Sometimes you have to travel the world to find your way home. Such is the case for Matt Dunn.
The 28-year-old grew up in a military family that had him crisscrossing the country. His stops included Hawaii, Virginia, Michigan, Indiana and California. When it came for his own time in the service, a stint in the Army took him overseas to Iraq.
Music was part of his life in the Middle East and when he came home, it became his career calling . His passion for music brought him to Texas, where he’s honing his craft in the Dallas/Ft.Worth area.
In our interview with the up-and-coming artist, we found out the unique way he joined Jack Ingram, the inspiration he took from a technology titan and one of the best answers ever for who he would like to tour with.
While in Iraq did you have your guitar with you and, if so, did you keep everyone entertained?
I didn’t have one when I first got over there. I actually ordered one online because I couldn’t stand it. We would all get together to pass the time. I would bring my guitar to play songs. I ended up writing a song about how all I wanted was a cheeseburger, a pizza and a beer! (Laughs)
Has your love and passion always been with country music?
I wish I could say yes, but no, it hasn’t. I like all types of music, but my passion has always been with rock music. Another passion of mine is musicians who can grab an acoustic guitar and just get up there and blow your mind.
Country became a huge influence with me getting out of the Army and moving to Texas.
You got out of the Army about a year ago and ended up working for Jack Ingram and living in Denton, Texas. How did that all come about?
When I got back I was staying with a friend for a little while. I actually got a job working for Jack Ingram. I got the job off Craigslist! I basically put an ad out there that said, “Hey! I want to work in the music business. I’ll clean the bus, I’ll clean the van, I’ll do anything! I’ll leave tomorrow if you want!” Sure enough, Jack Ingram’s tour manager contacted me and gave me the opportunity to work for him. I started selling t-shirts and I did that for the last year or so.
Along the way I met the most amazing woman when we played a show at the Denton County Fair. So I moved to Denton because that’s where my heart was.
What have you learned just from being able to observe Jack?
Jack’s interesting to watch – especially if you go to a lot of different shows – because what he does is adapt. You can put him in any situation and he will adapt to it. He’ll play a different show for a really rowdy drunk crowd than he will for a crowd that’s not really paying attention.
He taught me, just from me watching him, how to really connect with the crowd; that they want to know why you wrote the songs, they want to know where you came from, where you’ve been and that they can relate to you.
Has Jack been able to give you any personal time to answer your questions or give you feedback?
My plans were to be a roadie so I could be around music constantly. The more I was around it the more I wanted to play. I never told him that I wrote songs and played guitar. Jack didn’t know until just recently. He was shocked that I played guitar and sang.
But, yeah, he’s helped me out. We’ve had numerous conversations about music.
That’s probably something he appreciated. Most people would’ve been tempted from day one to say, “Hi! I’m your roadie, but I also play guitar and sing! Here’s my demo!”
Yeah…. I think he did appreciate that!
Speaking of working, you’ve certainly been keeping yourself busy. For the past few weeks you’ve been here, there and everywhere playing every chance you get.
I truly believe if you work hard at anything you’ll be successful. That’s what I try to do. If there’s just one person there and they want a show, I’ll give it to them. That’s what I do. I’ve had about 20 shows this month and I’m trying to get more!
What are you learning about the business as you’re getting out for yourself?
It’s a lot of hard work. I knew it would be hard and I knew I would really have to go out of my comfort zone in some situations. I go to school full-time, booking all my own shows and promoting them.
It’s not easy. I really commend anyone else who’s doing the same thing or who has done it in the past. It’s a lot of work! You’ve got to not only book the show and promote the show, but you’ve also got to go out there and put on a good show, too. There’s a lot to it!
With all that hard work behind the scenes, how enjoyable is the payoff when you get up on stage behind the mic?
The payoff is huge for me. My whole life I’ve kinda been searching for what I was meant to do – something I love. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech, but in that speech he talks about when you wake up and you look in the mirror. If you’re not happy with what you’re going to do for that day, then you’re not doing the right thing. I truly believe that and I’ve done that my whole life.
I finally feel like I’m where I need to be. When I have people come up to me and tell me they enjoyed my music and my show. It makes it all worth it.
When I listen to your singing, I hear a sound that is both gritty and soulful. Is this a style you’re aiming for or is it something else?
For a long time I tried to aim for certain things and I tried to write songs a certain way. I have always listened to a lot of rock and classic rock. I grew up listening to 80s metal. My step-dad was really into the 80s metal and all that stuff.
When I moved to Texas, I started listening to country music and I got some friends who listened to country music. They started showing me different sides of it, like Ryan Bingham, Jonathan Tyler, Hayes Carll and Chris Knight. When I heard that, it began to influence me. That’s when I really found my voice.
I don’t really try to sing a certain way. I try to portray my emotions in my songs. That’s my voice.
For fans who want a taste of your music, you have out your Hope EP (available on iTunes here). Would you tell us a bit about each of the five tracks?
“Unknown Road” is the first track on there. I did a lot of traveling the last year and I did a lot of thinking about all of the roads I’ve been on. That’s kinda where that came from.
“Hope” is a song about meeting someone who gives you hope again and makes you realize that maybe that someone is someone who you were missing. I wrote it about the woman who did that for me!
“LSD” is a song I wrote about meeting one of my idols who tried to get me to partake in some recreational fun. It kinda broke my heart. I always tell people when I sing that song, don’t ever meet your idols because they’re just like you – they’re gonna disappoint you.
“Perfect Weather” is one I kinda wrote for my military buddies and kinda for just all of my friends. It’s like, what do we have to do to find perfect weather? And I don’t mean that in the sense of, “Oh, it’s raining outside.” But just what do we have to do, how hard do we have to fight, to really find something perfect.
And “Sit Next To Me” is song I wrote for the most amazing woman I ever met. I met her in a time of reinventing myself and finding myself. It talks about being in love and wanting to jump right in. Sometimes you can’t, but you still want that person to be sitting next to you.
I have a lot of songs, but these five are what represent me right now and everything that’s going on in my life. I like to put what’s going on with me and my emotions into my music.
Just for fun, if you could go out on tour with anyone right now, who would it be?
Would I open for them or would I headline? (Laughs) Because there’s a difference! If I were headlining, I’d pick Jack to open for me! (Laughs) I’m just kidding! (Laughs)
If I could go out with anybody and they were out touring non-stop, I would have to say I’d probably go out with somebody like Ryan Bingham. I’m a huge fan of his. He’s a great guy. I think his fans would appreciate my music.
And if you had the chance to sit down and write a song with anybody, who would that be?
Oh, man! That’s a tough one. You know, I’ve always said I’ve wanted to write a song for Keith Urban. I really enjoy his music. It’s like one of those guilty pleasures-type things. I think I could bring something to the table if I sat down with Keith Urban.
Let’s finish with an open floor for you to say whatever you’d like to your current fans and potential new ones:
If you’ve never heard my name before, I encourage you to listen. I love music. I love playing music. And I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
If you ever do come out to a show I will make you smile; make you laugh; make you think about a time when maybe things were better or make you realize how good things are now.
I thank everyone who’s reading this interview and I thank everyone who’s helped me out so far. Thanks to all the people who helped me with my Kick-Starter project. I’m actually going into the studio on March 24 to start recording my new CD which should be out sometime in May. Thanks for the interview!