GateHouse News ServiceTwo moments sum up how far singer-songwriter Mat Kearney has come in his career.
One was when he was in college, majoring in English and playing for his school’s soccer team.
“I remember the moment when I decided to pick up my roommate’s guitar,” Kearney said during a telephone interview. “I was so bad at playing cover tunes that it was easier to make up my own songs.”
More than a decade after Kearney, as he described it, was “pouring my heart out in college with the two chords I knew,” he’s now taking calls from Grammy Award-winning country music superstar Brad Paisley to co-write songs.
“He says, ‘I’m a fan,’ and he invited me over to write songs,” Kearney said. “You don’t say no to him.”
Kearney’s own recording successes include “Nothing Left To Lose,” “Hey Mama” and “Closer to Love.”
Kearney, like he sings in “Nothing Left to Lose,” grew up in Oregon. He says it was cool in his high school to like obscure artists, and he remembers his mom driving him to record stores where he bought vinyl copies of music (Billie Holliday was one artist he mentioned).
But while he says he has long enjoyed writing papers for English classes and developed an appreciation for hip-hop, jazz, blues and other styles, he didn’t combine music and words until picking up his roommate’s guitar. “It was like a glove that fit really well,” he said.
From there, he recorded a few songs and gave copies to friends. More friends wanted his music. Eventually, he started selling compact discs and “it slowly turned into this thing,” Kearney said. He eventually moved to Nashville, and in 2006, “Nothing Left To Lose” became his first hit — in no small part to its frequent plays on VH1.
Kearney says getting a call from Paisley (“Celebrity,” “She’s Everything”) was flattering, “and a little nerve-wracking at first. But then you get out there, and he’s super humble. He’s like a workaholic, awesome musician. After the first 15 minutes, it was like writing a song like you would with one of your friends.
“ … They are just moments. I don’t know what they mean, but they are kind of fun to have fun with for a minute, and then you move on. Someone else’s opinion only gets you so far, but it’s nice to have a pat on the back,” Kearney said.