Matty Mullins has been taking the airwaves by storm with his explosive song "Unstoppable." The song is the lead single and title track from his sophomore solo album, a project which finds him comfortably claiming the Christian pop playing field as his own with hooky melodies, smooth synths and infectious beats.
Although he's a new name to a lot of listeners in Christian music, he is by no means an amateur: Matty Mullins has become iconic in the hardcore community as the frontman for Memphis May Fire. With countless successful headlining tours and another stint on Warped Tour quickly approaching, Matty has navigated the often complex and challenging world of heavy music with the gospel always at the fore. That experience gives his second solo album musical maturity--and spiritual weight.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Matty at a coffee shop in the Nashville area to talk about his new album, the team behind it and the tension he walks between two very difficult musical worlds.
You worked with Jordan Feliz for your song "Unstoppable." He's a phenomenal voice, who also has a similar history of being in heavy music and transitioning. How did you get connected with him?
I was at the KLOVE Fan Awards. I had just gotten home from a three month tour the day before, and I went to KLOVE just expecting to enjoy it and hang out. I love being a part of those things. I saw Jordan perform "The River," and I tweeted at him. We didn't know each other at all, but I was like "hey man, you did an awesome job," and he responded and was like "no way! Man, that means a lot coming from you." He and a few of the people he works with are familiar with the band that I'm in, and I was obviously a fan of Jordan--I listen to Christian radio nonstop when I'm home.
So we just kind of stayed in touch through social media. He started commenting on some of my Instagram photos and being like "I can't wait to hear what you're writing," and I was like "well you better come and sing on a track," and he was like "just say when and where!" It was that easy. He came out to the studio--I built a studio in my house where I did this record. I had the part written, and I knew it was perfect for him. He laid it down, and it made the song come together in a whole new way. We've stayed in touch ever since and gotten to be pretty close.
Does "Unstoppable" set the tone for the rest of the record? Can we expect to hear other themes? What does that look like musically and thematically?
Not necessarily. I think the record instrumentally is all over the place, but the most important part about the record is the message, and the message is inline throughout the whole record. I think if there is one vibe that the record gives off as a whole, it's "I am weak, but He is strong." I feel like that's the core of so much of Christian music, and that's why I love Christian music so much.
I think instrumentally it's all over the place, but I like that. I wanted it to feel fresh from track to track. There's a lot of upbeat stuff, some slower stuff, kind of mid-tempo stuff. I wrote with so many different people, and it feels that way, and that's what's awesome about it--it feels fresh from start to finish.
So who are some of the people you wrote with on this?
My buddy Micah Kuiper, he plays guitar in Hawk Nelson, I wrote with him. He's an incredible writer here in town, and we wrote a song called "The Great Unknown." I wrote a song with Pete Kipley that turned into a co-write with Matthew West, which was like unreal. I'm a big Matthew West fan, so getting to write with him was incredible. That song is called "Until I Need You."
"Unstoppable" was with Aaron Rice. I wrote with Matt Armstrong, Brian Ortiz--Nashville's just full of writers, and I feel like I got to work with the cream of the crop, which is just awesome.
You have Memphis May Fire and then this project, and they're very different in terms of the audience they're going to speak to, and in terms of the music. Do you consciously message them differently for different audiences, and is there a different purpose in mind for the two different musical interests?
Having spent so many years in underground heavy music, I can kind of get into the mindset of that world. I know I can still learn more about speaking to that people group, how to speak to them and what I hope will influence them. Then Christian music is a whole different thing. I was raised on Christian music and it's so much a part of who I am, but then I came up in heavy music, so it's also so much a part of who I am. It's really strange to do both at the same time, but I never feel like I'm going against the current. I always feel, with both projects, that God is opening doors seamlessly for both at the same time. I don't know how it works, but it does and it's awesome.
That has been kind of a charmed existence for what you've been able to do, because you talk about the gospel in your Memphis May Fire songs as well as in this solo project. Have you ever run into people questioning that on either side of the fence, opposition from people that are listening, or do people get it?
I thought, coming into Christian music looking the way that I do, that it would pose an issue for people that just don't know me. I just didn't know if they would trust me or whatever. But I haven't felt like that, the whole time. I went out and did this four day radio tour and hit like eight or nine stations. I just got to hang out with some of the people that are behind the microphones at radio stations, and they are all wonderful, and we all clicked so well. I think that more than my neck tattoo, my love for Jesus, my love for Christian music and my desire to spread His love and spread the Gospel through music is ultimately all that matters. It feels natural.
Now, on the flip side in the band, do I get flack for talking about Jesus? Every day. Yeah, absolutely. But the Word of God says "blessed is he who is hated for My name's sake: his is the kingdom of Heaven."
It's not that anyone wants to be hated, but when you speak truth and you know that you're speaking life, if you're hated for it, it's okay because there's nothing to be ashamed of. Also, there's a huge part of our following in Memphis that has accepted that, both pre-existing believers and people who have come to Jesus through music. It's been amazing. So I know that God has me in both projects for very specific reasons.
Who are some of your favorite artists? You've mentioned you have ridiculously diverse influences, so who are you listening to right now?
I love pop music. I love heavy music. I love Christian radio. David Dunn is a labelmate of mine, and his new single "I Wanna Go Back" is awesome. I'm a big Hawk Nelson fan, a big Matthew West fan, a big Phil Wickham fan. I always return to those records. I also listen to stuff in the mainstream market, like John Bellion, who I think is an incredible writer. So I'm all over the place. I like to listen to music, I like to study music, and I don't ever want to get caught in just one niche of it.
Are you planning to tour this new solo record?
It would take a miracle for me to be able to tour with this project. The band does anywhere from 250-300 days a year on the road. I really value my time at home because it's my time with my wife. If the opportunity presented itself and I knew that God was saying "Matt, I want you on the road with this project," I would do it. But I started this project without the intention of touring it. I just wanted to put out music and let it bless people and be a part of the Christian music industry, because it's been such a big part of my life.
As you have navigated both of these worlds, what are some of the themes that you find yourself repeating to people that they need to hear? You obviously hear a lot of people's stories, especially in the heavy music scene there are a lot of hurting people that are drawn there. What are some of the consistent things you're seeing people need to be told and reminded of?
Hope is real, and hope exists. I think people need constant reminders that tomorrow can be better than today. Hope can be so empty if there's nothing attached to it or no foundation to it, so I like to influence people with hope, and I like so much more the question of "how do you find hope when you feel hopeless?" That's when you can kind of get into the fact that God is the answer for everything, that He loves you so much, that He created you, to know that when all feels like it's falling apart, the Creator is still holding you and the universe in His hand. That's something that can constantly bring hope and bring peace, so to offer hope through music is the theme that carries through every record.
So as you're on this journey with this record and touring with Memphis, how can people be praying for you personally and in your ministry?
If I could ask for prayer for anything, it'd be that God would continue to show me a healthy balance between life and career and music and travel, and that I'll know that I'm being the husband that I should be and the artist that I should be and the friend that I should be, that nothing will become more important than serving my family and my friends in the midst of all the craziness.
Associate Editor Mary Nikkel’s love for writing, photography, videography and rock and roll have all been bound together by her love for Jesus, leading to her role with NRT. Her favorite things include theology and Greek language studies, her math grad student husband, obscure Nashville coffee shops, all things related to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien and pushing the boundaries enacted by societal norms. She blogs at Threads of Stars.
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