those things that came out of there, and just that experience in New York at that time period. When you get signed to a major label, people think it’s all this rejoicing, but it’s not, it nervous, you’re scared, you don’t know what direction to go in, you don’t know what that means for your life. And when you’re sitting in a hotel room by yourself, you got a lot to think about, so a lot of that material came out of there.
Singersroom: How does “Suite 823” compare to or differ from your previous “Underneath the Sky” series and “Love & Stadiums” EP?
Mateo: I think this is the best body of work I’ve ever put out. It’s still continues the sound that I’ve been creating, but it just took it to the next level. It still kinda has the young, foolish and in love sentiment that has always been in my songs, but it also has more edge to it, add different sounds to it, and we really tried to come up with something really really special.
Singersroom: You’ve described your music as being “euphoric,” “anthemic,” and about love. What inspires your songwriting concepts?
Mateo: It comes from life experiences, what I’m going through, where my head’s at, what my friends are going through, what my family is going through.
Singersroom: What other artists would you love to work with?
Mateo: Well I’d love, love, love to work with, as Krucial’s new artist, with Alicia Keys, of course. I’ve been doing some stuff with Dawn Richards, I love working with her. I love to check in with Kanye West, you know, Coldplay, who are one of my major influences, and would love to do something with somebody like that, definitely a big fan of them.
Singersroom: How do you see your music and/or your artistic-self growing within the next five years?
Mateo: I see me becoming more of me, you know? Not really caring what artists are out there, really just staying true to the stuff that I wanna do, the stuff that I wanna say. And that evolves, that changes with time with new experiences and meeting new people. But it’s always gonna be the mixture of music that I love. Like even now, you hear some alternative/rock, you hear some soul in it, you hear some R&B in it, you hear some hip-hop in it, and I wanna continue that on. I have a legacy of always creating music that, when people first hear it, they remember where they were when they first heard it, and that’s my goal.
Singersroom: What do you like to do when not working on music?
Mateo: Just regular people stuff, I just try to be a regular person. Catch a movie, travel. I love New York, I love the whole fashion industry and stuff in that vein, and just being regular, just being normal. Sometimes, you’re on so much, when all along you just wanna be able to chill. I’m a political junkie, too, so I’m always following up with that, campaigns, elections, all that kind of stuff.
Singersroom: And one more question for all the ladies: Tell us what you would do for a female on the first date.
Mateo: The perfect date has always been to me, in New York I always have the best first dates. Cause a lot of time you go to a movie or something like that, but you never get to talk and, you know, just experience each other. And so, one of the best first dates I had was walking through New York, talking, walking down the street, just getting to know her. We stopped by a movie in the park, and then leave there, and just walk and chill till sunrise. We literally went to the Brooklyn Bridge and we caught the sunrise the next morning. It was a pretty dope date.
“Carry On” is available for free download at Mateoonline.com
“Suite 823” available on August 1, 2012.
-Official website: Mateoonline.com
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