Matoma Talks Influences, Bucket Lists, and his Secret Affinity for Will Smith

Matoma Talks Influences, Bucket Lists, and his Secret Affinity for Will Smith

We caught up with the DJ/Producer at NYC’s Panorama Music Festival.

We caught up with the DJ/Producer at NYC’s Panorama Music Festival.

Text: Cara Hessels

The first thing you notice upon meeting Norwegian musician Matoma is his smile. Ear to ear, the man greets you with a level of excitement that’s both genuine and palpable. And why wouldn’t he be excited? At just 26 years old, the DJ and producer has already worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry and has firmly established himself as an artist on the rise within the EDM community.

Initially recognized for his break-out hit ‘Old Thing Back’, a Notorious B.I.G. remix that has since garnered 189 million streams, Matoma is most known for wedding tropical house-style beats with urban influences. With 19 million monthly Spotify listeners, a new album out, and a world tour underway, it somehow feels like he’s only just getting started. We sat down with Matoma on Randall’s Island before his electrifying performance at the Panorama Music Festival.

You are currently the 35th most streamed artist on Spotify globally—how does that feel?

It feels amazing. It’s mind-blowing. Usually I don’t think about it that much, but to hear people say it… it’s crazy.

I could imagine! How would you say your sound has evolved over time?

I make the music that I want to make, what I feel sounds current and fresh, but I also make sure to stay true to my roots. I started a sound and a genre that nobody else did, mixing old-school hip-hop acapellas with new flavors of music, and it’s reached an audience that has been supportive. Right now, I’m in a place where everything is going straight up.

That has to be an incredible feeling.

Yes, it’s amazing, and I have the best team working with me to get my music to new platforms and new people. One thing that I feel is very important in the music scene today is to make the music you want to make and to believe in your vision, because it’s so easy to get lost in the industry.

You’re most known for your hit song “Old Thing Back," a Notorious B.I.G. remix, and now you’re collaborating again with Biggie, Faith Evans and Snoop Dogg for a new song, “Party On the West Coast” —how would you say hip-hop influences your music?

Hip-hop is the biggest influence on my music. When I was 6 or 7 years old, my brother introduced me to old-school hip-hop. He was playing it on cassette, and I didn’t understand what they were singing, but I was dancing and grooving to the rhythms. There was one artist that I specifically liked, and it was Notorious B.I.G. When I got older, I started reading about the hip-hop culture and the rivalries between the East and the West coasts, and I found it interesting that music can go that far, that it can get so personal. I’m just glad with the Snoop Dogg, Faith Evans, Biggie tribute for his birthday, 20 years after his death, that I was able to reach people that may not have known the rapper before.

Absolutely. So what other sounds would you say have an effect on your music?

Everything. When I was a young kid, I started playing the piano, but as a teenager I overplayed and practiced too much. I grew bored and tired of it, so I stopped. I was so in love with hip-hop music that I bought myself a computer and I started sampling music.

Did you ever see yourself becoming a DJ? What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was growing up I wanted to be a policeman, or something. I really wasn’t sure, I thought I wanted to be a pianist, but I got tired.

Understandable. How does performing in NYC compare to other cities around the globe?

It’s amazing. I have a lot of fans here. For me, it’s still surreal to be in a place where I can live my dream and have so many people listen to my music. When I go on stage and I hear the crowd’s reaction, It’s wild. I usually play a lot of music that I grew up listening to. Basically, it’s just a party.

When you’re on stage, what do you do to keep the fans engaged?

Maybe I say ‘put your hands up!’ a little too much, but it’s because it makes the crowd get up. Sometimes I get criticism for that in music reviews, but I’m doing it with heart, and those people who are there to review the music aren’t there to party with me.

Well, I’m here to party with you!

I know!

Who’s one artist you’d love to collaborate with right now.

Will Smith.

Will Smith?! I did not see that one coming. Why?

He is just the coolest guy on earth. I’m a fan of him as a person, an artist and an actor.

What’s your favorite Will Smith movie?

The one where he helps the guy get the girl...

‘Hitch’?

Yes! ‘Hitch.’ I love that one. It always feels like he’s being himself in his movies. Just a fun, happy, energetic guy, and when he raps on the ‘Men In Black II’ soundtrack, his flow is flawless.

I love this. So, what’s on your bucket list right now?

Right now, since we’re here in New York and the people of this city love my music, I’d have to say playing Madison Square Garden would be my dream. I’d want to do it in the proper way, though. Of course have my DJ set, but also show my skills on the piano and bring out a band and play some songs in the traditional way.

I’d see that show. Do you have any special projects on the horizon you can share with us?

I’m done with my next single, it’s dropping in August, and this fall I plan on doing something special with my music on a few different platforms that I can’t tell you about just yet, but it’s going to be fun. It will involve something people can watch as well as listen to.

Exciting! Any final words for readers?

I’m just very excited to be here at Panorama and am very thankful to all of those who show love and support for my music.

Want more? Of course you do. Follow V Magazine on Spotify for weekly playlists, artist debuts and more.

Credits: IMAGE COURTESY OF HENRY DEAN

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