Interview – Matt Burke

Matt Burke is an American singer-songwriter and musician who recently released a holiday song called Whiskey Christmas – the track is a little different to most of the Christmas songs we’ve heard recently, as it has a country twist to it.

By Jane Howkins

You recently released a new track titled Whiskey Christmas. What can you tell us about the track and where can it be purchased?

Most Christmas songs paint a picture of a perfect, magical, Hallmark holiday season where nothing goes wrong, and everything is peaceful and bright – my Christmases tend to be a bit more dysfunctional. I’ve had the idea in my head for a while now to write a darker Christmas song – one that touches on the frustrations of the holidays. I didn’t want it to be DARK though, I wanted it to be a bit lighthearted as well – and that’s when it occurred to me that WHISKEY is always something that helps me get through the season. Whiskey + Christmas = there ya’ go. 

The track is available on all streaming services and is available for download through iTunes, Amazon Music, etc.

Would you ever consider doing more Christmas/holiday songs in the future? How do you celebrate the holidays?

Absolutely! Last year I released a cover of Blue Christmas, so I do think there’s a pattern developing here. I’m pretty sure I’ll aim to write and release a new Christmas single each year.

After Covid Christmas in 2020, I really got into the holiday season this year. We bought a tree and decorated the apartment and we’ve been to a bunch of holiday markets this year around Nashville. The weather just got cold enough for a fire in the fireplace too – nice whiskey weather.

Have you got any plans to release a full length album or an EP anytime soon?

That’s my primary focus right now. My producer and I have been narrowing down my song list to 4-5 songs that really make sense together as an EP. I plan to release the lead single from this EP early in 2022 and hope to have the EP released by early March. We’ve also got a full-length album of some of my more Americana/folksy/stripped-down-acoustic stuff that we’ll be working on over the course of the year. Lots of new material coming out!

What is the writing and recording process like for you?

I have standing co-writes each week with other writers both inside and outside of Nashville, so I’m generating 1-2 new songs per week, on average. This gives me the ability to cherry pick the best songs – the ones that resonate with me the most – and release them. I meet with my producer (Jason Bobo) for two sessions each week at his studio in East Nashville where the two of us track and produce the tunes. Once have a good idea of how the song will sound and how we’re trying to arrange it, we bring in various Nashville session players to help fill out the parts.

Do you plan to release any singles at any point in the near future?

That’s the world we live in now – I feel like you have to put SOMETHING out every month or two or folks forget about you. So yes – my plan is to keep putting a single out every couple of months, and then to release EP’s, albums, and collaborative efforts with other artists in between.

You’re originally from Nashville. What is the music scene like in your part of the world at the moment?

Actually I’m originally from Florida – I’ve been in Nashville since 2019. I moved up just before the pandemic hit early in 2020 and the whole city shut down. Thankfully now, Nashville seems to be back to normal. Concerts are back, Broadway is filled with music once again, writer’s rounds are happening – you can’t really shut down the music in Music City for too long – this town depends on it!

What/who influences you most as an artist? What have you been listening to recently?

I’m heavily influenced by classic country music and the history of country & western music. I’m a big fan of Hank Williams, Eddy Arnold, Marty Robbins, Ernest Tubb, Johnny Cash, Waylon, Willie, Merle, Townes, etc. and a lot of my songs lean heavily on these influences. I’m also a big fan of Tyler Childers, Sturgill Simpson, Ashley McBryde, Chris Stapleton, Colter Wall, Willie Watson, Turnpike Troubadours – I like new music that still sounds old.

Has the pandemic hindered your work much?

Lots of places in town don’t pay musicians – it’s not uncommon for a musician to play a 4-hour gig on Broadway with no set breaks for tips only. However, you could always find better paying gigs at hotels, pubs, restaurants etc. if you hunted a bit. When the pandemic hit, these types of gigs lost their entertainment budgets and started asking musicians to play for tips only as well. And, because musicians had lost MOST their gigs and MOST of their income, they were saying YES to playing for tips only in desperation. Now that hotels are back to being booked at 100% capacity and pubs and restaurants are full again, no one is going back to PAYING the talent. Simply put – they’ve all gotten used to musicians playing for free, so from a business perspective it doesn’t make sense to start paying again. That’s a long-winded way of saying it’s even harder to make money as musician in Nashville post-pandemic than it was pre-pandemic, and I’d say that a pretty big hindrance, since recording, releasing, and promoting music independently ain’t cheap!

Do you have any tour dates lined up? What can people expect from one of your shows and why should people come and see you perform live?

I play at the Hampton Social here in Nashville every Sunday from 4:30-6:30pm CT. I also do writers round in and around town every week or two, and those dates can always be found on my website at MattBurkeMusic.com. Regional touring slows down a bit during the winter, but I will be getting back up to Chicago in March for a couple of listening rooms shows with Brian Allison and I’ll be hitting the road again hard in the spring.

I’m a storyteller, and I don’t take myself too seriously. We have fun at my shows – my goal is to tell stories with my music, tell stories about how the music came to be, and really just connect with folks who appreciate what I’m doing. 



Any last words for the fans?

I appreciate the support, I really do! Every kind word, every thumbs up, every social share, every email, every dollar that goes into the tip jar means so much. I stay active on Facebook and Instagram at @MattBurkeMusic and I maintain an open line of communication with the folks that sign up for my list at MattBurkeMusic.com. If you like what you hear, please connect with me and let me know!

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