After years of toiling on records for other artists, the singer/songwriter is ascending festival stages this season and he’s not looking back.
There is only one link between Britney and Zedd, Shania Twain and Dillon Francis, Bruce Springsteen and Steve Aoki. That link is Matthew Koma who has worked with that disparate list of artists and more as a singer/songwriter/producer. After several years of what seems like nonstop studio time for the world's biggest DJs and popstars, Koma is making his Coachella debut this weekend with a DJ set, much like the one he performed at Ultra last month. As exciting as that is, his work on Zedd's forthcoming sophomore LP, much-hyped work on Britney's forthcoming album, and a solo Koma record all in the pipeline, Coachella is but a taste of what's yet to come.
THUMP: How have you morphed what you do into something that works at a festival?
Matthew Koma: People are starting to get a fuller picture of what I do. I've always been a songwriter, whether it's singing or playing with a band or doing DJ sets, they're all different ways to deliver my songs to an audience. I've never really considered myself a singer yet that's what people have discovered me as because they've heard my voice. It's just another way to get out there and connect with an audience. The most freedom I have is when I get to do DJ sets I get a little more freedom to play what I'm in the mood to play.
At what point in the plans for your career did you decide to do the festival thing on your own rather than appear on stage with other collaborators?
As more opportunities present themselves I'm going to say yes whatever the platform is. Having more and more songs connect through the collaborations I've done and the kind of artists I've been working with and the songs I've produced—it's opened a lot of doors to be able to do those things. A lot of songs I've had success with are songs that live in that [festival] space so why wouldn't I be doing that too? I've never been a person who's had a game plan. If something comes up and it feels sincere to me or it feels like something that would be fun, then it's like, let's take it on.
How has working with Britney changed things for you? That's a different realm when you're writing for that level of pop star.
For me to keep sane, I have to be working on stuff that's a little all over the map. It helps my process to be focused on different things so when I come back to whatever was on the last plate I have a little bit more perspective on it. Working with someone like Britney is refreshing when you're coming out of spending a lot of time on your own record or working on Zedd's new album because it is a different headspace. Or working with Springsteen. I did a couple days recently where I wrote with Rivers Cuomo from Weezer and that was a totally different experience. After Ultra I went down and worked with Shania Twain on her new record. Doing all these different things for me just keeps it exciting and fresh. It's not so much that I'm conscious of it; it's more of just a constant flow of vibing out. It helps me keep really balanced in my craft and fresh when it comes back to the centerpiece, which is always my records and the things I'm going to wear as my t-shirts. It's all so different but it's also part of the same picnic.
Have you been able to make time for your own solo work lately?
My record is pretty much finished. We're just mixing now. It's why I haven't done that many collaborations in the past couple months. It's time consuming and it takes time to find that voice and I felt like that's what the last year has really helped me do, it still takes time to sit and commit and put together that body of work.
When you're working with other people do you come up with songs that you would rather hold on to for yourself?
It depends. With Britney, for example, one of the songs she recorded was a song that I had been working on, channeling Squeeze. They're one of my favorite bands and when she heard it she was really digging it.
Kelly Clarkson came along and sang "Someone," which was a song originally intended for my record but hearing her voice on it, it's like, that's her song. She sings the hell out of it and she owns it and I want her to have that.
What do you want people to know about the festival shows, particularly Coachella?
I'm just really excited to have the opportunity to play a lot of the material that people know me for and a lot of the material that they might not have known I'm involved in. There are new remixes and songs from my records. It's just a really good snapshot of where I am right now. I'm excited for people to see it.
Are you going to kick it while you're out there or is it all business?
I'm going to hang for a day or two. I think me and RAC are going to do something on Sunday together. I always love playing festivals because you don't often get to see a lot of your friends play shows so it's a good excuse to hop around and see people.
Matthew Koma plays Saturday at Coachella.