Backstage at Firefly: our chat with Norwegian trop-pop producer, Matoma

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A few weeks back, Firefly Music Festival brought us all the good vibes — the best of which came from Norwegian Trop-pop producer Matoma. Within the past few years, the 26-year-old has put out hit after hit and became the 35th most streamed artist globally on Spotify with tracks like “Old Thing Back,” garnering over 180 million streams. Specializing in dynamic collaborations, he recently released “Party on the West Coast” feat. Snoop Dogg and is currently on tour.

We spoke to Matoma before he closed out Day 2 of the festival and left wondering how someone could be so incredibly likeable. Undeniably as vibrant and fun as his music, Matoma is the epitome of good energy with both his presence and music spreading positivity at every chance.


20something: How are you doing tonight?

Matoma: I’m good, a little tired, but everything else is fine! I’m coming from Miami — I’ve been there for four days writing music [before the festival].


Were you excited for Firefly?

M: Yeah, I was supposed to play two years ago, but it got canceled due to the storm. I wasn’t the only one who got cancelled, there was like Kings of Leon, Steve Aoki and also Kid Cudi and some other acts.

I [was] super excited about Firefly, it’s one of my favorite festivals in the state. Firefly in the forest…and Bonnaroo. I just came from Bonnaroo and it was amazing. So much good vibes and energy. I have to say all the EDM acts, they play so hard, I don’t understand what’s going on there. It’s like, “doo doo doo doo.” So I think it’s refreshing for people when I come there and play my stuff.


Taking a break?

M: Not really a break, more like I try to blend in everything from my childhood to today. So it’s hiphop, old school, deep house, classical records where people can sing along and have a good time — not just banging their heads like, what the fuck is going on.


Your music is pretty adaptable to the different shows you play — festivals, small shows, etc. What are your favorite environments to play in?

M: I have to say the size of Terminal 5. I played there in March and it was just breathtaking, so incredible.


Growing up with years of classical piano training, do you see any influence of that on your current music?

M: I hope so! Who knows? [Laughs] A month ago, I played a piano duel against one of the best classical pianists in Norway and that was a lot of fun. It was on national television. I think I’m still capable of playing proper classical music, but at the same time I don’t practice as much as I did before when I was 15/16 years old. I used to play 4 to 5 hours a day.

What’s the definition of playing well? As long as you have fun. One thing that I’m so tired of is the competition. Music shouldn’t be a competition — it’s about reaching out to people and affecting people with my feelings that go into my music that reach you. Of course I understand why Spotify has those playlists and ranking system, but it puts you in a place where you’re suddenly competing against other musicians instead of focusing on supporting each other. A record with 400 million streams can be as good as one with 5000 streams.

Matoma (Jimmy Fontaine)

What song is overplayed right now?

M: Probably my stuff. [Laughs] I don’t know, I usually don’t take too much time to listen to the radio because they play the same stuff all the time. I just listen to the music I like to listen to. Sometimes it’s classical…today when we were driving we listened to a guy who is a huge childhood attraction. He has a show in Norway at one of the big theme parks there. It’s almost like the Pirates of the Caribbean and we just listened to that.


You like a lot of different kinds of music. How do you discover new music?

M: Continuing to search for music. It’s so much easier now than it was a couple years ago because now we have so many streaming services. But at the same time, they direct you in a way that they want you to be directed so it’s important that you don’t fall into those traps. They want you to click on this playlist and subscribe to this…I usually just go to blogs and read about people who connect with me and I see what they listen to.


You said you believe in karma. Has there ever been any moments in your life where you saw karma play out — good or bad?

I always think that everything happens for a reason. Not in the way that is spiritual, but I believe that if I treat you as a human being…like I do music and you do what you love…but as long as we treat others with respect and with good energy, I feel karma comes around better. You’ll always end up with the higher card than someone who treats others like shit.


You had a crazy-packed list of artist features on your debut album Hakuna Matoma. Who do you think best embodied the “Hakuna Matata/Matoma” motto?

Probably me [Laughs].


I would hope so!

I feel everybody who has been featured on that album is pretty worthy. Of course, I’m proud of having them as artists on my records because they give something from themselves that I wouldn’t be able to contribute to. The people love it.


What’s the songwriting process like for an artist that gets picked to be on the album?

Sometimes we’re in the studio together and we write from the start. Other times I have music that I’ve written before and I send out to songwriters and they make a top line on it and we push it to artists. Sometimes I get vocals sent to me as well. It’s different for every song, but as long as I feel like I have a connection with person I’m making music with. I can’t produce on a record where I know that we don’t really speak. I always try to set up a Skype meeting or a telephone call just to get to know the person. I’m a person guy and I love talking to people and getting to know them —  where you come from, your culture, what you’re like. Common things.


You’re all about making music that makes you/people happy. What are some songs that make you happy?

I listen to a lot of folk music. I actually listen to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack especially when I’m flying to calm myself because I’m a little scared of flying. I’ve probably had like 600 travel days in the last 3 years, but it makes everything worth it when I get to the place and I see the crowd and the meet-and-greets.


Where do you imagine yourself being when you listen to your music?

In a place where I’m happy. I can’t describe how I feel when I make music. I can sit in a locked up room with no windows and be fully inspired. Or I could be at the beach and be not inspired. It depends on my mood and my energy so I really don’t know how to answer that question. I’d probably say, that I always see myself in a place where everything makes sense and always focus on the project.

If I’m inspired and I have these melodies I want to try out, then the process starts…with my coffee cup and my sandwich! I drink so much coffee when I produce, usually one cup of coffee and the rest decaf. Not 10. I had that period one time like three years ago, where my hands were shaking and everything.


Your aesthetic is so fun and bright. If you were a fruit, what would you be?

A watermelon! Why? Because it looks nice and tastes good and it’s watery [laughs]. I don’t know, it’s summery.


Do you have any new music planned for release?

Of course, I always do. I have hundreds of demos just lined up. It’s picking out the right ones and scheduling. “Party on the West Coast” with Faith Evans and Snoop Dogg is doing so well, so I will probably wait for a month during these festivals, get people to appreciate it and then release something in August. This fall you can bet on a new album!

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