Singer/songwriter Matthew Mayfield is a MBHS graduate.
When the Mountain Brook High School Class of 2001 celebrated its 10-year reunion in 2011, at least one guest at the celebration was considered somewhat of a celebrity. Matthew Mayfield, who says he cannot believe his class is coming up on 10 years out of high school, has been one of the hardest working musicians in the country these days, and that hard work is paying off.
Mayfield’s latest EP, Man Made Machines, was ranked #1 on the Most-downloaded Album List for the Singer/ Songwriter genre when it was released last month, and his popularity continues to grow nationwide. The producers of the popular ABC television drama “Grey’s Anatomy” have used Mayfield’s music during two shows this past season, and he was asked to play for the prestigious South by Southwest Music festival in Austin, Texas, this year.
But this popularity and success did not come overnight. Mayfield has paid his dues, so to speak, as a working musician climbing his way up the ranks, with as many setbacks as accomplishments along the way.
“I started playing guitar at age nine,” Mayfield said of his first venture into the music world. “I broke my leg playing football shortly afterwards and had a cast on for 5 months. I would sit with my Guns N’ Roses tapes in my Walkman and learn those songs and solos note for note.
“I worshipped Slash as a kid--he was like a superhero tome.Mymomtookmeto see his side project, Slash’s Snakepit, when they came through town and I got to meet him. I was 11 years old. I didn’t know what to say. Nabbed his cigarette butt out of the ashtray and have been secretly (and not so secretly) trying to channel his energy ever since.” After graduating from MBHS, Mayfield went to college for a year but decided to pursue music full-time, and had a brief taste of the big time with his band, Moses Mayfield. “I started the first version of that band when I was 18, dropped out of school at 19 and started pushing hard, playing anywhere and everywhere. We got signed to Epic Records in 2005, made a big expensive record on their dime, got wined and dined, toured the country with some big acts, and it was a blast.”
Moses Mayfield enjoyed some commercial success on their major label, but found that the music business is not quite as kind to musicians as Mayfield once thought. “In the end, politics and label issues got in the way and we parted ways in late 2007. The band quickly dissolved and I started looking for a new way to do things as an independent solo artist.”
Mayfield found that “new way.” He has released several digital EP’s as a solo artist, each one selling even more than the last. “I’ve released six EPs since Fall of 2008. Been putting one out every month since January, and the response has been pretty amazing.”
He said he feels getting himself more exposure, both live and recorded, has helped his success. “It seems the more wood you throw on the fire, the brighter it burns,” Mayfield said. “I’ve figured out how to make records quickly and on the cheap, but without compromising the integrity of the songs. I think it’s a good situation for everyone. The constant output is a little overwhelming, but I like the challenge.”
Mayfield said his exposure on “Grey’s Anatomy” was a surprise to him, and not something he had arranged himself. “The ‘Grey’s’ gig has been pretty amazing for me,” he said. “TV and film truly are the new radio, and I’ve been lucky to have some love from that show. It’s all been a fluke, nothing I’ve orchestrated. I just hustle as much as I can and hope that people like the music. If you’re confident in the art you’re putting out, those people seem to pick up on it and take to you.”
Mayfield’s local popularity is explainable, with his roots deeply planted in Birmingham, but his fan base continues to grow beyond the region, and he attributes that to giving his fans as much music as possible.
“I think you’ve got to keep the output stream as constant as possible. Always have something coming,” he said. “Whether it’s a new record, new videos, new ways to get involved, new tour dates - people want to get on a moving train. They don’t want to see anything idle. So I try to keep things in motion at all times. And touring is important, but it’s really tricky. You want to make each show count. When I was 19, I would play anywhere for some gas money and beer. But now, I’ve got to make a living making music. Nothing fancy, just a living. I think you have to tour in a way that makes the most sense for you.”
Mayfield is on the cusp of becoming a true star in the music business, and his fans have a true connection with him. He continues to find new methods to reach his existing fan base and build a larger one in the process. “There’s a new thing I’ve just gotten involved with called Pledge Music, which is basically a way to get the fans closer to the creative process than ever before, while supporting an amazing organization called the International Justice Mission (for more information on this project, the details can be found at www.pledgemusic. com/projects/matthewmayfield.