During Wednesday’s show at the Jefferson Theater, Mat Kearney will be sharing music from “Crazytalk,” the spring release that contains his hit “Kings & Queens.”
Some musicians distance themselves from their early successes, but after a decade as a critically acclaimed songwriter and performer, Kearney can see the true value of his more clearly. That’s why Wednesday’s show will include both new hits and older ones that continue to resonate with audiences — and with Kearney himself.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot of colors to paint with on this tour,” said Kearney, who’ll be sharing a bill with Atlas Genius and Juke Ross.
“I always play some new songs and some older ones. I love playing the songs that got me where I am. ‘Nothing Left to Lose?’ I still enjoy playing that song.”
“Nothing Left to Lose,” the title track of his 2006 major-label debut, captures an exhilarating commitment to pursuing his dreams that he never wants to outgrow.
“That song was specifically about me stepping out and being scared — and still dreaming,” he said. “That message still resonates with me. The longer you do something, maybe, the more you have to lose. Maybe it’s more important to me [now] to be stepping out boldly.”
Since releasing “Nothing Left to Lose,” Kearney has become a platinum-selling artist, and a husband and father. As his fame grows and his work and family responsibilities increase, he’s determined not to neglect his devotion to songcraft and the creative life.
“It is interesting,” he said. “I never got into this to have a job or pay a mortgage, although it can become that.
“Anytime I can return to that place and be that kid in the garage playing with his friends, I fight for that. It’s just reality; it takes more effort to return to that pure place. It’s totally still there. You just have to kind of put the horse blinders on and focus.”
These days, the Eugene, Oregon, native is living and working in Nashville, Tennessee. His songs have been featured on television in “Grey’s Anatomy,” “NCIS,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Parenthood,” “The Vampire Diaries,” “30 Rock” and “The Hills,” to name just a few. His sound has been popular with fans of rock, folk, hip-hop and contemporary Christian music.
Kearney created much of “Crazytalk” in his home studio.
“I enter the time vortex when I’m in the studio,” he said. “This new record, I produced about half of it myself. There’s good and there’s bad about that.”
A little solitude can be efficient and emboldening, for instance. “You’ll maybe take chances or you’ll try things that” you might not if others are listening, he said.
At the same time, “there’s a beauty to when more people are together. Both have their advantages.”
Collaboration encourages him to try new sounds and approaches; Kearney said he ends up “going places that I never would’ve gone on my own. That’s what I love about collaboration; these young dudes have no rules.”
Striking the right balance between sticking with what works and turning creative impulses loose pays off.
In songwriting, “I’ve done it awhile, and there are things that have worked,” Kearney said. “You have these systems that have worked.
“It’s also fun to have someone say, ‘We’ll, what if we do it this way?”’
The craftsmanship side of songwriting also appeals to him. “It’s almost like [being] a woodworker,” he said. “You’re learning to be more efficient and how to do more with less.”
When he’s on the road, “I always bring a little mobile recording studio,” Kearney said. “You can bring a laptop and get most of your album done.” It’s also a convenient way to capture contributions of special guests on tour.