Matthew Koma is becoming known for being a versatile and talented artist, producer and songwriter who can create music in several genres. Probably best known as a pop/EDM singer/songwriter who is signed to RCA Records, he has also written, produced or remixed songs for such varied artists as Zedd, Shania Twain and Bruce Springsteen.
As an artist, Koma has been releasing songs via his label deal with RCA Records. His latest release is “Suitcase,” a thoughtful, pop ballad that was originally featured in a live, acoustic version. The other recent songs that he’s released are “Kisses Back,” “Dear Ana” and Hard To Love.”
As a songwriter, Koma co-wrote the Top 10 pop hit “Clarity,” by Zedd (featuring Foxes), which won the Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording. He also collaborated with Zedd and was the featured vocalist on his single “Spectrum,” which was a #1 dance hit. He has also co-written songs and been the featured vocalist on singles for Tiesto, Alesso and Hardwell.
In addition, Koma has co-written songs for Kelly Clarkson, Carly Rae Jepsen, Far East Movement, Kat Graham, Hilary Duff, Sebastian Ingrosso, Black Cards and Mylene Farmer.
As a record producer, Koma is about to be known for his collaboration with country/pop star Shania Twain, who will be releasing her new album in September. He co-produced her excellent new single “Life’s About to Get Good,” and he worked with Twain on several other cuts for her album.
On top of this, Koma has also worked with Bruce Springsteen. He did a fresh remix of the song “Rocky Ground,” which was from Springsteen’s album, Wrecking Ball. Koma also performs live regularly; he has toured with Ellie Goulding, Owl City, Charli XCX, LMFAO, Far East Movement and other artists.
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Matthew Koma. He talks about his current releases as an artist, and his work with Zedd, Shania Twain and Bruce Springsteen.
DK: How did you get started as an artist and songwriter?
Matthew Koma: I really grew up in a music family and upbringing. My dad’s a singer/songwriter, my brother’s a drummer, and my mom sings. From an early age, music was introduced as a pretty huge part of our communication. I grew up listening to a lot of Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty…storytellers. My parents exposed me to those kind of artists and took me to their shows at an early age. I also had my brother, who was older than me, taking me to a bunch of hardcore and punk shows, so I had this interesting pool of influences when I started to play guitar and sing. It was a bit of a mixed bag, but I definitely had an appreciation for the craft, but also the culture (of music) at an early age, which I think was really important. It was a very organic and natural upbringing…I was very fortunate.
DK: Besides playing guitar, do you also play keyboards and do programming?
Here’s the lyric video of Matthew Koma’s new song, “Suitcase.”
Koma: Yeah, guitar was my first instrument, and as I grew up and got more into production and recording, I think by necessity you learn how to [play the other instruments]. Over time, it becomes tools in the arsenal, but I still consider myself someone who can sit down with a guitar and write a song, and that’s my truest form of self, I think.
DK: In 2013, you had a big pop hit, “Clarity,” with Zedd. How did you write that song and got together with Zedd?
Koma: Zedd and I were introduced, when we were both signed to Interscope Records, and we had a bunch of people in common who were working on both of our projects. We had a different set of influences—he was coming from being a drummer in metal bands, and I had a lot of singer/songwriter influences. So in his starting to become a producer in the electronic space, and my trying to break out of writing songs that were being produced with a traditional band set-up, I think it struck for a unique chord for both of us.
He and I started working together in a room with a couple ideas, and the first song we wrote together was “Spectrum.” And then because we were both touring so much, he sent me a lot of tracks while I was touring, and I’d just write to the ones that I responded to. Zedd sent me the track of “Clarity,” and I popped into the studio during an off day, and sent him back a song.
DK: As an artist, the latest song you’ve released is “Suitcase.” Can you discuss how you wrote this song?
Koma: “Suitcase” is one of my favorite songs I’ve written. I wrote it a couple years ago, and the only version that surfaced at the time was this acoustic live version that I’d done. It was put out on this live EP, and people really gravitated towards it. So it was exciting to finish the studio version of the song, and have it part of this body of work that I’m just finishing. But at the same time, I already have it kind of temped in amongst the fan base and people who responded strongly to that song. So in a strange way, I feel like that song has really helped me bridge the gap between people who discovered my voice or my songwriting in the electronic space, and bringing it back to what I do a little bit more naturally and more organically. So this song has been an important one for me.
DK: Are you currently working on a full album?
Koma: I finished a record and we’ve been releasing a couple of songs from it every few months, in an effort to make sure each song gets a second to be digested and in the spotlight. I’m still building my fans and creating an awareness, and I think I’ve had better luck doing that through releasing singles than I have necessarily a body of work. So all of the songs I’ve been releasing are from that record, which will eventually be released as a full album. But it’s been kind of nice to just put out a new song every 5 or 6 weeks, and feel like there’s a spotlight of attention on it for a second, for people to dig into.
Here’s the video of Zedd’s hit “Clarity” (feat. Foxes), which was
co-written by Matthew Koma.
DK: I read that you produced Shania Twain’s new single, “Life’s About to Get Good.” Is that true?
Koma: Yes. Funny enough, she actually tweeted a photo of her singing my song, “Suitcase,” about two years ago. She randomly discovered it and became a fan of it, and she reached out to me, and we connected. It made for a pretty interesting conversation with her, to talk about making music together, because obviously she had such a defined history sonically, and from what kind of songs she’s known for and her perspective. And I was definitely coming from a place where I can respect that and be a fan of hers, and having an idea of how maybe to infuse that with something a bit different or an expansion of [her sound]. So it was really a cool relationship to work on songs together, because she really trusted me to kind of tear some stuff apart and rebuild. And I think she trusts me, because she knew I was able to respect the foundation which she built, and she also had the desire to not repeat what she’d done before, and [create] something different.
DK: Did you also work with Shania on other songs for her upcoming album?
Koma: I did a handful of them, actually. We spent a good year and a half working together, so there’s a lot of stuff that’s going to come out on her record that we worked on.
DK: A few years ago, you did a fresh remix of Bruce Springsteen’s song, “Rocky Ground” (from his album, Wrecking Ball). How did you hook up to work on Bruce’s song?
Koma: About 8 or 9 years ago, when I was playing in one of my first bands that was signed to EMI, I made a record with (producer/engineer) Ron Aniello. We then became dear friends. As time went on, he produced the past four Bruce (Springsteen) records, plus Patti Scialfa and a lot of organic stuff. After the record I made with Ron, I took a turn into more pop & electronic music. We had a very easy relationship, because we’d be able to pull each other into projects or songs that typically we wouldn’t have the opportunity to. I’d bring him in on a Tiesto record, and he’d turn around and say, “I’m doing a Bruce record and we need a remix for this song (“Rocky Ground”). Do you want to dive in?” So he brought me in to work on the Bruce project. And after I remixed the song, I got a chance to meet Bruce. This was great, because I’m a massive Bruce fan; I’ve seen 40 or 50 of his shows. So it was a trip to be able to work on something with him.