From Major Label Artist to DIY Musician w/ Matt Hires

A few weeks ago I caught up with Matt Hires to talk to him about house show tours.  After catching one of his shows first hand, Matt was kind enough to stop by our office to discuss his transition from a major label artist to a “Do-It-Yourself” musician.  He even sat down to play a few songs for us – video below!

Matt offers a unique perspective, having been signed to a label at the beginning of his career.


Let’s start from the beginning – what was it like to get signed so early on in your career?

I was pretty young and new to everything, I didn’t have any idea what was going on.  I put out an album with a band I played with for a while in Tampa but that was the only thing I had out.  We had toured around Central Florida but that was pretty much it.


So, you went from touring Central Florida to the next thing you know you are recording in Los Angeles?

Ya, I had some songs up on Myspace and somebody from Atlantic Records randomly heard my song “Honey, Let Me Sing You a Song” and really liked it and we started talking and stuff happened from there.  It was definitely bizarre because it was totally out of the blue and it wasn’t an email, it was a Myspace message that was sent to me.  


How did you know that that was real?

They left me a number and I was like, “ugh I don’t really buy this,” but I called and it was Atlantic Records – which was pretty wild.  

About 6 months before my band had fallen for one of those fake ones so I was pretty on guard about all of that.  I first started talking to them in September of 2007 and signed with them in April of 2008.  Overall, my experience on the label was really great.


So, you came out here, did a residency at the Hotel Cafe for 3 weeks and recorded an album – from there, what did you do?

That was my first experience with the record label waiting game – we recorded it in the summer of 2008 and it didn’t come out until late July of 2009.  With my second album it was even longer – it was more like a  year and a half.  It can be frustrating.  That’s why when I started doing stuff on my own at the beginning of this year I wanted to – just for the thrill of it, for myself – put something out as quickly as possible.  I recorded in the beginning of February and put the EP out in April which was fun for me because the songs were new and fresh and I was still excited about them and hadn’t been listening to them over and over.


How did writing your first album compare with your second release?

With the first album there was only 2 or 3 songs that I had written previously.  I wrote a lot of them when I came out here with my producer Eric Ross.  That was my first introduction to co-writing  It was weird at first but I kind of got used to it.  I enjoy it when it is with the right people.  I enjoyed it with Eric and a few other people I really like writing with.  When it’s not with the right people it’s the worst thing in the world.

I did a lot of co-writing with the second album.  I wrote with a bunch of people during that time.  I had a lot of bad experiences.  Sometimes I can really like a person and hang out with them, but then when you get into write together it just doesn’t work.  But through that I found a couple guys I really like to write  with.  Most of the songs on the record came from those songwriting sessions.  I guess it just took going through a lot to find people that click.  


What is your process for writing songs? 

Lots of times I write the chorus and then I figure out what the verses are supposed to say.  Which is how I did a lot of co-writing, especially on that first album.  I had, on my voice recorder, a bunch of ideas that I’d bring in to the co-write.

When I am writing by myself I can throw around stupid ideas in my head and feel fine.  You know, there is always stupid stuff going on in my head.  I did a lot of writing sessions where you just meet the person and start writing together and I’m not a super open to people to begin with so it’s something I had to work through to throw around ideas and stuff because the stupid ideas are part of the whole process.  You start with something and it becomes something else.  Co-writing is an interesting animal.


Can you talk a little bit about tour life, then and now?

At first, when i started I was mostly opening up acoustic for people. Which was cool and I kind of got spoiled from it because the first two tours I did, me and my tour manager would ride on the bus with the headliners and they’d have some empty bunks – so I kind of got spoiled at first doing the bus touring.  My first two tours were with Brooke Fraser and Eric hutchinson.  The Eric Hutchinson tour was my favorite.  His tour manager and I are still really close.  He is the commissioner for the Fantasy Football League that I’m in and we are having a draft in Las Vegas this coming weekend.  


After touring as an acoustic act, Hires set out to do a few headlining tours.

How did you find a band to back you up?

The guys that played in my band were people I had met from my first year and a half from touring and they wanted to join me in my headlining stuff.  I feel like with touring musicians, the skill and talent is about 40% and if they are cool to hang around that’s 60% of it because you are around them 24/7.  


How was supporting your second release different?

At the beginning of the year [2013] I did a month and a half of promo for the single “Restless Heart” and all of March I was out supporting Matchbox 20 which was huge.  It was a blast, but between the Matchbox 20 and the Parachute tour – I was playing for a lot less people on the parachute tour but I got a lot more fans – I guess I clicked a little bit more.  


Can you talk about your split from Atlantic?

I didn’t like the way Atlantic released my last record and they didn’t like that it didn’t sell as much as they wanted it to.  So it was sort of mutual.  It was definitely scary at first , going out on my own and not having that safety net underneath me but I was super excited about the freedom that I could have.  That’s where the EP that I put out in two months and house shows came from.  Me just trying to do what I wanted.  The house show thing has really been a blast.

How did Noisetrade help you jump start this new chapter of your career?

I got a lot more new emails.  That was the goal, to put out my two previous albums for free before I released the EP.  I more than doubled my email list for when the new EP came out.

My logic for the whole thing was that most people were probably downloading my music for free or listening to it on spotify, and I’m not getting much from that so I might as well get their emails and keep them up to date on new stuff I’m releasing and tours and things like that.


Matt truly does a great job keeping up-to-date with his fans.  Whether it’s opening up the forum for questions on FanBridge or talking to fans on one of his house show tours, Matt has dedicated himself to sharing his passion with the world.  We were even lucky enough to have Matt play a couple songs in our office.  Make sure to change the video to HD!


Cover Photo by 254 mochacharlie photography.  Follow her on twitter at @254mochacharlie.

Musician, Boston sports-fan, human-being. I graduated with a degree in Music performance in 2012 and I am the Director of Marketing and Social Media at FindMySong.