An Interview with Future Jr.
We recently had the opportunity to chat with Future Jr., aka Matt Nainby. Matt is a 22 year-old musician from Brisbane, Australia who recently released his first single, "Tell Me That I'm Wrong." We asked Matt about how he got started in music, the story behind the track, and challenges that he's faced as a young musician in the industry.
First off, could you give us a little information about yourself? Give us a brief introduction to Future Jr., aka Matt Naimby.
I was born in Brisbane, Australia and have grown up with an incredibly loving family surrounding me. I am now in my 22nd year of life. I’m a lover of pizza, 90s movies, and am a firm believer that Otis Redding heals all wounds.
How did you get involved in music? Have you always been interested in being a musician?
Music was always very prominent in my life growing up. On several occasions as a child, my mother would whip out an old nylon guitar and play music to keep my siblings and I entertained. We would usually make up silly dances or silly lyrics to go along with the tunes. When I was seven years old, my parents decided to move the family over to Vienna, Austria. Living in an environment drenched with such a rich musical history just brought something out of me, and when I was quite young I consciously realized I was truly in love with music. I think I asked my parents for a guitar that Christmas.
Can you talk a bit about your own personal music evolution?
For the most part of my life, I really only viewed music as a hobby. My two older sisters started a band in their late teens, so it seemed music was always being created. There was always a copious amounts of instruments and recording equipment laying around the house. I really got to learn by watching them write and play. I would constantly be writing little tunes in my room, never intending for anyone to hear them.
When I was in my senior year of high school I decided to make a really crude home demo of an horribly sappy song I’d written to my girlfriend at the time. My dad kindly forced me to show one of his friends, who is a successful mix engineer from Nashville. To my surprise, he really liked it and encouraged me to develop the skill set. To have someone who is surrounded by great music almost every day of their life tell me I had potential was a great kickstart. I decided to really take it seriously from that point on. I didn’t really admit it to many people at the risk of sounding crazy, but I had a pretty big dream of becoming a songwriter/recording artist.
Your debut single, “Tell Me That I’m Wrong,” was released in April and so far has received over 250,000 streams along with being featured on a few Spotify-curated playlists. Have you been surprised by this reaction to your track?
It’s definitely been a surprise! To be able to release music without any real semblance of a fanbase and have so many people be exposed to my music, and seem to enjoy it, is a really strange feeling. I’m super grateful that things have transpired the way they have, and I’m really intrigued to see where things go.
For readers that haven’t listened to “Tell Me That I’m Wrong” yet, can you describe your sound in a few words?
Oo! That’s always a difficult one. I’ve found most people I’ve talked to all have a different interpretation of this, but personally I would say Smooth, Dynamic, Groovin’.
Is there a story behind the conception of this track? Would you mind sharing it with us?
The track was birthed in the midst of a rather testing time in my own life. A lot of my relationships were not in a healthy state, and I was forced to confront a lot of the demons I’d been running from for a long time. The song turned into more of a message to myself than anyone else. On a personal level, it really signifies the power of letting go of regrets and shortfalls, in order to make room to move forward and grow.
Can you walk us through your songwriting and recording process? Are there any specific sources of inspiration that you find yourself looking towards?
Songwriting for me has always been a way to process the situations surrounding my life at any given time, and like life's journey, my process often changes day to day. However, usually I'll go in having an idea of the conceptual direction that I want the song to follow. Of course, 50% of the time, this can morph into something completely different. I then usually start messing around with sounds, either on guitar or synth and create something I feel emulates my desired emotions. I then let it flow from there in terms of chords, melodies, and lyrics. Once I've found the core of the song I'll head into the studio and continue to build. This is probably my favorite part of the process, because I really get to explore the song and push its limits. For me, this is where the art happens.
Rumor has it that “Tell Me That I’m Wrong” was mastered by Greg Calbi, who has worked with major acts such as Tame Impala, Bon Iver, and many others. What was this experience like?
It was really great! Thanks to the wonder of the internet I was able to work alongside Greg whilst still living in Australia, and still have it feel really personal and interactive. Greg was absolutely incredible to work with. His technical abilities and skill are just a fraction of the value that you actually get from working with him.
Can you share some artists that have significantly influenced your style and sound? Any bands that you’re currently obsessed with?
Musical inspiration changes for me so frequently, currently I’m drawing inspiration from the eclectic mix of Phoenix, Lorde, and Washed Out. I’m currently in love with the new Gallant album, a fantastic blend of soul, pop, and dreamy R&B. The passion in his voice is instantly dismantling.
As a young artist, what are some of the challenges that you’ve faced?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced as a young musician is remembering to be myself on a musical level. It’s easy to fall into the thought process of comparing yourself to other successful artists’ and allowing yourself to kind of say ‘oh, I'll just borrow a similar melody line’, or ’this artist has done well commercially and their chord progressions are like this, so I’ll do the same." I think that is such a dangerous path. You’re only shortchanging yourself as a musician if you resort to that.
For me, it’s been a battle of stepping back and introspectively asking myself, "what do I have to say, what story do I have to tell, and what musical tools can I use to best do that." In addition to that, it's about creating music for myself, rather than pandering to a perceived audience’s taste.
In a similar vein, is there any advice that you would give to other young artists who are interested in pursuing a career in music or in another artistic field?
I would say, create because you simply enjoy creating. Find a way to tap into the purpose behind the making of your art--whether that be for fun, therapy, or whatever other reasons you might have. I think knowing this provides an endless well of inspiration. It’s also a place to return to and reset when you are hit with the guaranteed struggles that come with turning a love of art into a career.
This next question is more of an opinion question. In today’s day in age, the presence of music streaming has drastically changed the face of the music industry. Has this changed the way you’ve approached your own work as a musician?
Really interesting question, I don’t think it has directly influenced my process of creating the actual music itself. However, with such low royalty rates from streaming sites, it has definitely forced me to look at other sources of income that a musician fifteen years ago might not have had to think about. It seems it’s not enough for a musician now to simply just be a musician in order to be successful. You have to be versatile and knowledgable in a lot of non-music related disciplines. Personally though, I like the challenge of traversing different roles and essentially self-managing a music career.
At the end of the day, one of the reasons music is so incredible is because of its power to connect people. Music streaming, social media, and new digital technology has opened up a plethora of new opportunities for emerging artists to do just that--connect with their audience. It has shortened the distance between the musician and the listener, enabling all of us to be able to experience and show appreciation for some incredible content with the click of a few buttons. The easier it is for music to be accessed and respected, the better, in my opinion.
So, forgive me for this—what does the future hold for Future Jr.?
Haha! Hopefully, new material is coming real soon! I’m just coming out of a heavy writing season and I have a handful of songs that I’m really happy with. I’m working with a tremendously talented producer here in Brisbane called Wyatt, and together we’re going to work hard to bring the best out of these tracks. There's a couple more singles and an EP slated for release over the next six months, and I am insanely excited about it.
Interview conducted by Kat Neis.
Photo credit @ Future Jr.