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New album cuts deep for Mat Kearney

By Gary Graff
Digital First Media/GraffonMusic on Twitter

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Mat Kearney is feeling both excited, and relieved, that the songs from his recently released fifth album, "Just Kids," are going over well with fans.

"We're playing a lot of the new record, even though it only came out (Feb. 24)," says Kearney, 36, who performs Friday, March 20, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre. "It can be a little nerve wracking, touring on top of a record release. But everyone's singing along to every word, which is kind of freaking me out a little bit."

The issue for Kearney isn't only that the songs are new but that they're different than what he's done before. "I was setting out to be radically vulnerable and honest and kind of courageous in my genre-exploring," he notes. "I definitely wasn't afraid of my hip-hop influences or writing (about) really autobiographical, personal stories. I wanted to feel like only I could write these songs, nobody else."

It was daunting, Kearney acknowledges, but it was also exciting. "I've learned this; the frightening songs are the ones that are the most important," he says. "If the song scares you for a minute, those are the ones that usually are like, 'Yes, this MUST happen.' And there's a lot of them on this record."

There's a nostalgic thread that runs through "Just Kids," particularly the rhythmic title track. Kearney says some of that was prompted by his parents' move from his native Oregon to Nashville, where Kearney resides with his wife of nearly five years, actress and model Annie Sims.

"I think that was a huge factor," he says. "It's kind of like the death of your home town, y'know? Some of the physical roots that tied you to the place that formed you and raised you are drying up. So ('Just Kids) is kind of this love letter to those forces that formed me and the places that formed me.

"And, on the track 'Just Kids,' it's about 'Can we go back to that place before we learned how to be hurt and not trust, and can we love each other like we were kids? Is that possible?' So in asking that of myself, I'm trying to ask it of a whole lot of people, too."

Mat Kearney, Parachute & Judah & the Lion

Friday, March 20. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St.

Tickets are $26.50 in advance, $30 day of show.

Call 248-399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.

Web Site: www.royaloakmusictheatre.com

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