His debut album, When Everything Breaks Open, co-produced by Mr. Timberlake himself, is out now. Matt appears on The Late Show With David Letterman tonight, and clocks a performance on The CBS Early Show Saturday morning.
“He’s kind of like Ray LaMontagne meets Elton John meets Stevie Wonder meets Rufus Wainwright,” Justin says. “It’s time for the birth of the hybrid artist.”
But this isn’t the first time you’ve heard Matt‘s music: he co-wrote Kelly Clarkson’s Miss Independent, five Christina Aguilera songs including Can’t Hold Us Down, Justin’s (Another Song) All Over Again and Reba McEntire’s The Only Promise That Remains.
“Justin shows me that you have to have fun with what you do,” Matt, 30, tells me. “You have to enjoy your work and enjoy making music. He has shown me that it’s important to trust my own musical instincts because they’re never wrong if you really follow them. They’ll always lead you to the right place.”
I first met Matt in 1993 at Tower City Center in Cleveland when he was performing with the show’s spin-off group, MMC, which also featured *NSYNC’s JC Chasez. Keri Russell’s siblings were running around with a video camera as she couldn’t be there that day.
With all the success of Mouseketeers including Britney, Christina, Justin, JC, Keri, Ryan Gosling and others, a cast reunion of the 1989-1995 Disney Channel variety show would be huge.
“Perhaps at some point on a Grammy stage,” Matt says.
He issues a guarded “no comment” when asked about whether Justin’s girlfriend Jessica Biel stopped by the studio, and keeps it professional when asked about his childhood growing up with some of the biggest stars on the planet.
“It was four years during a transitional time,” he says. “When you’re 12 or 13 or 14, everything’s already up in the air. You’re going through major transitions and changes. I found that my experience down there in Orlando was amazing because I was introduced to people who have become some of my closest friends and musical collaborators, and it gave me the confidence in my own talent and ability.”
He continues, “Some of the most fun times for me were in the recording studio – something that connects me to where I am now. All of us – Justin, myself, Christina, Tony Lucca, the whole bunch – spent a couple hours every week in the studio, recording songs. That got me educated in Top 40 music, and honing our chops. My favorite time was spent in the studio.”
What is it about the show that helped launch several Grammy winners, a Golden Globe winner and an Oscar nominee?
“I think [casting director] Matt Casella is really responsible for pulling together such a tremendous cast,” he says. “He had tremendous vision in pulling together people. There was a great crew, a top-notch production company – they really knew what they were doing. I think he saw longevity, and he saw that spark and charisma.”
He dodges when asked what his life is like now in Denver, saying only, “Life is really wonderful and abundant, and I’m really grateful for all the opportunities.”
Two gems he loves on his record? The Un-American and Before the Morning.
“My songs are not autobiographical per se, but they come from my own personal experiences and my observations of other people’s lives. I think there’s a degree of reality, but also a certain degree of fiction, too.”
Matt‘s album, When Everything Breaks Open, is out now.