When you first started listening to dance music, chances are one of your favorite songs featured Matthew Koma. As EDM blew up, Matthew Koma’s voice was unmistakable, as he appeared on monster tracks from Zedd, Hardwell, Showtek, and others. But as many may not know, Koma’s career extends far beyond singing. He is a songwriter, producer, and as many are beginning to discover, he’s also a DJ. We caught up with Matthew Koma between his debuts at Ultra and Coachella.
Take us through your first Ultra performance. Were you nervous?
It was a blast! I had a really good time. It’s always fun to play festivals because besides just getting to be a performer and a artist, you also get to be a fan and cruise around to all the different stages, see other acts, and stuff happens like getting to hop onstage with other artists for a track you just worked on. It was rad, just a really great weekend for music and I was really happy with my show. I’m already looking forward to next year.
You’re heading to Coachella for the next two weekends. Are you planning to approach your set differently because it’s not just an EDM festival?
For the most part – even though it’s not strictly an electronic music festival – there’s still the Sahara tent where the fan base still exists, so it’s a similar audience to be playing to. With a lot of these shows, it’s good to play a lot of my songs I’m not only featured on, but I’ve been part of in other ways – writing , a remix, or something I’ve produced start to finish – it’s still a similar platform for me. So I’m not looking at it any differently other than the fact that I get to walk around and see people like Ryan Adams play, which will be totally different than what you usually get when you play strictly play an EDM festival. Plus, the Sahara tent feels like it’s own mini festival inside for Coachella, you know?
Is it weird hearing your own voice on the tracks you play?
Yeah, it’s totally funny because sometimes I will grab a mic and sometimes I won’t but I’ll always find myself singing along, and I’m know I’m not performing but you can’t not do it. It doesn’t feel weird now, but it’s definitely comical.
For now are you sticking to strictly DJ’ing or could you see yourself going the DJ/live route like Krewella or Chromeo?
Hmm, I don’t know. I guess where you see me determines what kind of show you get. I have acoustic shows where I play guitar at a small club, or maybe a set that’s more of a hybrid where I’m singing and I have a drummer and a keyboard player then I DJ some of it; it really depends on the context. But I don’t think I could ever restrict myself to one style of performance. DJing is just another way I can deliver my music and that’s what is most important to me: connecting to my fan base and having people relate to the lyrics and the melodies. I like it all; it keeps it all really fresh and exciting to me.
You’re widely known as a vocalist for some of the biggest tracks in dance music, but now you’ve switched gears and started DJing. What was the reason for this shift?
It’s not really a big shift or a big change, it’s just the way a lot of people were introduced to me. That was their starting point so people assume I’m just a vocalist but really, a lot of the songs people have heard that I’ve collaborated on I’ve even produced the whole song and certainly written all of it and again, it’s one of the many ways I can deliver those songs. As time goes on, people are starting to discover ‘oh wait you’re not just a singer, or wait, you’re not just a guitar player, or wait you’re not just a DJ.’ and I think that’s something that just comes over time as I get out there and play more shows. So it’s not just a shift or change; people are just discovering a new side of me. To be honest, I don’t even see myself as a singer but first and foremost I consider myself a songwriter.
Speaking of songwriting, I hear you’re currently writing with Kelly Clarkson and Brittney Spears. Is the pop world going full-on EDM, or do you see many people not ready to make that big leap?
I never really thought of it as genre specific, great songs are great songs, and if you dress it up with the production model of electronic music or if you dress it down and make it acoustic, a good song will be able to stand on its own. I would never put a song of mine Kelly or Britney performed in the box of electronic music. Culture influences music and people are all open -minded and there are more oppotrunities for worlds to collide, but I don’t know if I work in the context of genres.
Are you like other DJs who say things like “Death to Genres” or “Fuck Genres?”
Death to Genres? I don’t know, I just play tracks that I like. It’s stuff I’ve worked on that I sing on, stuff that I’m liking that week, that day, etc. It’s not necessarily a planned out thing, I like what I like. I grew up on Elvis Costello fan and hardcore bands. It’s a lot simpler than a statement. I simply play music.
What’s the weirdest thing you play in your sets?
I try to respect the setting I’m in. But I also try to incorporate my influences so I’ll throw a Talking Heads mashup in there. I try to subtly introduce things I enjoy without intruding and being like, “You guys need to listen to his!” Again I think it’s more of being in the moment.
What else are you currently working on?
I’m finishing up my album which should come out later this year and I’m excited about that but it’s taking up a lot of my time. I’m working on a few collaborations, one with Flux Pavillon, one with Dillon Francis, working with Kelly and Britney…I’m also working with Shania Twain on her record. I’m all over the map. Me and Rivers Cuomo from Weezer did a few tracks. It’s great to have different outlets.
How do you balance tour life and being in the studio so much?
It’s pretty much non-stop. I get bored if I have a day off or even 3 hours off. I like keeping on the go from country to country, studio to studio.
What’s a place you’re really looking forward to playing that you haven’t before?
I’m really looking forward to Coachella, just because I’m a fan of so many artists playing the bill that I might be selfish and attend the festival as both a fan and artist. I always love Japan, it’s one of my favorite places in the world and every time I get to go there I get really excited. Honestly, I look forward to playing everywhere. There’s not really a place that you don’t enjoy. It’s an amazing feeling to take off for a flight whether its an hour or 13 hours and I’m just excited to keep touring and seeing what’s happening next.