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Music played a big part at the recent Rocky Point Rally, and even more so for Lake Havasu City, AZ native and Nashville signed independent artist Matt Farris. In 2013, Matt’s friends – more like family – from the Twisted Metal Cycle Shop in Lake Havasu City brought down the eager artist and the new bike they had just built for him, “Resident Redneck”, for many a night singing around the campfire. Yet, Matt was just itching to get on stage. In 2014, the voice of this New Music Weekly Magazine nominated artist for country single of the year belted out over the Sea of Cortez with performances at Friday night’s traditional Beach Party at Playa Bonita plus his energetic show right at sunset at Saturday night’s main event on the malecón where he opened for Mogollon. With two Rocky Point Rally gigs under his belt, Farris is ready to come back to rock it next year …and maybe even sooner.
The Twisted Metal family that Farris traveled with both last year and this have been coming to the Rocky Point Rally since just about the beginning, and now make Puerto Peñasco their home for an extended stay with Rally events right at the center. Matt has enjoyed every minute of it and already appears to have quite a following here on our shores, evidenced by welcome signs strewn across local watering holes as soon as the crew rolled into town.
Before Matt and TMC headed back North following rally revelries, I had a chance to sit down with Farris in the group’s home away from home at Pat and Les Foss’ place in the Mirador. As soon as the gate opened, I was welcomed into the family myself and, following a quick guided tour by Pat, sat down with TMC’s 27 year-old “kid” to hear about music, Peñasco memories, his activities around cancer awareness launched five years ago with the 1st Denise’s Day, and what’s next.
Though we’d only met about a week before (when crossing the border with the group’s equipment) Matt’s infectious laughter, warm smile, and yes that drawwwl had long since enveloped me into the folds of country. We got started with a simple enough question, “So, tell me, who is Matt Farris?” He burst into laughter and smirked, “Now you’re asking complicated questions.”
Sami (RP360): Where are you from?
Matt: I was actually born in Grants Pass, OR
RP360: How did you end up in Arizona and now Nashville?
Matt: My parents moved out of Oregon when I was probably 6 months old, and moved* to Lake Havasu. I started preschool in Lake Havasu and then all the way through high school. Then I went to Flagstaff, Northern Arizona University, and finished college at Glendale Community College with my Fire Science Degree in 2006. In 2008 I was on a TV show called “Nashville Star.” I told my mom that I was going to play my guitar somewhere. I didn’t tell her where I was going but I drove to California and auditioned in Burbank, CA to be on the show. I got a chance to have a second audition in Nashville – it was season 6, the final season – the same year I got shot…in the chest…in front of my dad’s house in Avondale.
RP360: Shot? What happened?
Matt: May 1st, 2008, my dad and I walked outside and some kids were trying to steal my dad’s truck. We tried to say stop and we both got shot in the driveway, but we’re both ok. Not a lot of people know that about me, though it’s in my bio on the website. It’s a big part of my life because I started to play a lot more music.
RP360: Did it change anything?
Matt: Well, I used to really like fireworks, but now I don’t if I don’t know they’re going off. Loud noises make me flinch, even if a bike backfires it kind of shakes my nerves a little bit.
RP360: Let’s talk about Nashville again, what happened with Nashville Star?
Matt: Nashville Star was in 2008. I was kicked off the show by John Rich who actually wrote the song “Faster, Faster” which is on my current album. I kind of think he didn’t want me to be stuck somewhere, so that was neat. In 2010 I did a competition called the Colgate Country Showdown, which is now just the Country Showdown, I placed first in that and moved on to the State rounds. People asked, “have you ever thought about moving to Nashville?” That was October 8th, 2010 and it was probably 5 days after that I packed up my truck and moved to Nashville. I got transferred to rural ambulance – so I had a job, but within a couple weeks I lost that job and was playing on the street. I was doing anything I could to make money and get by.
I was playing right off of 2nd, downtown Broadway in Nashville and playing on the street. I had my guitar case open and was making tips here and there. This guy walks up and sets down a little metal piece that I carry in my wallet all the time now. It said “do not fear because I am always with you” – it wasn’t a few days later I was contacted by a record label that was interested and it just all kind of worked out.
RP360: Did that lift your spirits at the time?
Matt: Lifted my spirits for sure. I was signed by Skytone. I’ve been with them for almost three years. It was tough at first, the music business is hard – it’s not just an overnight success. You’re going to get a million nos, but that one yes will mean more than anything to you – the first time you hear your song on the radio it’s kind of crazy.
RP360: What’s the first song you heard of yours?
Matt: “Redneck Radio” – it was crazy.
RP360: What’s your favorite song of yours?
RP360: Do you write your own lyrics?
Matt: I write some of them. Some of them I’m writing now for my second album. On the first one, I wanted to get my name out there so I had other writers involved. I had help with one song on there – that’s the “Tell Me That You Love Me” song.
RP360: How about “Me or the Whiskey”?
Matt: That was not me, but it should’ve been – it explains my life and how much I was drinking. Now, I haven’t drunk in 2½ years. A lot of people don’t know that about me, people buy me drinks all the time…I just give them to the band.
RP360: Is that something that surprises a lot of people?
Matt: Yeah, people say some choice words to me because I don’t drink. Usually I have StarFire energy drinks with me, so I can pour it in a shot glass – they are a sponsor of mine, so is Hicktown Couture, for most of my clothes, and Summit Hats – made in Mexico but based out of San Antonio, TX.
RP360: Who all has written for you?
Matt: John Rich, he wrote “Faster, Faster”; a guy named Jayce Hein he wrote “Party in the Making” with Jeremy Bussey, they’ve also written for Mark Wells, Jason Aldean, and all these bigger names. Ben Earls, he wrote “She’s Done” with an idea of pretty much my life I would say – like, this is exactly what happens with me, we need something that fits me and when I heard that song I said, yeah that’s it.
RP360: So, would it be more appropriate to say “He’s Done”?
Matt’s eyebrows go up, and he looks off in the distance before chuckling, “yeah, pretty much – I’m done trying.”
RP360: Tell me again about your nomination this year.
Matt: I got nominated for country single of the year with New Music Weekly Magazine, which was really kind of crazy – that was for “Resident Redneck”. I was up against Blake Shelton, Taylor Swift, Cassidy Pope, and Taylor Made – really the only independent person was me and Taylor Made. I lost to Black Shelton, obviously.
RP360: So, though you’re with SkyTone, you say you’re independent?
Matt: It’s an independent record label, but Broken Bow records is an independent record label and they have Jason Aldean, so he’s still considered an independent artist.
RP360: Do you see more award shows in your future?
Matt: I went to the CMA awards in June in Nashville. It was really cool just to be there and people knew who I was, that was pretty neat. Some artists were like, “hey I like your song” – so it’s pretty cool that people are listening, that’s all I care about.
RP360: Has it changed you?
Matt: I think it’s changed me for the better. I quit drinking, and quit partying because I started worrying about music, and worry about my little boy.
Rp360: Yes, tell me more about Zander. You showed me two different pictures yesterday, one of you with a guitar and one with him playing and you kind of look like twins.
Matt: He’s 2½, he was born in April in 2012. He’s a huge part of my life. He’s the reason I keep going as strong as I am.
Matt pulls out his phone, which curiously never seems to be far from reach as he spends the day tweeting and chatting with fans. “Here’s a video of Zander,” he beams, “check it out, his favorite color is camo.” Yeah, that’s a little country.
RP360: Tell us about your relationship with these guys, the ones that brought you down to Rocky Point. I know they built your bike.
Matt laughs, “Twisted Metal. They’re crazy, they’re twisted.” – They’ve known my family for a long time, Tom’s known my step dad since I was about a year old I think. We’ve known them for a long time. They asked me to do their annual party, to start their annual party. The third one is this weekend! It started 2 years ago and they asked me, and I of course was happy to do it. I just love playing music anytime. I walked into the shop to talk to them about it one day and [Tom] was working on the frame of a bike, I said “man that’s really cool” – it was kind of rusty – “it would be a really cool redneck bike”. I think a light went off in Tom’s head and Marvin’s head – a redneck bike – so now I have the Resident Redneck bike, which is absolutely crazy.
RP360: But it’s like you’re their son or they take you under their wing it seems.
Matt: Yeah, last year I came down to the rally and we’d just watch other bands and I’d sit there and twiddle my thumbs because I wanted to play music so bad.
RP360: This year is a little bit different. Tell us about your Rally experience this year.
Matt: This year we figured we’d spend 10 days down here. Last year it was 8 days, so every year it’s a little bigger for us.
RP360: So next year it’ll be like a month? Matt nods, “Yeah, I wouldn’t mind that”
Matt: Yeah, rent out these casitas monthly, or these condos monthly, but we’ll always have a place to stay
RP360: But the question is, are they haunted?
Matt: Hahaha – no, not these ones – the ones on the beach are. My band stayed at a beach front place, lightbulbs were falling out, handprints on the mirror – a lot of crazy stuff …but a beautiful house. Waking up on the beach is really cool – even here (a few blocks back), you can hear the waves. Last night I just sat up on the porch for hours and listened to the ocean, I could do that all day. That’s what I like about it, just coming down and enjoying Mexico. A lot of people are scared to come down here for some reason. I mean Mexico – everyone’s been so nice here, everyone’s been helpful and even if the Spanish is horrible.
RP360: From the story you were telling the other day at Playa Bonita, coming to last year’s rally wasn’t your first time here in Rocky Point, was it?
Matt: No, definitely not. I have been in Rocky Point a lot. We have some fond memories of Rocky Point, like jumping off of walls with little umbrellas – my brother Brad was involved in that one, my brother Josh was involved too – jumping off walls with little umbrellas … yeah, I was 12 I think and it may have been alcohol induced, I just wanted to try a margarita.
RP360: Was that the only time you were here, when you were 12?
Matt: Oh no, it was pretty much every summer we’d make a trip out of it. It was always for summer vacation – we’d camp in Sedona, AZ or we’d come to Mexico – come to Rocky Point, for the fireworks, the ocean, having a good time – getting stung by jellyfish – that was really entertaining. You know Rigo who plays at Playa Bonita? I have pictures of him when I was 10, 11, 12 years old. He’d have his piano out, playing his songs, and putting my family’s names into it.
RP360: I didn’t realize how many fans and how many people already knew you here – or know TMC, and put up signs in bars saying “Welcome home!” I mean, you’re already loved down in Rocky Point!
Matt: Yeah, it was really weird – I mean last year was my first time here (first time for the rally) but people were taking pictures with me,– that’s kind of a weird thing, people are staring at you …you’re like, why are you staring at me?
RP360: Well, this year it might have had something to do with the 10 foot posters.
He winks, “I have a beard now so maybe people can’t recognize me, actually I’m hiding behind it.”
RP360: I’d say you grew your fan base quite a bit, I mean cross-culturally – a lot of local people.
Matt: Actually the most CDs I sold were to locals.
RP360: What else can you tell us about your time in Rocky Point?
Matt: I definitely want to come back next year – wink, wink, nudge, nudge – Well, and people need to not be afraid to come here.
RP360: Something you’d like to see at the rally?
Matt: Definitely more music, I think we did 5 to 10 on Saturday. I think if we did just like a music fest on Saturday on the malecón, I think that would be amazing…mariachi band, have a country band, have Mogollon of course – they’ve been coming down for years, bandas …just have a music festival going on. Everything going at the same time – that plaza is so big!
RP360: Would you come down at some other point, even if it’s not the rally, like just come down for vacation?
Matt: Oh yeah, I love it down here, it’s peaceful for me.
RP360: What’s next for Matt Farris?
Matt: Twisted Metal party (Nov. 15th), then I have a show with Bellamy Brothers in Flagstaff, then a show in Nashville Dec. 3rd and then I go to California. I think I might have Christmas off this year, I have New Year’s shows…just starting to book more shows and play. In March we have our Annual Denise’s Day. Denise was the mother of a friend of mine, like that second mom you have. One day he called me in Nashville and told me “mom’s sick” – she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was battling and I just wanted to throw a party for her, so we did. We thought maybe 50 people would show up, and 300 people showed. The community came together in Havasu. Last year we raised close to $30K and we were able to help several people locally – we keep it local, help people with their medical bills.
RP360: I see you have a yellow cancer awareness ribbon on your phone.
Matt: Yes, for children’s cancer awareness. When I’m in Nashville I sing to patients, friends of mine – well now their friends of mine, family of mine – I’ve lost a lot of them to cancer. There was a 7 year named Clinton, he was one of the first Make-a-Wish kids that I met. I sang at his funeral – it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And Tay, there’s a thing called Pray for Tay, she was 16 when she passed away – her name is Taylor, everyone calls her Tay. A guy named Niles sets up all these cancer awareness shows; he posted something in Nashville and said hey, Jett’s a fighter – his nickname was the fighter – he was in a hospital in Phoenix, AZ. I happened to be in Phoenix so I wrote Niles and said, what do I have to do to sing for him? It was me and a couple band members, we said we’ll go up, sing a couple songs for him and let him rest – I think we sang for 2½ hours, him singing with us, joking with us. He just recently passed away, that was really hard but knowing that for that 2 hours they’re happy, they’re smiling, they’re having a good time – they’ll always remember that – and I’ll always remember that. That kind of stuff keeps me level headed. I don’t need to make money at it, I don’t care about people even knowing I went there. I don’t want everyone to know what I’m doing all the time, I just say I went to sing for some friends. I just want to do it because for that couple hours that I’m with them, it’s just….. It all started with Denise.
I’ll play for anyone, if they’ll listen, I’m happy.
RP360: Where can people find you?
Matt: They can just write to my email address, which is firstname.lastname@example.org I check it all the time. Plus, they can contact me through my site www.mattfarriscountry.com Facebook @ Matt Farris and Twitter @MattFarrisCNTRY
¡Hasta la próxima, Matt! ¡Gracias!