Bringing a whole new meaning to the term one-(wo)man band, Atlanta-based Mattiel Brown writes her own music, directs her own visuals and even designs her own sets. Oh, and when she’s not busy with her music career you can find her at her side-hustling as a set designer, illustrator and designer.
Having grown up in quiet rurality in Georgia working on her mother’s farm, these creative sensibilities offered a young Mattiel endless escapist opportunities. Dreaming of far away lands and wild worlds, it was upon stumbling across her mum’s record collection (the likes of Donovan, Peter Paul and Mary, and The Monkees) that things really began to click and she discovered the transportive power of music.
Powering her own musical output through this same generator, Mattiel creates worlds cemented with absolute authenticity. Mixing bold and playful visuals with a sultry Americana sound – think Jack White (who Mattiel joins on tour this month) meets Nancy Sinatra, with Ennio Morricone on the decks – the numbers in her self-titled debut record are delivered with a cool twang and noir charm that sizzles like the desert sun.
Gearing up for touring with Jack White across the US, we caught up with Mattiel to talk the big three: food fights, horse balancing and Patti Smith.
Robyn Sian Cusworth: Hey, what’s up?
Mattiel Brown: Well right now I’m sitting in the studio at Mailchimp HQ where my day job is. I’m working on a whole bunch of things, sorting out all the stuff I’ve got to do.
RSC: Any nice briefs coming up right now? I had a little look at your portfolio and there’s some real fun stuff in there.
MB: Thanks! Well, I’ve got to do some poster designs and get some artwork done, then there’s a lot of emails to send! The team are about to put together a talk so I’m gathering a lot of work for the board today.
RSC: You’re really killing the side hustle. Do your company support it your music career?
MB: Yeah, they are so great. I really don’t know what my design career would be like if I have to find another place. It’s just so relaxed here – they ask me when I’m touring and make it work. There’s always space to figure it out because they support what I need to do.
RSC: So when did music take a spotlight in your life?
MB: Well, I’ve always been a maker. I always say that when I started dabbling around making music and songwriting, I’d watch my bandmates and producers Randy and Jonah and take in how they started with nothing and then they would piece stuff together. I realised that it was so similar to what I do in a visual way at the studio. Although there’s not always a concrete goal in mind, there are always limitations in the way of coming up with something, so you have to use your imagination to get around these.
“I don’t wanna make anything too serious because everybody has seen it all at this moment.”
RSC: So in the Count Your Blessings video, who did you get to throw the food around? You keep a great poker face!
MB: That’s definitely Randy and Jonah [laughs]. Oh man, it was the first thing that popped into mine and Jason’s head – he did the White’s of their Eyes and Count your Blessings videos with me. Burger Records just hit me up like, “Hey, we need another video, asap!” Jason happened to be in town so I used the budget on the backdrop, grocery produce and colourful powders!
RSC: So do you have any more visuals about to drop?
MB: Yes actually, we just released some teaser videos for Heavenly Recordings. They are super short but it’s the same again, until I have that 20k budget I’ll be doing stuff on the spot!
RSC: Surely though, the horse in Count your Blessings wasn’t a spontaneous decision?
MB: [Laughing] No, he wasn’t! I hired him from a lady from a ranch in California. I grew up riding horses and he has got to be one of the best I have ever ridden. So obedient and chill.
RSC: Did you perform as a kid?
MB: Kind of, I used to be a clog dancer! In the south and mid-west there’s line dancing and clog dancing. Clog is like line mixed with tap, you have these little metal things on your shoes and they clap when you’re pulling moves as a group.
RSC: That’s amazing. So who would your dream partner to perform with?
MB: Patti Smith, without a doubt. Any day. Any song. I saw her at a book signing a couple of years ago. Yeah, she’s the one.