His name is Matt, but most people call him… Matt. The engineer, producer, writer, food connoisseur and lover of all that is art has been in the music industry for over a decade now, but especially in the past few years, Matt Rad (born Matt Radosevich) has made a name for himself on the pop airwaves with content for acts like Andy Grammer, Chris Wallace and One Direction. Most recently, Rad’s been in the studio with Ohio rockers Walk The Moon, best known for a pair of Alternative hits: “Anna Sun” and “Tightrope”.
Since my chart’s beginning in the fall of 1999, eight songs that Rad’s been involved in made it into my top 40, reaching a high of #4 three times in his career. (I think a #1 is not too far away, if you ask me.) Perhaps you’ve heard of some of these songs…
Production and Writing
ANDY GRAMMER, “Fine By Me” (#4, 2012)
BONNIE MCKEE, “American Girl” (#31, 2013) (Production)
CHRIS WALLACE, “Keep Me Crazy” (#18, 2013) and “Remember When (Push Rewind)” (#4, 2012)
ONE DIRECTION, “Best Song Ever” (#10, 2013) (Production)
On 2012’s year-end survey, “Fine By Me” ranked at #22 and “Remember When (Push Rewind)” ranked at #26. This year, two out of his three songs (“Best Song Ever” and “Keep Me Crazy”) to make my weekly chart are in my Top 100 of 2013, which means two out of three ain’t Rad… uh, bad. They’re all rad and Rad. Yes, moving on.
Mr. Music Man himself with his seventy-six trombones leading the parade of pop hits was gracious enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer some of my questions about working with specific acts, message board fun and of course, what he might whip up for a meal. There’s no other way to describe him than as radiculously rad. Check it out below:
PGTC: Who were some of your favorite acts growing up and when did you decide to start making your own music?
Rad: I started classical piano lessons at five and my parents had everything from The Beatles to Stan Getz to The Jackson 5 playing constantly, so I had a pretty diverse musical landscape around me growing up. Being from Oakland, the first music that I really discovered on my own was rap and punk rock. I remember hearing a kid spitting Snoop Dogg’s version of “La Di Da Di” (as “Lodi Dodi” from 1993’s Doggystyle) on the playground in elementary school and I was just infected by it. At the same time, I discovered bands like Green Day, Nirvana and Weezer. I started making hip hop beats and playing in rock bands and it just spiralled from there.
PGTC: I imagine there was a transition for you working with rock acts like Good Charlotte and Taking Back Sunday and then finding yourself on the pop scene with bands like Emblem3 and One Direction. Was there any hesitation making the jump or do you feel just as comfortable working in either genre?
Rad: Honestly, there wasn’t much of a transition at all. I love working with creative people and I challenging myself, so it doesn’t matter much to me. It’s funny being known as a different type of record maker to different people. When I was 16, I was a white kid in Oakland who made beats and I was also a punk rock kid who went to 924 Gilman (a music club based in Berkeley, CA.) When I got to L.A. and started working for [producer] Eric Valentine (Smash Mouth, Third Eye Blind, etc.), I did nothing but live in his world, so I got known as a guy who made rock records. Now, I’m a pop guy. I’m happy to be thought of as any of those things, but I’ve also got some new projects brewing that don’t fall into any of those categories.
PGTC: You seem to have a pretty good relationship with Andy Grammer and Chris Wallace having produced and written on both their albums. Tell me about working with them. Are you working with Andy on his forthcoming second album?
Rad: I love working with both of those guys so much. Andy and I wrote “Fine By Me” the first day we met. We just had this great chemistry trying to impress each other. Chris and I had a similar thing, where we both came in trying to beat everything we’d done before, and we came out with his first two singles in the first three days we worked together. Both of those guys are crazy good writers and just great human beings all around.
I’ve written a bunch with Andy for his next record, but he’s still a ways away from putting the final touches on it. He and Chris and I actually got together and wrote a couple of songs. We’ll see where they end up, but the three of us together is such a fun combination.
PGTC: Your biggest song on my 2013 year-end chart and one that I’m sure gained you more followers is One Direction’s “Best Song Ever”. What was your experience like with that particular song and be honest, did you fan girl a bit when you heard you’d be co-producing one of their songs?
Rad: I enjoyed working on that song so much. I had worked on some other projects for Syco, and I got a call from Tyler Brown (A&R manager for Syco) in the U.K. about helping finish the production on a new song for the guys. I knew the band from “What Makes You Beautiful” but otherwise, I didn’t know their music that well. When they sent me the song, and I heard Harry (Styles)’s vocal in that first verse, and I had a real “woah” moment. He sounded like a badass rock frontman. Julian Bunetta and John Ryan put together such a dope production already and I just went with where they were headed and piled on guitars and distorted bass and drums. Credit to the band, Julian and John, and Tyler for having such a concrete vision for a big rock song. I loved the whole process.
PGTC: Between Chris Wallace’s “Keep Me Crazy” (also in the year-end top 100) and Emblem3’s “3,000 Miles”, there are a few active singles that you’ve had some involvement in. I’m biased coming from a blog with “charts” in the name, but do you keep track of how your songs are doing?
Rad: Oh yeah! I love seeing how people respond to the records I work on. I’m forever trying to capture the feeling I had when I first discovered music for myself, and at the same time I’m trying to have other people feel that same excitement. When I see the audience go up on Mediabase, I definitely get excited. (laughs) That just means more people are hearing things that I’ve worked hard on!
PGTC: In a similar vein, I remember that the first time we spoke was after this tweet from July where you spoke of Pulse Music Board (and no, we don’t want you to hate yourself; we’re all love, or at least I am.) Are you out searching for blog and message board feedback on your work / are you secretly undercover on PMB stanning for your faves?
Rad: I check out PMB periodically because it has a huge education about how radio works. I don’t really seek out internet feedback on a creative level (though, of course, it’s nice to see people say nice things.) I love the discussions on PMB that involve the history and arc of hits and the threads where people analyze the trajectory of a song, like Ellie Goulding‘s “Lights” and how long it took to get to #1. I like when people discuss how fun. and Janelle Monáe‘s “We Are Young” was #1 at iTunes for a month before pop radio started playing it at all. It’s a great source of knowledge about how the business responds to what kinds of records. It can also drive you insane with the crazy debates people get into, so I sometimes take a break from it.
PGTC: Following that, if there was to be a Matt Rad fan or stan account, which of the following Twitter handles would be most desirable to you?
A. @RadToTheBone [Pretty self-explanatory. It’s r-r-r-rad.]
B. @TheRadMatter [The Mad Hatter ain’t got nothin’ on you as you travel through Wonderland.]
Or C. @BlazingRaddles [The Waco Kid to your Governer, from one Mel Brooks fan to another… but Young Frankenstein may top my list.]
Rad: As a giant Blazing Saddles fan, I think C is an easy choice. An alternate option: @CantYouSeeThisRadIsANit.
PGTC: Since you like to eat and cook in addition to making good music, if I were to reserve a table at Chez Rad for the evening, what would be the signature dish and drink on the menu? (You can pick the music too, but the jazz tribute to Katy Perry is probably too much.)
Rad: I’m calling a slight audible and making the meal brunch. The food would include my dad’s french toast recipe, my grandmother’s pancakes, my mother’s eggs, some country ham, bacon, and a whole lot of seasonal California fruit. The drink is champagne (with or without orange juice). The music is something left of center and upbeat like Cornelius or Cashmere Cat.
PGTC: With the holidays approaching, besides admiring your newly pressed Platinum plaque for “Best Song Ever” (I mean, you need to at least once or twice), what other activities or traditions do you and your family have?
Rad: I spend the holidays in Oakland where I grew up. My parents are there, my brother is there, and many of my best friends are there. I’m very close with all my extended family too, and almost everyone ends up in the Bay Area this time of year. We spend lots of time together around the holidays just eating and drinking and catching up.
PGTC: Finally, what are you most excited about in 2014?
Rad: There are a couple of things I’ve worked on that I’m really excited for people to hear. First is this artist named Kes, who is like Prince meets The-Dream inside the movie Blade Runner. (Find more on Kes here.) He and I did a song called “Gimme Your Love” which is one of the best songs I’ve ever worked on. The other project is a rock band called “Mini Pig”; I don’t know that I’m allowed to say much more than that, but it’s the most visceral, frantic, gritty project I’ve worked on in a long time. (Rad also co-wrote “Cue The Rain”, which will appear on Glee star Lea Michele‘s upcoming album, Louder.)
I’m also excited to see whatever Kanye West does. He’s consistently the most exciting person in music and pop culture.
Watch out for where Chris Wallace and One Direction end up on my Top 100 of 2013, beginning on December 15 and concluding on Christmas Eve, December 24. Thanks again to Matt Rad for the great chat, and continued success into 2014. We can’t wait to hear what’s coming next (and munch on that brunch, of course.)