Earlier this week I caught up with solo artist Matt Sassano to talk about his latest EP, In Defiance, out now through Rockfest Records. Matt talks about battling, inspiration he took from his Faith, writing music and somehow manages to justify his love for Post Malone. Yes, that happened.
Below you’ll find my interview with Matt in its entirety.
Interview with Matt Sassano – Musician and Solo Artist
Soda and Telepaths: Hi Matt, how are you doing right now? How is this chaotic world treating you?
Matt Sassano: 2022 is an interesting time to be alive. The past few years have been a test for all of us but I am glad to be here stronger than ever my friend!
Soda and Telepaths: Where in the world are you from?
Matt Sassano: I am originally from Upstate New York. I spent the majority of my years in a little town called, “Canisteo”. There are more cows than people there. I will say not much goes on there, but if you’ve ever seen the movies, “Independence Day” or “Casper” one of the few people to make it out of that town was, Actor Bill Pullman!
In 2014, my family and I moved to Knoxville, Tennessee to further help me in my mission to do music. As much as I love the people in Upstate NY, I have to say, Knoxville has become my home since then.
Soda and Telepaths: What projects are you currently working on?
Matt Sassano: I have had the honor of recently being signed to Rockfest Records. I am currently working on a 5 song EP called, “In Defiance”. So far we’ve released 2 singles “Not My Name” November 2021 and “Dear God” on July 29th, 2022.
“Not My Name” Is a song that goes out to anyone who lives with a disability or who is the black sheep. As someone who has 2 disabilities I know what it’s like to be labeled. I have “Cerebral Palsy” and another rare condition (only 4% of the population has), called “Dyscalculia”. Because of these conditions, I know what it’s like to suffer extreme life setbacks and be labeled.
“Not My Name”, is meant to be an anthem that emphasizes that we are more than he labels people put on us or that we put on ourselves. “Dear God” The second single is a song that goes out to anyone going through a dark time and looking for answers. Because of my disabilities and setbacks I spent a lot of time in isolation. I battled depression and anxiety attacks. On top of the problems caused by disability there were more challenges.
My faith plays a huge role in my life in music. Unfortunately, I was raised in a pastor’s home where a lot of physical, verbal and emotional abuse was swept under the rug. When I felt like I had nowhere to turn, I used to write letters to God. Over a series of years I vented my frustrations and constant questioning my purpose.
The song “Dear God” is based on those letters. It’s crazy how a song I wrote in my bedroom is making such an impact on other people and helping them feel less alone in their struggle. I am excited about the upcoming EP released on August 26, 2022. There are songs on the EP that people need to hear.
Soda and Telepaths: How’s the Rockfest Records experience been?
Matt Sassano: Rockfest has been great. I feel honored to be with so many amazing bands. Our mission is to create authentic music that is unmatched in the industry and that also happens to help music fans. It’s like a huge family. There’s a variety of artists. Some are up and coming like me. Others have been heavy hitters in the rock scene for years and have inspired me early on in my music journey. It’s a mixed bag of
amazing talent that I’m super proud to be a part of.
Rockfest Records have professionals in every area of the industry to help their artists with all aspects of
our projects. They are invested in us as individual artists or bands. They help us bring our visions to life
while kinda helping guide the process for the best possible outcome. I love Rockfest.
Soda and Telepaths: How did you first get started?
Matt Sassano: Growing up music was the one thing that made me feel empowered. I remember growing up with a very diverse music taste. From Rock to Rap. I started playing bass in my late teens and shortly after found myself trying to start my own band. It was my original plan to play bass, write songs and ultimately hire a singer. The last thing on my mind was to be a singer.
After 28987 singers who came and went, it became obvious that I had to take up being the singer. I was in a series of bands where, unfortunately, I could never find the right partners. In 2018, I finally decided to go solo and change things up. It’s been a crazy “learn as you go” journey, but I am happy to be making an impact.
Soda and Telepaths: How would you describe your music to someone whose never heard your work before?
Matt Sassano: I would describe my music as a blend of rock and EDM to this point. It’s got elements of everything though. It took me a while to find my voice as a solo artist. My last body of work “Transcend” was me trying to figure that out. I come from a rock background and the producer I was with at the time was big into Pop, EDM and things like that. We just blended sounds together trying to figure out what worked.
There were some decent sounding songs on that album, but I’ll admit it was a very confused sounding
body of work for so many reasons.
We dabbled in so many genres. That record is also pretty safe lyrically. It did serve to show me how rock and EDM could fuse together though. It created the template for what my sound currently is in some ways. I like to blend heavy electronics with rock music. I like catchy hooks and relatable lyric themes. I even use elements from pop. I just like experimenting.
My new EP “In Defiance” is a turning point for my music. it’s more “me”. It’s got more edge both musically
and lyrically. It’s taking about themes that are emotional and apply to my life. These songs really matter. I
think people will relate. I’m excited for people to hear it.
Soda and Telepaths: What’s the worst named band you’ve ever been a part of?
Matt Sassano: So before I went solo a few years ago I founded a few bands. My first band was called “Transparent”. We were a small rock band from my original hometown in Canisteo, NY. We had a few really unique opportunities.
Through a series of events I made a friend who was a forum moderator for a video game company. As a
result one of the first songs I ever wrote was featured on the soundtrack for “NASCAR – The Game: Inside
Line.” The game released on Xbox, PS3 and Wii in 2012. The track was called “Bridges.”
When that band broke up, I moved to Tennessee for my second attempt at music with “Transparent
Soul”. We established a local and regional following in Tennessee. I learned a lot more about live
performance and getting better at singing. I got to network with more great producers and people in the
industry which was huge to my learning curve. It ultimately inspired me to go solo.
I think I avoided the super cheesy names, but I remember before I was in any of those bands my step dad
and I would record with a little 2 channel board. We would create little songs from his apartment. We had
a local country station on radio in our town. For whatever reason my mom pressured me to write and
record a country song to pitch to the local station for fun. Against my better judgement I did.
She wanted the song to be called “Sunny Days & Pay Days.” I complied and wrote it to appease her. Ha. I love my mom, but that song was all cringe!!! I wouldn’t subject my worst enemy to it. Needless to say, “our” song never made it to local country radio. My nonexistent dreams of being the next
Garth Brooks never happened! Bummer!
Years later, I’m on to music that’s more “me.” I much prefer it.
Soda and Telepaths: What’s your favourite era of creative work by other musicians?
Matt Sassano: I grew up on so many bands that fueled my passion for music. I am a huge fan of artists like Linkin Park, who really poured a lot of emotion into their music and were trailblazers of their time. I remember being inspired by Eminem. He was the first artist who got me really into breaking down lyrics and admiring how you can really tell a story through your music.
I love bands like: “Skillet”, “Seventh Day Slumber” and “Disciple” for showing me that you can make really authentic music and also share your personal faith through that art . So many artists have inspired me for different reasons. I am ultimately interested in the future of music and where it will go. I hope to be a trail blazer and impact a variety of different people through my art. I want to team up with people who have a vision for how to make a difference and leave a lasting impact on music listeners.
Soda and Telepaths: Are you more of a horror or sci-fi nerd?
Matt Sassano: Definitely Sci Fi. I am big into conspiracy theories. I enjoy movies along the lines of “They Live”. Those movies fascinate me. I am not much of a horror person. One time my friend talked me into watching “The Human Centipede”. I was too much a people pleaser and ended up not sleeping for
an entire week after that. I say “No thanks” to horror movies as much as I can.
Soda and Telepaths: Which conspiracy theory are you a staunch believer of?
Matt Sassano: Switching gears. This may get deep and serious, so I apologize. I have been a patriotic person and a skeptic for many years. I was the guy 10 years ago writing songs in my small, local band about “The New World Order.” This was before there was a major shift in people’s awareness about corruption in positions of power.
I don’t know how taboo this is going to be but it’s easy to see (if you’re paying attention) that the “powers that be” have an obsession to control and manipulate people. They’ll orchestrate events or at bare minimum use a major crisis to step in and control us by “keeping us safe.” “Safety” imposed by
government always results in less freedom for the citizens and more control for the powerful. Fear is a
massive tool for the ruling class.
When we look around and see the mass censorship through social media in recent years it’s sad. You can’t say what you want anymore on any of the hot button issues without being labeled something awful or banned completely. Free speech is being eroded. We are to the point that even a sitting president was banned from social media by unelected movers and shakers.
People with contrary opinions to the mainstream narrative are being silenced or demonized. They are being shut out under the guise of “hate speech,” “bullying,” “community guidelines violations,“ “misinformation,” or whatever the next buzz word is. I love this country.
I just hope we peacefully stand up for our rights before it’s too late. There have been numerous
conspiracies throughout history. What got me curious years ago was reading about different shadowy
organizations that have been in existence but remain not talked about in the mainstream. “The Bilderberg
Group,” “The Bohemian Grove,” and “Skull and Bones” to name a few.
Conspiracy is more common than people realize. Even when you look into the fairly new revelations
surrounding “Epstein Island” and the sick things that happened in secret there. HUGE can of worms. You
can’t deny there have been so many mind blowing cover ups taking place for so long.
I honestly don’t know how anyone can recap the past few years we’ve all lived through and not be at least
a little taken back by what is going on. Anyway, I know this may not get published but I’m glad to get that
off my chest. Phew.
Soda and Telepaths: Who are your main creative/musical influences and what aspects of your creative work can we find them in?
Matt Sassano: I am kind of a mixed bag of musical influences I like a mix of Rock, Pop, and EDM so I try to put elements of all those things in my music. I don’t think I have a list of influences per say but I like to find elements from a range of artists that I can incorporate into my work but with my own twist. I would say my newer music on this upcoming “In Defiance” EP is a step in the right direction for me
and feels authentic.
Soda and Telepaths: Who are your go to musical jams to put on while you’re working?
Matt Sassano: Bring Me to the Horizon, I love podcasts: like Joe Rogan, Post Malone, and other artists. I don’t stay with one thing, I love variety.
Soda and Telepaths: Favorite Post Malone album and justification?
Matt Sassano: I like Post. He’s got some great songs. I’m not sure I have a favorite album from him, but I love his work. I know upon becoming highly popular, he caught a lot of flak from people who are just inclined to hate popular music because that’s just the thing to do if you claim to be a rock fan. I know he’s not everyone’s “cup of tea,” but he’s someone I consider a great artist. He uses auto tune. So what?
He has popular songs on radio. So what? He’s also one of the only pop artists to do a semi recent collaboration with Ozzy Osbourne. His song “Take What You Want” was great in my opinion. Post Malone’s song may not be the average rock listener’s favorite song. I get that. But for me it proved further he’s original.
All those who complain that “pop is lame, and rock is overshadowed” should arguably be happy that an artist like Post introduced his audience of young fans to a legacy rock legend like Ozzy. Come on now! Nobody else in the pop world has done that (that I’m aware of). I love Post Malone.
With that being said, y’all should check out my new EP “In Defiance”. It’s got some great songs and I
hope you are inspired by it in a big way. I can assure you – love it or hate it, it’s better than this segway
into my shameless plug. Thank you all for checking me out. God bless!
Soda and Telepaths: What strengths in previous jobs have helped strengthen your creativity?
Matt Sassano: I once worked as a mental health aid. It gave me insight into what people go through. It made me want to express my feelings in my music. Giving it a purpose.
When I first moved to Tennessee I took a temp job at the, Christmas in July. My job description was to withstand walking around in a giant Rudolph costume greeting guests in 106 degree Tennessee summer heat. Not my most glorious moment but it taught me endurance.
Soda and Telepaths: What weaknesses have you identified in your current project that you’re going to work on in the future?
Matt Sassano: My weaknesses were actually discovered in my prior work. It wasn’t as authentic or personal. I see now that I didn’t enjoy that body of work as much, so I set out to change the writing to become more about me and my story. I learned that unless your music comes from your heart, not just your head, it’s not going to mean as much.
This body of work and working with Josiah Prince really has been some of my best writing and inspiration. I am super excited about it and feel it’s just the beginning for me.
Soda and Telepaths: Let’s talk about some memories that you had when you first started getting creative? How has this changed from childhood to adolescence to creating as an adult?
Matt Sassano: When I was a kid I was influenced by Rap and Rock. I remember on the school bus trying to freestyle, although I was not that good at it. I’d freestyle about the kids on the bus, the driver and crazy subjects. Later, that love for lyrics motivated me to write more serious and real matters. I wanted to take it to the next level of working the words to make a story. To write more serious and authentic things. It’s funny looking back now, but I think I have come a long way.
Soda and Telepaths: What’s the worst nightmare you’ve ever had?
Matt Sassano: In the dream – one day I was picked up from school with someone who was a clone of my parents. I knew deep down they were not my parents, but I feared acting suspicious it would blow my cover. When we go to the house I was trying to find an escape route and stumbled upon a secret passageway. In that passageway I found my real parents.
They gave me a magic potion that would enable me to fly out of the dream. As soon as the potion was given to me, my imposter parents discovered that I found out the truth. With each sip of the magical potion it enabled me to fly higher each time but the imposter parents kept trying to pull me down. I keep trying to drink it down as fast as I could so I could get out of the dream. Finally I was floating and woke up in my bed safe. Really what I ate that night but I will never forget that dream.
Soda and Telepaths: Do you have a favourite soft drink?
Matt Sassano: Man of simple taste – Sprite or Coke.
Soda and Telepaths: Who’s your favourite telepath or gifted character in pop culture?
Matt Sassano: Eleven from Stranger Things
Soda and Telepaths: Which creative work would you most like to be remembered for?
Matt Sassano: Right now I am really enjoying the response to Not My Name. There hasn’t been a song written from the perspective of someone that is disabled about having a disability. Especially in a way for the general public can relate to.