Matt Westin is a two-time International Music and Entertainment Association Male Country Artist of the Year. He appeared in the October 10, 2018 issue of Billboard Magazine as an Emerging Artist. His newest single “Thin Blue Line” reached the top of the international iTunes country charts and has received over 150K spotify streams. The artist takes a moment to talk to 1 In Music.
1 In Music: Hi Matt, thank you for joining us. What is unique about you and your music?
Matt Westin [MW]: I think what’s unique about my music is the story that got me here. I never expected to become an international country recording artist. I have a couple of engineering degrees, and that was the intended path I was taking, though I was unhappy and unfulfilled. I was pursuing acting on the side, as a passion of mine, and just having fun with music by singing karaoke and performing with my friend’s and my cousins’ bands. After I lost my job and decided to leave engineering for good, I ended up in Los Angeles to pursue acting more seriously. Almost a year to the day of my signing a lease in North Hollywood, my father passed away from complications with his short battle with leukemia. I was completely destroyed. I was so angry. I was deeply depressed, and basically lost. Engineering was in the rear view mirror. Acting was left on the west coast. And there I was, spiraling out of control in Pittsburgh with no end in sight.
To make a very long story short, I dedicated my debut album “Legacy” to my father. Creating the album was the distraction from the pain that I needed. My father had always enjoyed and encouraged my singing. So it was the perfect way for me to work my way out of the darkest pit I’ve ever experienced, make my dad proud, and kind of unintentionally start a new path for my life and a legacy of my own.
My music is a triumph out of personal tragedy that is very unique to me,
and it’s why I stay motivated to continue and keep raising the bar for myself.
1 In Music: That is an inspiring and unique story indeed. What and who formed your personal tastes in music and supports you?
MW: My personal tastes in music have been formed mostly on my own exploration through the years. I try to make music that I enjoy and relate to in some way. I’ve really been blessed to work with some incredible songwriters, musicians, engineers, and a great producer. I’ve either personally chosen the songs to record, or was the writer.
My producer Bryan Cole has been the spark behind the entire process. Bryan, a great friend, mentor, musician, and producer is the single most influential person involved in my young music career. He’s hooked me up with everyone who’s made the magic happen, including my record label MTS. He’s coached me into being a better singer and performer. My family has been so supportive, especially my mom, who believes in me without question, and supports me in every way that she can. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by great people who have made my dreams possible.
1 In Music: When did you realise you were going to make music professionally?
MW: It was all still just a personal project for me, to help me heal from losing my dad. It was to give myself a goal and a purpose to aim at, until one night when Michael Stover called me with some news. I was at a wedding of a close friend who I had recently just reconnected with after a decade of not talking to each other. It was a beautiful night. I was celebrating and feeling a little more like myself than I had in a while.
That’s when I found out that I won the IMEA Country Male Artist of the year in 2018. I was shocked, excited, and in disbelief. Awards had nothing to do with what I set out on this journey for. It was at that moment that I realized that I was in fact a professional recording artist, with a worldwide release on a record label, and that people around the planet were listening to my voice and responding. It became real for me in that moment, and I haven’t looked back.
1 In Music: What type of music do you listen to?
MW: I listen to most of the main genres of music. Heavy Metal, Classic Rock, Outlaw Country and Classic Country, Hip Hop from multiple decades, old school Rap, Motown, Blues, etc… But my absolute favorite of all time, if I had no other choice but to listen to this for the rest of my life, and that’s all…that would be Frank Sinatra and that genre/era of music. I attribute much of my singing ability and passion to emulating Frank Sinatra when I was a teenager.
1 In Music: Who, to you, is the most undervalued music artist?
MW: There are so many amazing artists, each with their own story, that are undervalued or largely unknown. So, I’d have to say that the independent artists, the people spending all their money and energy on a passion for their art and their message in the face of a huge mainstream machine that doesn’t care about them… those are the most undervalued music artists.
1 In Music: How do you prepare for your performances?
MW: Besides the usual practice on my own and band rehearsals, before I sing I make sure I limit my caffeine and keep any alcohol to a minimum to make sure I’m hydrated. I drink Throat Coat tea, I take some drops of an herbal supplement that is great for the vocal cords and throat health, and I keep some lozenges in my pocket. I warm up for a few minutes with some relaxation and stretching my shoulders and neck, breathing exercises, and light singing to get the throat warmed up. I tend to hold tension in my neck and shoulders, so relaxing them beforehand helps a lot.
1 In Music: What do you do when you don’t do music (creative or otherwise) and that you are passionate about?
MW: I have been passionate about my Christian faith and my physical fitness for as long as I can remember. I am always watching or reading things about the Bible, especially prophetic studies, and I try to work out 5 days a week. If I don’t get to work out, it really bothers me, even if I put in a hard day at work.
1 In Music: Success to you is…?
MW: There are a lot of forms and levels of success. I feel successful every time someone says they enjoy my music, or especially when I get heartfelt tears, hugs, and handshakes from people who were touched by my music, specifically my latest single “Thin Blue Line“. I’ve made a personal, powerful, and enduring impact on a lot of people in the law enforcement community, and
there is no better feeling than knowing I impacted someone else’s life for the better.
That, to me, is success, and whether it makes me a dime does not matter. I really hope to someday make a good living doing what I love, and that is another level of success that I have yet to achieve, but I’ll strive for it, and I’ll celebrate the “little” victories along the way.
1 In Music: What do you wish you were told when you started out and that you think would help anyone who starts out?
MW: In general, make sure you surround yourself with good, trustworthy people who believe in you and support you. In engineering, in acting, and in just about any pursuit in life, there will be wolves in sheep’s clothing. I was much more naive about this when I was younger, and I got burned many times. My kind nature was taken advantage of, and it happens every single day in this world.
1 In Music: Any upcoming projects?
MW: I’m currently working on recording 3 new songs. I’ve written 2 of them, and may write the 3rd, but I love working with other songwriters as well, so we’ll see. I’ve also joined a band in Tennessee as their new frontman, singing my originals, their originals, and some covers as well. I’ll be portraying a young Johnny Cash in the upcoming film 116 MacDougal as well, and I couldn’t be more excited or honored.
1 In Music: Thank you for this, Matt. Where do we find more about you and your music?
MW: You can find me at www.mattwestin.com, where there are links to all of my social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and links to all of my music (iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, etc). If you’re interested in the film, check out www.116macdougalmovie.com for all the info, bios, and backstory about the upcoming film.