This Interview is linked from the Okeechobee Official Portal Guide.
Interview with Matt Quinn of Mt. Joy
SIGT: Okeechobee Music Festival is a magical place in the Sunshine Grove down in Okeechobee, Florida. What does it mean to Mt. Joy to be able to share your message and your music with thousands of people in that kind of environment?
Matt Quinn, Mt. Joy: It means a lot. I think for us, early on, when you’re first getting started, you have the outline in your head of what the dream is or what you hope your band can become. And I think any band would be lying if they didn’t have some sort of vision of a festival, whether it’s sunset or nighttime or whatever. That image of the crowd of people, who are camping out, and true music lovers. And maybe sandwiched between some of your favorite band’s kind of thing. I’m grateful for us to just get the opportunity to be in that environment. As a music fan myself, that’s something I did and still do. You can picture yourself on a stage when you are a fan of music as well — you know the energy in the crowd. It’s special for us, for sure.
SIGT: You once said, “before the band, the realities of life made the dream of writing songs seem pretty impossible.” And now you’re living the dream. What was life like before this dream happened? And then how has this band changed your life and changed your trajectory?
MQ: You know, I think it was more just that I had always wanted to be a songwriter, performer, and I, like so many artists, had given it what I felt like was the “full shot.” I had played shows to no one, driven around, and tried to open for people and various projects. In fact, some of which I was literally playing the song “Silver Lining,” which ends up being Mt. Joy’s big single. It’s just this really difficult road. There’s like five or six things that need to lock into place for a band to start having success and I could just never find it. And you get to a point where the reality is that you’re not making any money, and you can’t pay rent, and if you can’t pay rent, then you’re homeless. And those are the realities, right? So, I think for me, I just could never quite catch on as an artist. And then sort of a last-ditch effort, I’ll spare you the long story, it ends up working. It’s just something I definitely don’t take for granted. Like, I played in Philly and it was so special to have my family there because those were the only people in the crowd when it wasn’t working. So it’s cool for them to see it too.
SIGT: That’s awesome. I’ve got a song called “You Gotta Pay the Toll to Rock and Roll,” and it’s very much about that and being in the van and being broke and doing what you want to do and living your dream. But speaking of driving around in the van, Jesus drives in an Astrovan, my dude. What year Astro van is he cruising in?
MQ: You know, I’ve never personally owned an Astrovan, which is hilarious. But my good family friends growing up who were our neighbors, they had this green Astrovan, man, must have been from like mid-‘90s. So I’m picturing like a dark green Astrovan when I was writing that song. And it’s just so funny. I’m sure, you know, as a songwriter, like, sometimes the goofy ideas are the things that you don’t necessarily try to have the weight of the world behind mean so much to other people. And it’s been a thrill to have people connect with that song because it was really such a light hearted stab at writing a goofy song. I had no idea it was going to resonate with people like that.
SIGT: And that was your guys first song you put out, right?
MQ: Yeah, exactly. We were in LA working other jobs, and I was working a nine-to-five, and then I started going to Law School night classes. So, my days were pretty booked and I just on the weekends was putting together some tunes. I started showing it to people and it was just one of those funny things where it’s still to this day how a lot of our fans know about us.
SIGT: That’s incredible. What kind of weed is Jesus smoking in the van, man?
MQ: Man, hopefully some sort of Sativa to keep him awake, keep him grooving, so he’s not getting too sleepy behind the wheel, I guess. But yeah, I don’t know. I hope that Jesus is smoking good weed. Although I will say, if this becomes a weed interview, as I get older, I prefer weed that isn’t like the most “Galaxy blast-off weed,” because every time I’m out in LA, someone always gives me something and it’s like I have a decent tolerance. And then I take like two hits of some sort of thing coated in Honeysuckle and I’m, like, totally lost … like, this isn’t the experience I signed up for, right?
“I hope that Jesus is smoking good weed.”
“I hope that Jesus is smoking good weed.”
SIGT: Haha. You were talking about being a fan first. Are you guys able to catch any other artists at Okeechobee this year? And is there anyone you’re looking to catch?
MQ: Once we play, I immediately shed the Mt. Joy thing and I go grab a beer and I’m just a fan. So, I don’t know who’s headlining our night yet because we’ve been in full, finishing up our album mode, which we just turned in yesterday. I’ve been super in that world. And I honestly haven’t turned the page totally. I mean, I’ll probably find someone with guitars.
SIGT: Did you always play guitar?
MQ: Yeah, I grew up playing guitar. Our lead guitarist Sam definitely holds down the leads. I’m more in the rhythm camp. I started writing songs and really focused on being a songwriter from the guitar standpoint early on, when I was 14 or something like that. And it was definitely not a decision at the time that was made where I was like, this is the right thing to do. It’s more like, man, these people are so much better than me.
SIGT: Do you have any advice for young musicians aiming to make a career out of music or any word you like to pass on to the younger artists?
MQ: I never want to come off as preaching like I know what to do because I failed at it for so long. I guess I would just say, which is probably cliche, focus on what you can control. I knew I wasn’t that good at guitar and so I worked on guitar a lot. Make it your world to get better. I like watching sports, and if you want to be in the NBA, you have to be incredibly good at shooting. You can’t just be pretty good at it. You have to be one of the best shooters or best at whatever it is that you do. And I think music is the same way. If you really want to make it your profession, then just like anything else, you must put an extraordinary amount of time into it and then keep doing that. Don’t be afraid to grow and then put in the work to grow.
SIGT: That’s some great advice. What does it mean to you guys to be a part of this Okeechobee Music Festival?
MQ: You know, honestly, as like, a jam-band guy, I’ve heard things about Okeechobee and when it popped up that we could play there, it was easy for me to be like, “yeah.” When someone asked for us to play, I thought “would I go to that festival” and well, personally, yeah, I’ve always heard good things about Okeechobee, and I’ve always looked at it as, like sort of a festival that maybe caters a little more to jamming or I guess like “heady” music. I’m pumped that I get to go and then our band gets to play, too. We’ll be playing some new songs and we’re really starting to sharpen those.
SIGT: What do you want the people of Okeechobee to know?
MQ: I just want people to have fun and be free. Be good to each other. And, man, you’re in the Sunshine listening to music.
Interview by Chuck Magid.
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