If you’ve flipped on the TV, or turned the radio dial sometime in the past three years, chances are you’ve heard Mat Kearney. The Oregon-born singer/songwriter has been steadily climbing the popularity ladder since his 2006 Columbia Records debut, Nothing Left to Lose, a climb that his been aided in no small way by music licensing. Since Nothing Left to Lose first hit shelves, Kearney’s tracks have been featured in more television shows (30 Rock, Grey’s Anatomy, Kyle XY), movies (Catch and Release), and commercials than we’ve got room to name. And tours with the likes of John Mayer, Keane, and Sheryl Crow have only helped to fuel the fire.
Nowadays, Kearney splits his time between the road and his home in Nashville, Tennessee, and he is currently touting his second major-label release, last year’s City of Black & White. Throughout its 12 tracks, City builds upon the sounds and styles that Kearney began to establish back in 2006, ultimately fleshing out the potential so many saw in Kearney from the get go.
“Nothing Left to Lose was an album that I wrote in my bedroom, and you don’t know who is listening or who cares,” Kearney told Marie Claire magazine earlier this year. “This record is 500 shows later, so there’s definitely the live thing that helps inform what you’re doing. You just get better playing live. You find what kind of players you want around you. You end up writing songs that are a little more tense, and you picture how they’re going to interact with people.”
In fact, it’s Kearney’s mix of confidence and vulnerability that ultimately makes City the success that it is. More acoustic tracks like “Lifeline” and lead single “Closer to Love” reflect a road-weary, lovelorn artist, while electronically tinged cuts like “All I Have” find Kearney further exploring the bluesy notes and passages of legends like Eric Clapton and Tom Petty. Not too shabby for a guy who didn’t even pick up a guitar ’til college.
Mat Kearney plays SOhO (1221 State St.) this Friday, August 20, at 7 p.m. with Jane Carrey. Call 962-7776, or visit newnoisesb.com for details.