I’m proud to present The Grace Notes debut interview with Matt Swaringim, a musician from St. Louis. Thanks to Emily Kathryn Curry for filming and editing. We intend for this interview to be the first of many… hope you enjoy it!
JOSH: I’m here with Matt Swaringim. He’s a musician in the St. Louis area. Thanks for doing this interview, Matt.
MATT: Absolutely, man, I’m excited.
JOSH: So why don’t you tell us just a bit about your background, how you learned to start playing instruments, and how you kinda got into music.
MATT: Well, a few years ago, I was actually in a youth group setting, and my youth pastor was leaving the church to go pursue something else. He was the worship leader at the time, and that position needed to be filled, and I kinda felt like God was calling me to do it, and I said, I don’t play an instrument, I don’t know how I’m gonna do this. Through that, he kinda just gave me the guitar, so I picked it up.
The first time I ever picked up the instrument, I really did not like it, but you know, it was through his grace that I learned how to play, and began just to lead and to write, and that’s kinda how it ended up.
JOSH: So did you look up chord sheets, or did somebody show you some chords?
MATT: I looked up how play a G chord, and then how to play a D chord, and then an E minor, and I would learn how to transition to 3 and 4 and 5 and so on, from there I just learned, you know, looked at worship sheets, and just kinda said, OK let’s learn this song, and just kinda picked it out, and that’s how it went.
JOSH: When did you start actually writing your own stuff?
MATT: Well, I wrote my first song ever when I was 15. It was one of those intense relationships, you know, cuz they were so serious back then, and so I wrote that song, and it was ridiculous, and I’ve never sang it ever again in my entire life. Maybe I’ll sing it later for you.. We’ll do an exclusive right here.
JOSH: What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
MATT: Growing up… Well, huge Shane & Shane fan. Huge. Shawn McDonald. I listened to – I went to bed every night listening to KEZK – Delilah. Shout out – there’s my plug.
MATT: 102.5 Soft Rock! But, no, I like the smooth jazz – and then growing out of that stage, I listened to a lot of jazz/blues stuff, just a lot of different artists on the radio, so I would say Shane & Shane was one of my favorites of all time.
More influences now, probably, a little Dave Matthews here and there, and some Jimmy Needham, and John Mayer, obviously, is always a huge influence, just musicality.
JOSH: I guess, was it, maybe a few months ago, the “Love.” song.
MATT: The “Love.” Yes, back last summer… A buddy of mine and I were in our dorm room, and we were just talking about relationships, and, I think he just broke up with a girl, and we were just talking, like, hey man, it’s ok, you know.
JOSH: It happens.
MATT: Right, it happens, unfortunately, and so, from there, we just kinda talked about our role, and what love was, and how it needs to be portrayed, and so basically, the beginning of the verse just talks about, you know: Sit back, I wanna take you for a ride. I wanna walk you back through the past days of my life. Just setting up the format of what I want to say, and the chorus says, you know, I want to know how to meet her, I want to know how to smile when I finally see her, and then the second verse literally comes straight out of Scripture, it says, Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast.
And literally we wrote that song in about ten minutes, and it was just cool, it was cool to see how it kinda formulated. So from there we recorded it, and released it on iTunes.
It was incredible to see the response of people who could relate to it. And it was really cool to see people take the second verse specifically – straight scripture – and put it as like, their Facebook status, and say, I can’t wait for a love like this. And you’re just like, hello, you know what I mean, it’s scripture! So it was cool. It was cool.
JOSH: So what did you actually do as you recorded it? You got, kinda, some track stuff going on. Where’d you go to record that?
MATT: I went down to a buddy of mine, his name’s Austin Kursave, down in Nashville, you know Austin? Yeah, we recorded in his studio, he’s got a home studio, and I just said, here’s what I wanna do, here’s my vision behind this song, and how can we, what can we do? So he sat down in Reason, and just made a beat, and I recorded some acoustic tracks on top of it, and then we just went, and we rolled, and we recorded in a couple days, and so be it.
JOSH: “Love.” with a period.
MATT: That’s right. “Matt Swaringim.”
JOSH: Is there something special about the period in the song title?
MATT: I think, yes, when I was trying to decide, you know, what are we gonna call it. A lot of people have songs called “Love,” so it was very generic, but I guess the song in my opinion, is you know, “Love, period,” like that’s what we need – Love, period. Nothing else, no more, before or after.
JOSH: Now with that song, you recorded a music video for it.
MATT: We did, yes. We went up to Chicago, the beautiful city of Chicago, right outside Chicago, actually. Got together with a guy named Josh Siegers. I kinda gave him my vision of what I wanted, and my buddy – I have a new project I’m working on called mattandruss.com – my buddy Russ, we play together now, and he was kinda the visionary behind it, him and Josh, and I kinda just sat back and let it happen. We drove up to Chicago, and we shot it, and came back the same day, and it was incredible. It was a cool experience.
JOSH: So let’s talk about what you do these days with your music.
MATT: We play anywhere. We actually played down on Main Street, on the corner, which may be illegal, but don’t say anything! Over the summer, we did a lot of worship camps, different churches, went to church camps, and just led worship for youth groups. We did some coffeehouse shows here and there, couple other shows. Really whatever opportunity we get, we try to grab, you know, whether it be leading worship which we have a passion for, or doing our own stuff, which is fun too.I think over the summer, over the three months, we played probably 55 shows.
JOSH: I think that brings us to our Twitter fan question.
MATT: Oh, yes!
JOSH: We put out a request for some Twitter fan questions for the interview, and we got a question from Josh Siegers.
JOSH: He says, Matt, what makes you so energetic with kids? Why are they your passion?
MATT: I think in high school, you – we – children – find out who we want to be, you know, there’s cliques, and you have to decide, I wanna be a jock, or I wanna be in the band, or I wanna be this or that, and you kinda pick, and when you grow up and get in college, and you find out who you really are, and what your character entails, so for me my passion is to see men step up and be men of God, you know, stop being this punk dude over here, but step up and take the role as a leader, be a man, so I think that starts really young, I think if you can start loving on these kids, and showing a love – an agape love that the Bible talks about – they then can grab ahold of that and move on as well, so I love hanging out with energetic – I’m just a child at heart myself so I like to be crazy and spastic, so we get along really well, but I think that’s one of the main reasons why I love working with kids so much.
JOSH: I know you have your MattSwaringim.com for your music, but you also have mattandruss.com, so that’s you and your friend Russ.
MATT: Yeah, we room together actually, and basically what it started as, was just a video blog of devotionals, what’s on our heart, memorizing verses together, and what it’s become is, we do events around campus, around the city… So we’re actually setting up now a tour for Christmastime in December, I think it’s gonna be called – no one knows yet – this is official, I’ll release it, right here only. It’s gonna be called “Christmas In Chicago.” We’re doing ten shows in a two-week period all around the area of Chicago…
I have a personal Twitter, and Russ has one as well. And we have a MattAndRuss Twitter, and it’s cool just to shoot out information. You know, MattAndRuss.com, our Twitter is actually where we send out information about doing random events, like I said we may have an Ultimate Frisbee day at a park, and we’ll say, Ultimate Frisbee, tonight, 7:00, free pizza, be there. And we’ll send it out over Twitter, you know. We also people will tweet us questions, hey what do you think about this, or can you talk about this sometime and so we read them and we study them, and we wrestle with the questions to see what we can do, where we can go.
There’s an album coming out in October, on October 1, which has ten songs, there’s a live – “Love.” is on there, “Get Up” is on there, there is a live “Love.” track and a dedication of my grandfather, which is “Amazing Grace,” just a lot of different diverse ideas, on that track, so when that releases, hopefully, its goal is, all the profits from that are gonna go to making a new worship EP, just worship stuff, we can hand out and give away, so that’s kind of the goal behind that CD. So it was fun to record, we recorded with Austin again.
JOSH: So that’s all recorded?
MATT: Yeah, it’s recorded, it’s done, and it should be out in a month or so. October 1 on iTunes. So we’ll get some hard copies as well, but iTunes is the place to go. Like I said, after that, we’re gonna continue to record, we’re trying to hook up with some guys right now to record a Christmas EP, which would be fun. I’ve always wanted to do a Christmas EP, always.
The album that’s coming out, is called 101. The reason it’s called 101 is it’s just life lessons that I’ve learned, that I wrote about. I would love to do a live album as well, just a worship set. My passion is worship, and I love to play, I love to write music and use that in other places like coffee shops, but we just love to worship, and to lead, so that’s kinda where our heart is, and that’s kinda where we’re headed next, I think, just working on that, and working with some guys down in Nashville, that have experience in worship.
JOSH: Are you hoping to get some radio play, or a label, is this something you wanna make a career out of? What’s your ambitions for what you’re feeling called to do?
MATT: Radio play is always nice, cuz people hear you, so that’s always good. I would love to make this a career, this being music, whatever that looks like, if we could travel, MattAndRuss.com, you know, if that could pick up, maybe give us a little bit of financial background where we could just do that, and encourage people and travel and just spread the word, that’d be incredible, but even if I got the opportunity to work in a church, as a worship leader, I think I would be content, so I’m kind of at a point where I’m just waiting to see what God has next, he’s good to continue to give us opportunities, so we keep taking them, so we’ll see what’s next. So if it’s a record deal, awesome, and if it’s not, then we’ll see what’s next, and go from there.