Jonathan Beckerman Photography
Possessing a soulful sound replete with emotion, the singer-songwriter, who has a knack for tickling the ivories, is prepping his debut album. He's previously released a handful of mixtapes, most recently his 17-track offering 'Love & Stadiums.' While that effort features eclectic collaborations from Goapele to Pusha T, the initial single from his first LP will combine the talents of Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz. Not bad for a man who is still shopping around for a major label deal. With a healthy buzz surrounding his name, Mateo is set for a warm welcome when his finished product finally hits the masses. Read on as he shares his story about connecting with Krucial, reveals the Adele song he wish he wrote and opens up about the new material he's getting ready to unveil to the world.
You're not new to the music industry being that you were once a MySpace Records signee. Talk about some of the struggles you faced before you joined Krucial Noise?
The biggest struggle with being an artist is, like the saying, Kanye West said it in his book of quotes and it said, "Would you believe in what you believe in if you were the only one who believed it?" The crazy thing about being an artist is that you're constantly questioned about what your style should be, what type of music you should do, like all those types of things. You get compared to every other artist that's out. When I first started, it was like, "Yo, you gotta sing over new hip-hop beats 'cause that's what R&B singers do right now," or "You gotta have a club joint. You can't be successful without a club joint." It's one of those things where it's kinda hard to really, truly define your sound and actually stick to what you believe your sound is. It's definitely a struggle in the fact that you really get 1,000 "no's" before you get that one "yes." And you have to continually believe that what you're doing is the right thing, even if no one else believes it.
What were some of the good things you've come across?
I was able to get really great management. I was able to go to MySpace Records for a time period, which really helped me grow my fanbase and stuff like that, getting me more Internet presence. Then that eventually lead me to Krucial.
How did you and Krucial link up?
We linked up through a friend of mine, Quddus Philippe. He used to be a VJ on 'TRL.' Quddus has been a lot of different things for me in my career. Like he was the A&R who brought me over to MySpace Records, he was one time my manager [and] he's also been the director of my videos -- he directed the 'Empire State of Mind' video off one of my mixtapes. Also when I was on MySpace Records, he introduced me to Krucial because he wanted us to work together on some songs. He wanted him to do some remixes on some of the stuff I had already been doing. It just kinda worked out and we developed a relationship from there. The timing was perfect. When I got out of the MySpace deal Krucial was like, "Yo, I really wanna sign you." I felt like it would be the perfect situation because he's behind Alicia Keys. The stuff that they did was just different from everything else. She was a unique artist, [had a] unique sound, there was nobody else on radio like her. Still to this day, there's nobody on radio like her. He knew how to make something like different and make it mainstream and make really quality music. Also, since a lot of my music is piano-based, I knew he could understand how to take that to the next level.
What are some of the moves you're making with your first album?
Yeah, I think the majority of it is done. Now I'm just working with some other producers now. Hopefully I'll get in with Rodney Jerkins soon. Now it's just about creating more buzz around the project. I'm on Krucial Noise but we want to get a major involved so that when we put the album out in the first quarter, everything is all together. This fall I'll also be doing a lot of touring. I'll be on the road doing a lot of the shows. One of the songs that's on the mixtape, 'Don't Shoot Me Down' featuring Goapele, that's getting spins on the radio. That was one of the things that's pretty cool. I also have another song that's gonna be my first single, 'Say It So.' I was fortunate enough to be able to get Alicia Keys on it and Swizz Beatz jumped on it. So we got some really cool things happening until we get to that point of releasing the album.
What's another song you crafted for the album that you have yet to speak on?
We have a really big song we just did called 'Love Is A Gun,' We just finished it. I'm really excited about it beause it has a different sound to it. It's a guitar-based song but it has this tone to it, but it's very kinda mainstream sounding. But it's still really quality and it's just dope lyrics. One thing I think that is missing in music, especially urban music, is the poetry in the lyrics. That's the things that you want to hear. You want to hear in a song a different way to say, "I love you" and a different way to say, "You hurt me." I think that this particular song definitely does that. It's a different spin on saying, "Your love hurts me but I can't walk away from it." Like "I'm in love with the hurt, I'm in loce with the pain." Krucial produced that.
What should people expect from your sound?
The thing about [the mixtape] 'Love & Stadiums,' the title of it, I mostly do love songs; that's the type of music I do. But also, it's really, really big drums, really, really big production. It kinda reminds me of stadium music. Especially in urban music, we don't really have that kind of music. Like the music when you go to a Coldplay concert and you're screaming it out and it's like a state of euphoria when you hear it. The album is definitely that same sound. Just stadium music -- big sounding music and a very intimate feel that just really, really touches the heart and makes you feel something.
You seem to have different influences in your music. Who are some of the people you look to for inspiration?
I've got some old school ones and new school ones. Definitely Stevie Wonder, Donnie Hathaway from back in the day. More recently, Lauryn Hill, India Aire, Kanye West, Justin Timberlake. [I'm a] huge, huge Coldplay fan. A lot of those elements from that kind of music is in my sound, which is really cool 'cause I feel like that's where R&B is going -- like a mixture of a lot of different types of genres coming together.
What was the last thing to give you inspiration to write a song?
Honestly, this summer has been kind of like a whirlwind for me. Just a lot of opportunities have come my way have been really amazing. Just one of the struggles for me in my artistry is being able to grab those opportunities but feeling like scared like I might just miss them or drop the ball on them. So it's kinda like that nervous feeling about it. I think that has actually come out in some of my music. We did this song called 'It's Alright.' And the reason why we did it was because "Everything's gonna be OK, everything's gonna be alright," but I'm literally talking more in the third person, like I'm talking to somebody else telling them that. It's definitely something that's inspired me. It's kinda like you're mentoring yourself but you're trying to motivate yourself that everything's gonna be cool.
Is there a song you've heard within the last year or in the past that touches people in a way in which you wished you had created it first?
There's a lot of songs I wish I would've made. I wish I had a song like Adele's 'Rolling in the Deep.' I wish I had a song like Gnarls Barkley's 'Crazy.' I think it's just really quality music, it's good lyricism and it's amazing melodies and I think people like soaring melodies. Like melodies that soar that you can scream out. I feel like 'Crazy' you can scream that out. Like you can be drunk somewhere, it comes on and you can just scream it out [laughs]. I think those are the things that people like. People like to be a part of the music and be involved it.
Do you feel like you make that kind of music?
That's where I'm heading.