INTERVIEW: Matt Kennon "The Call"

Matt Kennon is a songwriter whose lyrics tell not only his story; but the stories of countless others who have been challenged by life and have overcome the odds to achieve success. As a singer, the passion behind his life experience is in every note. “I don’t want to sing about anything that I haven’t been through,” he says. “It’s honest and it’s real.”

In an excerpt from his bio, it states the whiskey-voiced Georgian has a story to tell and songs to sing. “I put my life story all over my body,” the heavily tattooed Kennon says. “You can just look at me and know I’ve lived a pretty wild life. God’s going to use that as a testimony.”

Matt and I chatted recently about his breakthrough single hitting the airwaves, the struggles and the bright future ahead of him.

Bev: Matt I am so excited to get to know you better. I love the new single, “The Call”. Let’s talk about the new project; I know you co-wrote it, tell me a little bit about that.

Matt: About six years ago, I moved to town to be a singer, I hadn’t really been involved in the songwriting side. I’ve met a few people along the way and they told me that if I were going to make it in this day and time, I really needed to be writing the songs. I was fortunate to meet people like Kim Williams as well as other big hit writers when I was just looking for songs and they asked me if I wanted to write. We took a stab at it with Kim and we ended up with quite a song. I felt like I might have some talent there; so I really tried to hone that. I kept writing, more for me as a therapeutic outlet as I put my thoughts and feelings down on paper. I guess as far as this single, just seeing a lot of loss in life; friends and cousins to suicide; going through a lot of hurt, financial struggles and job losses, things like that inspired me.
Bev: What has been one of the most memorable moments that you have had after people have heard the song or maybe something someone has sent you in a message?
Matt: I had a guy in Knoxville about three weeks ago who came up to me; him and his wife, and he told me if it weren’t for this song, he would not be here right now. That was like “Wow”. He said he had just hit some tough times and he was there at that place. I got a message about a month ago from a girl in Indiana who said she actually had a 9mm to her head in her car and was ready to end her life and “The Call” came on the radio. We could go on and on and on about the people saying “this song has really made me think of my Dad or my Uncle” and tell me “wish I had called them”. It is a life lesson, to where I call everybody when I think of them. I think the most important thing is this song is not so much about a phone call, but about making the call, like a referee, making a decision. Life is not so much about the mistakes you make; it is more about what you do after that. I know God doesn’t make mistakes, I’m here. I know there is a God out there and He has had His hand on me and my family and I have seen Him work in amazing ways. I have seen a lot of miracles with my own eyes.
Bev: I know in your bio, you bring up God a lot, the fact that you were adopted and how your mother almost had an abortion. Do you feel that you are being pulled in a certain direction in some ways as an advocate for some of these things?
Matt: I can only hope that I can use my life as an inspirational story, but under no circumstances am I trying to say I had it so bad because it wasn’t my life story that was bad at all. It is what it could have been if I had not had the right intervention. I had to hear some painful things when I met my biological folks. I guess curiosity was the only thing, not knowing and being told I would never know is what really made me want to find out; what I found out was just a bunch of lies, I still don’t know the truth. My biological mother has passed on and there are things I won’t ever know. I went through all that pain and hard work and suffering and a lot of people were hurt, I was digging and digging and fifteen years later, here I sit. I don’t know much more now than I knew before other than having a visual. It was almost like an inconvenience that I showed up in their lives, the embarrassment and guilt, you wouldn’t believe the amount of stories.
Bev: I adopted a little boy four years ago and I am still in touch with both his biological mother and father. Through Facebook and MySpace, extended family members like his Grandfather and Grandmother have found me, which has opened up my life entirely in different directions and it has brought a bigger circle of people into my life because they are related to him. I am in favor of open adoption, knowing all the answers up front, I never want to hide anything from him. I am his Mother, but he still has biological parents out there and you can’t take that away from someone.
Matt: That brings me to another key point; what really inspired my writings. When I sat down with Kim Williams I was basically just telling him the story. After I told him, the song was complete, word for word, about finding my biological family and what I really wanted to say to my true family that raised me and we came up with a song “Love’s Thicker Than Blood”. We really believe there is a place for that song, maybe on the next album. What the song talks about is anyone can have a child biologically, but it takes love to raise a child. Love outweighs any type of DNA or genetics or anything like that. I use to tell people when I grew up that I looked at the positive side. I told all my friends that my parents chose me; your parents had to deal with what they had.
Bev: I know you started out very young and more as a drummer and musician. Do you still play the instruments or have you leaned more towards being a singer?
Matt: I hear so much music in my head all the time, it never stops. I am really trying to transpose what I hear in my head to the guitar and create this music. I have been blessed all this time to have so many creative people around me to help me with that. That is what I really want to do is be an all around musician. I have done some co-production on this first album. James Stroud and my record label just let me be myself. I don’t play the drums so much anymore, just when I get a chance. I have evolved. In my later teen years, I began singing more; in chorus and in church. I was able to embrace that and realize it was an instrument within me, pretty or not, it was there. I feel like I have been able to write songs that work for me, because I am so passionate about it. To translate something I am hearing and put it on tape is real honesty. I try not to preach to people and most of the time I use myself as an example.
Back to your question, I am always trying to better myself as a guitar player. Who knows what is down the road, I may try to play the Mandolin or Banjo or something. Right now though, I am trying to become a great guitar player to be able to play on stage. It gives me something to do versus just standing there.
Bev: What type of audience is drawn to you? You tend to write songs that are touching and have true meaning.
Matt: I find people a lot like myself; just average people. Back in my wild and wooly days, I was rebellious. I had a void in my life and I hung out with friends a lot. We were all good kids who were raised in church, but we did throw rocks and spin our cars in the neighbor’s yards and got into a few scuffles. When I got older, I started selling motorcycles and that was about the same time I found my biological family. I was so hurt and that is when the tattoos came into play. I became addicted to the pain. I never got into drugs heavily or anything like that. I’ve never done anything that I can’t live with. I hurt myself and a lot of people along the way and now I want to use the rest of my life to touch people and hopefully people can see that I have seen the fire and I want to live the rest of my days on the right path helping people. I believe that’s why I am here. With the motorcycles and tattoos, the bar scenes and playing in the Honky Tonks, I got to see many sides of life. I realized not everyone was raised the way I was raised. It hurts me. I was always that guy that if I saw someone getting picked on, my heart always rooted for the underdog or I’d step in. I don’t want to see anyone else hurt. I like to protect my family and the people I care about. Now, being in this position as a musician and artist, I care about everybody out there that I meet. My story is just my story. Everyone has one. My story is no better or worse than anyone else, it is just that I am willing to use my story as what makes me who I am and let me hear your story because I want to know who you are.
Bev: What do your parents think of you now that you are pursuing the music career? Do they support you?
Matt: My adoptive parents have been God sent. From them almost not getting me and telling the doctor they wanted me sight unseen, it truly was a miracle. They have always been supportive. Whether sports or music, whatever I was into, they were 100% behind me. They did their best to raise me the right way and I believe their raising and support has helped me get to where I am and be the person I am. I never got too far down the road because of the way I was raised. I would feel guilty before I ever drank a beer under age or anything like that. Parents always have a way of finding things out. I have never been arrested, in jail or anything so I owe them for showering me with that abundance of love. Even when pain and disappointments showed up, I was always able to pull through. It was because of their love and God’s love. I owe them for both of those.
Bev: What kind of promotional ideas are you working on to get the music heard?
Matt: Anything I can. We want to reach out to the military. A lot of people go overseas in the military to the battle zones and that is great, but there are a lot of those soldiers coming home that feel alone. Maybe we can fill that slot and say “welcome home”. They may have lost a husband or wife or job, but we’re here to let them know we appreciate them and hopefully we can give them the support they need to get back on their feet, get things going again and get back to life. Those people see a lot over there. I am willing to talk to any adoptees or anybody that’s going through a tough time. I don’t want to be a counselor, but hopefully people will be able to listen to my music and take something away from that.
Bev: Are you going to be participating in CRS this year? CMA Fest?
Matt: Yes and we have a lot of TV things coming up between now and CRS. I think we are going to be on the Morning Show here with Kelly Sutton. We have Chicago WGN coming up and we will be here all week with CRS. We are going out and doing Future Farmers of America (FFA) shows, we are working on some shows for Habitat for Humanity, really just anything we can to lend a helping hand and reach people. There are more songs like “The Call” that are going to follow on different subject matters. We are staying pretty busy.
Bev: Do you use Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and similar media?
Matt: We are tweeting a little bit and doing Facebook and MySpace. We have a new website which is that we are launching this week. That gives more ways for the fans to interact with what we are doing and keep up with where we are at, tour dates and YouTube videos and things like that.
Bev: The single is available now, but the full CD will be available in the next month or so, is that correct?
Matt: I have heard March for the CD, but I don’t think there has been any final decision made on the release date yet. I think that because the music business and record business is changing, they may be looking at different ways to market some of these songs. It might be a six song EP or a full length album; we have 12 songs ready to go with. It could be six now and six at the end of the year maybe. We will know a little more in the next few weeks.
Bev: Matt it has been such a pleasure getting to know you, is there anything else you would like to make sure the people know?
Matt: I just want to make sure everyone knows how much I appreciate everyone along the way. This has been quite a journey and I have learned it is not so much about the money but it is about the memories that you make. We certainly are making a lot of them. I don’t want this to be a flash where I can’t remember. I have tried to take a lot of pictures and document a lot of things, keep journals and things like that because it is quite an experience. I wish my biological Mother would have seen me, but she gave up. I think she would be proud seeing that I am out there doing the best I can do. My Mother and Father always wanted me to be a preacher and I think they are certainly happy with how things have turned out and the influence I am making over people. I think this is a win win for everyone.
For more information on Matt Kennon visit
Transcribed by Pam Stadel

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