Eatonton songwriter hones his craft, earns awards in Nashville
Earlier this year, a song made its debut from Nashville and people in Georgia’s Lake Country should have no trouble identifying with its lyrics:
There’s something down in Georgia they don’t have in Tennessee --
It’s a water-tower welcome
It’s more cows than hands to milk ‘em
It’s a tractor in a two-lane traffic jam…
…And I’m proud to be from a
Map dot, three 4-way stop, don’t blink, pop-a-top, drop your tailgate town.
Although it sounds like almost any rural community in the state, the song was actually written by Eatonton’s own Matt Rogers about his hometown.
“It’s a song I wrote about Eatonton and just about being homesick sometimes,” he explained. “I miss home, but I have to be in this scene (Nashville) to have a chance with my music career. You can always use social media and your fan base, but as far as getting noticed, you have to be here in Nashville.”
Matt was born in Macon and lived his early years in Gray. His family later moved to Eatonton, where his father taught at Gatewood Schools and Matt attended school there, graduating in 2006. He then went to St. Andrews Presbyterian College, where he picked up songwriting.
After graduating in 2010 with a degree in biology, Matt became certified in radiology and worked full-time at a Macon medical center while performing on the side. Deciding he’d rather be a full-time performer, Matt moved to the Music City about five years ago.
Apparently they’ve been five eventful years, to say the least. During that time, Matt earned several titles and awards: Music City SongStar Winner, NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International) Top-40 songwriter, Georgia Country Overall Artist of the Year, CMT Songwriting Achievement Award, and he was a finalist in the USA Songwriting Competition.
And when he isn’t writing songs, Matt is playing in many of the Music City’s small but well-known spots for songwriters and their acoustic performances, as well as traveling extensively across the country on tour with his band. In 2018, he performed his song “Peaches and Pecans” at every home game of the UGA Bulldogs in Athens.
And he’s no stranger to other big stages, opening for some of country music’s hottest names including Clint Black (pictured left), Clay Walker (pictured below), Jake Owen, Cole Swindell, LOCASH, Jimmie Allen, Chris Stapleton, Walker Hayes and Michael Ray.
Moving to Nashville to “get noticed” seems to be paying off.
“If you don’t know the name Matt Rogers, then you need to write it down; he’s going places,” said hit singer, songwriter, author, WSM 650AM host, Devon O’Day.
“(Matt’s) the real deal… the total package,” praised country music legend T.G. Sheppard. “He’s a great singer, a greater picker, and a great songwriter.”
And MusicRow’s longtime contributor and authority on country music, Robert K. Oermann, selected Matt’s extended play recording title song, “The Richest Place on Earth” for a Music Row DisCovery Award, saying, “Extremely well written and sung with fire and conviction. Play this.”
Lyrics from that song, “I want to live out loud and break the mold, leave behind a story to be told, a life with no regrets,” seem to have been inspired by advice Matt received from songwriter Hugh Moffat.
“Hugh Moffat told me ‘Dare to be ordinary,’” Matt explained. “He said so many people are trying to be something they’re not and end up copying people. It was so profound once it finally clicked. Then, I really tried to get outside my own comfort zone, because it’s easy to sit down and write one like you wrote yesterday. That’s why I came here, because I wanted to become as good as I can.”
The COVID-19 virus pandemic seems to have honed that quality. Matt said he was two months into the biggest spring tour he’s ever had when the country went on a shelter-in-place lockdown. As with all the other music artists, this forced him to find a new way to write songs since he could no longer meet with the songwriters, and to perform online because all the venues closed.
When asked how the lack of a live audience affected his performance, Matt laughed and said, “Performing at the house is really weird because you finish the song and then it’s just crickets chirping.”
Although he rarely stepped outside the house during the pandemic, Matt definitely stepped outside of his box and began working on a project he calls “One.”
“It’s all recorded on one guitar with one microphone,” Matt described. “There are different sounds, but I do everything myself. The background harmony is myself, and I make different sounds with the guitar like drumming on it. I’m excited about it. It is five songs. …. I like it because you get the exact sounds that you want that are unique to you instead of what everybody else is doing or what the producer wants.”
“I’m constantly trying to move forward,” he continued. “I don’t look back at my old songs except to see how much I’ve grown as a songwriter.”
The middle of June, Matt brought his talents, along with some fellow Nashville songwriters, to Lake Oconee and performed a concert in the round, which was streamed online for Reynolds members. He said each songwriter told the story behind the song they wrote, and then performed the song. He does this a couple of times a year for Reynolds, although it’s usually a live concert.
“So it was a little different than I’m used to when I do that for them,” he said. “I bring the guys (different writers) and I like to show off the lake. We write some, and then go out on the lake. So, I get to show the writers off so the people at Reynolds get to know them and then they get some new fans, too.”
Before the pandemic struck, Matt went to downtown Eatonton to kick off “Tailgate Town” in a special concert. Eatonton Mayor John Reid made a proclamation in Matt’s honor and presented it to him on the stage.
“I really like my folks back home and I’m just trying to make them proud,” Matt said. “I can tell they’re paying attention and keeping tabs on what I’m doing. That means more than anything.”
To listen to samples of Matt Rogers’ music or to download it, find his concert schedule, book a concert, or sign up to be a loyal fan and keep up with his latest works, visit www.mattrogerscountry.com.
Article written by Lynn Hobbs, photos contributed by Matt Rogers and The Eatonton Messenger newspaper. The article was published in the July-Aug 2020 issue of Lakelife Magazine.