Matt Kearney: ‘Young Love’ and odd beginnings

Kearney can say his mom was a mermaid — can you?

He might not have planned it, but Nashville-based singer-songwriter Mat Kearney bookends his third album, “Young Love,” with songs about what are, generally, the most important relationships in our lives: Spouses and parents.  The album begins with, “Hey Mama,” an upbeat romp that chronicles meeting his wife Annie, and ends with “Rochester,” a darker paean about his father.

“My grandfather ran an illegal gambling ring in Rochester and my father lived through that; lived through an abusive relationship,” Kearney tells Metro. “He followed Pink Floyd through Europe and met my mother in Hawaii. She was a mermaid under a glass-bottomed boat.”

A mermaid?

“Yes, she performed in the luau for tourists and would swim under glass-bottomed boats. I wanted to tell [my dad’s] story. When you fall in love, there’s the butterflies in your stomach, then there’s the reality of having to deal with your past if you’re going to go anywhere together. There’s both those tensions happening on this record.”

“Young Love” was made in tandem with Kearney’s wedding plans last year, so it’s not surprising that the Oregon-born 32-year-old was taking a good long look over his shoulder at his own past.  
“When you commit to another human being and you’re trying to make something work, there’s a lot of baggage that you have to get rid of,”?he says. “That was part of the process. Looking at what’s made you who you are and the dumb fun of falling in love.”

Just the Tip

“Young Love” finds Kearney on a new label, Universal Republic.

“It’s been amazing being on the same label as Lil Wayne,” Kearney jokes.

Unusually for a singer-songwriter, Kearney blends hip-hop and acoustic pop, often rapping verses. So, has he met Wayne yet?

“No, we haven’t shared the crunk juice yet. But we almost did have my hot childhood hero Q Tip rap on ‘Hey Mama.’ But we never got it to sound right. I didn’t want to pass him something that wasn’t right.”


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