Pop singer/songwriter Mat Kearney, whose voice has an eerie similarity to Coldplay’s Chris Martin, is bound for the Fillmore Philadelphia March 17.
Since recording his indie debut in 2004, the 39-year-old Kearney’s career continues to steadily build momentum, with more than 1.5 million albums sold and more than 220 million streams of his songs.
His most popular tracks are “Ships in the Night,” “Closer to Love,” “Heartbeat” and “Air I Breathe.”
Busy with preparations to release his fifth album, “Crazytalk,” and for a March 14 national TV appearance, he had just enough time to field some questions by email.
How did you come to find music as your calling, especially when playing cover songs didn’t satisfy you?
Well I was so bad at playing covers I just started writing songs. For some reason it was way easier for me to write something I knew, than try to learn someone else’s songs.
Tell me about being Mat, with one “T.”
My mom misspelled my name at the hospital. I actually didn’t know it was spelled with one T until the eighth-grade. I was messing around in my parents’ file cabinet and found my birth certificate.
Tell me about how you went from having nothing when you moved from Oregon to Nashville, to people paying attention to your songs.
It felt natural to me at the time, but looking back it was kind of a shock to my system. I went from waiting tables to touring the country. It was so shocking to me to have people know my songs in cities I had never been.
How did you get your songs on so many TV shows (Kearney’s songs have been heard on “30 Rock,” “Dirty Sexy Money,” “The Hills,” “Bones,” “Friday Night Lights,” “South Beach,” “One Tree Hill,” “Scrubs,” “The Closer,” “NCIS,” “Life Unexpected,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Parenthood,” “So You Think You Can Dance” and others) and how important has that been in winning new fans?
I have no idea how that happened, but with my first record it caught on like wildfire and I was on a ton of shows that year. It was huge because it hadn’t had any songs on the radio, so it was a way for people to get to know what I was doing.
What was your reaction when you won that rap/hip-hop Dove Award in 2006 for “Trainwreck?”
I thought it was crazy I won an award for rap. I was on the road at the time, and wasn’t there, but I found out later the famous soccer player Pelé gave out my award. I still regret not getting to meet him. I heard he butchered my name.
Is there still that kind of enthusiasm for your music in Christian music/radio circles (For example, his 2015 song “Air I Breathe” still gets airplay on contemporary Christian radio)?
It’s hard to know where I fit in when it comes to radio. I was always kind of an outsider in that world. I got airplay there as kind of a happy accident, but have appreciated the support.
How in the world did you bump Adele out of the No. 1 spot on the iTunes chart (In 2011 Kearney was the one to dethrone Adele’s wildly popular “21”)?
My “Young Love” record really connected on iTunes at the time. It was one of the more rewarding moments of my career. You work so hard on a record and you never know if it’s going to be received well. That one was out of the gate. It was a fun day.
Are you nervous about playing your single “Kings and Queens” on the “Today” show?
Nah, it’s a pretty easy one for me to sing. I’m more worried about getting all the lyrics right.
Take me through your song selection process in creating that special “Acoustic Chill” playlist that’s on Spotify (The 50-song playlist was posted last summer during a rainy day in Nashville).
I just picked songs that I liked from artists that I liked. Some of them are my friends. It was something I did one day and update pretty regularly. Everyone needs a chill playlist of great songs.
What can we expect on stage at the Fillmore in Philly?
Definitely not a chill playlist. I think people who haven’t seen us are surprised at the show we put on. I draw more from Springsteen than Ed Sheeran when it comes to putting on a show. Energy and passion is the goal, and maybe a back flip or two.