Interview: Mattea Pyette

Interview by Savana Ogburn, photos courtesy of Mattea Pyette.

The title of Mattea Pyette’s debut album, Mindless, is the polar opposite of how I’d describe the 17 year old singer-songwriter- Mindless is a beautiful folk-pop album recorded in Pyette’s own DIY recording studio as part of an incredibly ambitious creative writing project. The album is permeated with rich acoustic guitar sounds and raw, emotional lyrics that are instantly relatable for…just about anyone with a heart. Mattea was kind enough to chat with me over the phone and tell me all about her love for music, DIY production, and the artists that inspire her to be the killer musician and lyricist that she is!

When did you first start playing music?

I’ve always played, really; my whole family plays music. I started playing guitar when I was 11, and seriously playing when I was 15. I’m 17, turning 18 now, so it’s been about three years. I started writing music in the fall of 2014.

How would you describe your style of music to someone who has never heard it before?

It’s hard because I think it’s kind of folk-pop right now, but because I only have one mic, I’m only capable of recording acoustically. My brothers play guitar and bass, and we’ve played some of my songs together and it’s more rock, more like the music that I listen to. I think it’s really folk-influenced rock and pop.

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Photo by Natalie Nguyen

Are there any artists that you look to for inspiration?

My favorite band is Catfish and the Bottlemen, and Van McCann is probably my biggest lyrical inspiration right now. I really like the way he writes- he writes very raw and simple. I also really like Matty Healy from The 1975. I look up more to lyricists than general musicians because I love lyrics. [I like] Bruce Springsteen, too, as well as Jake Bugg. Those four are probably my biggest inspirations.

I know you’ve been playing music from an early age, and I’m wondering if you’ve ever had nerves around putting your voice out there?

Yeah. I’ve had definitely a lot of anxiety about it. I didn’t start posting about [my music] until last year- I was always super nervous. I never liked to sing for my family or anything, but I always liked to sing on my own. It just got to a point where I was like, Well, I think this is what I want to do with my life, so I better start sharing it. I originally posted some covers on Soundcloud after I bought a cheap Blue Snowball mic. I did the covers and shared them on Facebook and Soundcloud- my friends from school listened to them, and that was good. Last fall, I shared my first original song. I was super nervous when I was sharing it, but got a good response from friends and family, so it’s a lot easier now. I’ve been going to open mic nights downtown, so I have less anxiety about it now. You just have to do it!

Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?

The first song I ever wrote was when I was five years old, and it was called “My Torn Blue Socks”. And those were the lyrics! The first serious song though was this song called “Tonight”. I didn’t put it on the album, but it’s one of my favorite ones.

What went into choosing the songs for the album and which ones didn’t?

There’s only about 5 that aren’t on the album, because I narrowed it down to the ones that fit the theme the most- it’s not a thematic album, just the ones that fit together the best. I actually did the album for a project in my creative writing class, so I kind of did it around songs that I thought my teacher wouldn’t judge me for.

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Photo by Natalie Nguyen

What inspires you to write lyrics?

The album is sort of divided in half- it’s half really personal songs about things that I’ve experienced, and I got to a point where I was like, I need to stop writing songs that are just about myself, because I didn’t think they were that relatable. I tried to write some songs about teenage angst and relationships, and some of those are on the album, but I still think the songs that are really personal are the ones my friends have said are the most relatable. I just get inspired by life, really.

Can you tell me about your songwriting process?

I write all the time. I’ll be sitting in the car, and something will come into my head and I’ll write it down on my phone- it could just be one line or something. When I sit down to write a song, I play around and find a chord progression that sounds cool, and fit one of those lines to it, and then build off of it. Sometimes, they’re totally organic; I’ll sit down to write a song and end up with something totally different. [This happened with] the song “Sapphire” on the album, I was trying to write something totally different, but then that one came and I think it’s one of my best. Sometimes things just come totally organically, which is really cool.

I know that you recorded and self produced your album, and I’m wondering if you might have any advice to someone who might want to go the same route with releasing their music?

Don’t worry too much about it. I spent a lot of time redoing things and trying to make everything perfect, but when you go back to the original ones, where there’s a little mistake in it, they sound better because you weren’t thinking, make sure you get this guitar part right. I’d say don’t worry about it, and try to have confidence in it.

I think, because I’m so big on lyrics, that as long as your lyrics and the general melody are good, then it doesn’t matter how it is technically. Of course I’d love to go into a real studio and record with drums and an electric guitar. But at this point in my life, I work at a drug store eight hours a week, and I can’t afford to go do professional recordings. Just be confident in it and don’t get caught up in the small details unless you’re in  a position where you have to.

Also, don’t worry about buying big, fancy, expensive equipment. You have to make sure you have [your craft down] first- if you can do it with one mic, then you don’t need the other stuff. ✿

Keep up with Mattea on Instagram and Soundcloud!