New (to Me) Artist Spotlight: Mat Musto [a.k.a. Blackbear]
I honestly don’t remember how I came across Mat Musto. I expose myself to a lot of different types of music and can’t recall where I first hear half of the stuff I listen to. In recent years, I haven’t exactly had my finger on the pulse of popular music, and I wasn’t sure if Mat was already a ‘big deal’ or not. After doing a fair amount of research and turning up next to nothing on the guy [Note - when you can’t find an artist on Wikipedia (as of 3/15/11), that pretty much says it all], I decided to write my own humble contribution to what I hope is the start of greater recognition for this new (to me) talent.
Biography (from what I could gather)
Needless to say at this point, I’ve never met Mat Musto, but I managed to put together a small bio from a few sources on the web.
He’s around 20 years old at the time I’m writing this (birthday, November 27, 1990, from what I could gather). Musto was born in Pennsylvania but later moved to Palm Coast, Florida when he was a kid. He’s been doing the underground thing for a few years, and he started out playing clubs and bars with the rock band “Polaroid” through a Buffalo based indie label called “Leakmob Records.” So far, he’s put out two EPs, “Contrast” and “Brightness,” and one LP (free mixtape) called “Exposure.” He’s been signed as an artist with producing duo A-REX out of Atlanta. These two are the producers behind Justin Bieber’s “One Less Lonely Girl.” Musto has also done some work with Atlanta’s Nate Walker, producer of the hit “Blame It” by Jamie Foxx. Musto is expecting to release his official debut album sometime in 2011.
Finding Mat Musto
My first impression of Mat Musto came first from hearing his
single “Douche Bag.” Yeah, I know - a clear indication of what I was in for and a prejudicial strike against my credibility in writing this review,
right? The title has more of an attention getting function than anything, though,
and it fulfills its purpose in getting you to listen. The song has a 90s genre-blending
(pop, rock, hip-hop) feel to it, and I was immediately intrigued by Musto’s
voice and lyrical abilities. The song is humorous, but it also has a very
thoughtful lyrical quality that contrasts with the title’s implications. I will
admit that I was ultimately disappointed by the video for the song, though. It
doesn’t stick to the story in the lyrics and takes an approach which, I think,
does a disservice to Musto and the track overall. Just my opinion, but if you're eager to watch the video, check out the link at the end of this article.
Moving on. Never one to be won over by a single, I eventually found the “Exposure” mixtape and was able to get a better picture of who Mat Musto is as an artist by listening to a full collection of his work. I wasn’t disappointed. He definitely has something to say and has a good idea of how to say it.
My observations are based primarily on Musto’s “Exposure” mixtape, a featured spot on a Machine Gun Kelly track, and a few of the released tracks from his debut album. Musto personally describes his work as feel-good music. In a quote, he says:
“I try to keep my lyrics general so everyone can relate in some way. I want to help the world become a place of acceptance and appreciation, rooted by love and expression, much less status, and greed. I want the people to listen to my story and find peace…even if it’s only peace in one little area of your life.”
Weather in Heaven
I suppose knocking out ‘douche bags’ fits into that world peace agenda somehow. Joking. Still, I think that Musto’s music ultimately achieves his overall goal by using his own experiences and everyday inspirations in a way that has universal appeal. Whether he is describing the complexities of romantic relationships or the everyday struggles of the hopeless and disillusioned, Musto approaches his craft with a care and obvious appreciation for what it means to be able to reach out and communicate with people. Musically, he shows himself to be an introspective observer of the human experience while avoiding the sort of melancholy detachment or angst that usually plagues a lot of brooding musicians. He is an artist who seems to enjoy experiencing life from a place of heightened sensitivity that translates into very emotionally conscious music.
Vocally, he is a singer who is very aware of his range and does not often push himself beyond his capabilities through forced embellishments or studio modification techniques (excluding one auto-tune enhanced track on the mixtape). Some might consider this a weakness to a certain extent, but I feel that it suits his overall style. With that subdued quality, Musto’s approach comes across as being very honest, akin to the lyrics he produces. There is a gentle, raspy-yet-somehow-smooth quality to his singing voice which seems best suited for more intimate settings rather than huge venues. When he does open up, though (most often during the bridge and chorus of a particular song), he shows the makings of a future star who could certainly fill arenas.
One can tell, however, that he is not yet quite at ease with his mainstream presence and sense of showmanship (as seen, in my opinion, from the video for ‘Douche Bag’ and another piece of footage I found on the internet). Musto seems to be still trying to figure out exactly where he will fit within the larger market without losing himself in the process. I believe that his music does a good job of showing who he is as an artist, and he should not rely too heavily on any type of pitiable goofball gimmick that is not true to the essence of his music (an approach I was sensing from his video persona). It’s fine to have fun and love what you’re doing, but I don’t believe that his sense of playfulness should compromise his musical (or personal) integrity. In time I have confidence that he will truly come into his own space.
It is my wish that Mat Musto finds a place in the hearts of a world-wide audience while staying true to what makes him endearing to his present fan base. I indeed hope that he doesn’t fall prey to the “love him while he’s obscure and hate him when he’s famous” trend that seems to haunt many underground artists these days. If he stays true to the essence of his music, I think he will be fine and continue to grow as an artist. I hope this review does him justice. I wish him the best in the future and hope that people, after reading this article, will not hesitate to check out his music.
- Mat Musto on PureVolume
Mat Musto profile page and songs.