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Matt Koziol Rides The Line Between Country And Rock On Debut Album, “Wildhorse”

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John Cantu
Matt Koziol

A busy songwriter, Matt Koziol steps out front on his debut full length album, Wildhorse out today. He’s worked with John Paul White, Joy Oladokun, Jimmie Allen, Charlie Worsham, Steve Moakler, Abby Anderson, Bre Kennedy and others. His strong vocals and talent for telling relatable stories shine on this release. It rocks, it’s tender and it drifts between country and rock seamlessly. I asked Matt about splitting his creativity between his own projects and his collaborations, recording this album and some of his earliest memories of being drawn to music. I’ll be spinning another track from Wildhorse this Sunday on The Local Brew Hour.

AnaLee: I think I first heard about you through your 2018 release with singer songwriter Bre Kennedy; I love that Koziol-Kennedy project! It got me digging around to see what else I could find from Matt Koziol… a few eps and some singles later and your album, Wildhorse is out today! You’re a writer for Prescription Songs and have collaborated with many talented writers and performers in Nashville, how do you separate that aspect of your career from your own releases, or do you?
Matt: It’s been a journey, that’s for sure! And thank you, that project has always been so near and dear to me - it was such a great time of creation, and so happy it translated that way! Yes, the record’s out, and I’m a bit beside myself. Since I moved to town, it’s been a wild ride of writing and playing for other artists, and putting my own releases on hold for a bit, but it’s been so fun to see the response as this record has come out. I don’t know if it’s a separation from one another, because it’s all based around the Nashville family. A good portion of this record was written here, and with friends from here. It was recorded in Nashville, and it kind of feels like another step on a long staircase of my time here. It definitely feels like I’m digging my feet in the sand and staking ground with this one, however it all feels like the same journey. I love it that way.

AnaLee: I feel like I got to you know through this record, you have a way of relating to the everyday struggles and joys of life. Can you talk a little about finding the songs and the focus for what’s now your debut full length release?
Matt: It’s been interesting to try and put this record into words. The songs span almost ten years, and have so much information on who I’ve been to who I’ve become. I usually write from personal experience, and with the song choices for the record, I didn’t want to hold anything back. I wanted it to be a deep dive into me as a person. That’s probably the focus - I want people to understand who I am at this point in my life. It’s been years of figuring out how to land on solid ground after some rocky years, but I’m there for the most part. The record, in my opinion, takes you down that road a bit. I also know I’m not the only one to ever walk that path, so I felt some “safety in numbers” knowing that things I was writing about were somewhat relatable. There are some songs, like “This House” that have a specific connection to me, but then songs like “Slow Burn” that remind everyone of the bitterness of a bad break up. I think the most interesting part about the record, for me, is hearing my voice say the words, and not having the shield of someone else saying it. That’s been the biggest hurdle for me.

AnaLee: Whether it’s in sweet melodies like the painfully real, “Before We Break It”, the hopeful, “House to Build a Home” or rockers like, “Work All Day” and “Loving You Loving Me”, the stories are there and the arrangements compliment your rich, dynamic voice. Tell us about your crew, your producer and your experience recording Wildhorse.  
Matt: I had probably the best recording experience you could ask for. Matthew Odmark (Jars of Clay), is the producer of the record, and truly one of my greatest friends. I met him right before I moved to Nashville, and he was one of the guiding voices to get me down here. We had always talked about making a record together, and eventually he sat me down one day, and said “ok we’re doing this thing, let’s find some songs.” We started in 2019, and made some small swings at the record for the next two years till it was finally all done. He pushed the boundaries of sounds I was comfortable in. He really made me think outside the box, and not create what I knew would sound cool. I’m so thankful for him for pushing those limits in the studio - it made me a better musician overall. The rest of the group is what I like to call the “usual suspects.” Jake Finch played drums and percussion, and honestly just anything he could get his hands on - he’s truly a wizard. Bass was split up between the amazing Andrew Brown, and Christian Wood. Both of these guys are superstars, and know how to be so appropriate for the songs. Charlie Lowell (Jars of Clay) laid in with keys and B3 for some of the songs as well! “Work All Day” had some special appearances. Sam Lee (the co-writer of the song) was the acoustic guitar player that day, and if you really listen carefully, you can hear Colin Elmore and Miss Bre Kennedy singing harmonies! The lines in the bridge about the “jackhammer and flannels” were Bre just making jokes on the microphone, and I had to keep them in song! She also sings on a few other songs on the record doing harmonies as well. When I was writing the liner notes, it just reminded me of reading the back of a Carole King or James Taylor record. These are my friends, and my family. We play on each other’s songs, and sing with each other live. That’s what made this experience natural. There’s no faking what we did, and my thought on it is - if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it!

AnaLee: Tell us a little about the early stages of your musical journey, did you grow up singing or around music? And what are some of your earliest memories of being drawn to music and discovering your voice?
Matt: The earliest memory of music for me was seeing Elvis on some VHS tape my parents had. That and the California Raisins on Saturday morning cartoons. I remember hearing the sounds, and just having my voice start going. My folks tell me I would sing along to the songs without knowing the words. Both my parents are music lovers. My dad really loves 70’s folk music. My love of James Taylor comes from him. My mother has such an eclectic taste for music from Aerosmith, to Tony Bennett. My grandmother is a lover of the oldies, and had me listening to the crooners. Growing up in New Jersey, I was exposed to so much music as a kid. It was a melting pot of sounds for me - naturally I drew from them. I played in punk bands, sang in musical theatre, sang opera, played in blues trios as a late teen. My styles went everywhere. I started listening to country when I was about 17 - hearing the country stations driving into northern Pennsylvania where my parents have a weekend home in the woods. My dad introduced me to Nickel Creek, and I dug into the world of Bluegrass. To be honest, my Apple Library is an absolute mess of songs, but it’s all part of me.
I played my first paying show when I was 14 years old at a coffee shop in Union, NJ. From there, I started playing anywhere people would let me. I would send cold emails to venues and club owners. I would get friends to play as my band. I traveled the Tri- State, up to Maine, out to Chicago, and even down to Nashville. I started co-writing when I was about 21. I started going to Los Angeles for writing trips, and then making my way to Nashville, then back home for a month, where I’d play bars to make enough money to get me back on the road. It’s been a master class of experience for sure, but it’s all been lessons I’ve taken with me.

AnaLee: A single you released in 2020 feels very familiar to me. Is “Runs in the Family” on a tv show or commercial somewhere?
Matt: It was! It was on a Walgreens commercial back in 2020, I believe. I wrote that with my good friends Maggie Rose, and Oxley. If you listen to the song, that’s Maggie during the bridge. She is hands down one of my favorite voices. Oxley is a master at production, and we had a blast writing the song together, and we were so excited to know it was going to be put in a commercial for Walgreens!

AnaLee: Do you have any shows around town, and will you be hitting the road with these songs anytime soon? Thanks, Matt!
Matt: I am! I have an album release show coming up June 16th at the American Legion in East Nashville. Then I’m out supporting Kip Moore June 23rd,24th, and 25th, and some more traveling to the mid-west early July! Hopefully out on the road in late summer and early fall as well! AnaLee, Thank you so much for having me, and supporting this music. It really means the world to me, and you’ve been such a staple in the city for community and local music, I’m just so honored! Thank you again!

“Work All Day”

“House to Build a Home”

Ana Lee is the host and producer of "The Local Brew," a weekly radio show plus a live showcase for Nashville based artists. She hosts mid-days on 89.5 WMOT Roots Radio, Nashville, is a voice over artist and curator of musical experiences for events.
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