On stage playing piano, behind the board producing, or alongside an artist writing songs, Matt Rollings staunchly subscribes to a philosophy that powers all facets of his creativity and has led him to become a multiplatinum GRAMMY® Award-winning producer, pianist, and songwriter.
“My philosophy about music has three facets,” he affirms. “Mastery, innovation, and service. Mastery is the craft. It’s what I know how to do. Innovation involves the chances and risks I’m willing to take. Service is self-explanatory. Everything I do has to be in this spirit. If I’m producing or playing, I’m in service of the artist I’m working with. My job is to lift them up. If I’m an artist, my job is, ultimately, to be in service of the audience.”
This approach serves him well. The sought-after piano virtuoso’s performance discography spans thousands of recordings. These range from Eric Clapton, Lyle Lovett, Billy Joel, Johnny Cash, and Queen to Metallica, The Dixie Chicks, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Mavis Staples, Sheryl Crow, and more.
In the producer’s chair, Matt consistently innovates. He produced Keith Urban’s multiplatinum breakthrough and self-titled opus, Mary Chapin Carpenter’s GRAMMY® Award-nominated The Age of Miracles, and Edwin McCain Band’s multiplatinum Misguided Roses, to name just a few. 2017 brought his first GRAMMY® win as a producer for Willie Nelson’s Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin, in the category of “Best Traditional Pop Album”.
As far as service goes, he hosts the free online video series “AskMattRollings” on his official web site and willingly dispenses wisdom accrued from nearly four decades in the business.
In many ways, his instrument speaks for him and has done so since he discovered it during childhood. “As an instrument, piano is the whole world to me,” he explains. “The landscape is all laid out. The piano covers so much musical ground. It can at once be an orchestra, a boogie-woogie band, or the smallest of lullabies…. It’s everything.”
The piano also ignited his career. The budding impresario had a major breakthrough when Lyle Lovett enlisted Matt’s talents for his 1986 eponymous debut. Matt has played on all of Lyle’s recordings since, and they’ve enjoyed a collaborative partnership and friendship that exceeds 33 years and includes touring as well as co-composing the score for Robert Altman’s film, Dr. T & The Women.
Within the Nashville scene, he is established as a sought-after collaborator whose unique voice graces numerous landmark releases. Continually recognized by the industry, the Academy of Country Music (ACM) notably awarded him “Pianist/Keyboardist of the Year” ten times (1991-1998, 2002, and 2007) in addition to four more nods.
2018 represents further evolution for Matt. He hits the road alongside Alison Krauss, and also handles production for Willie Nelson’s new album, My Way: Willie Nelson Sings Sinatra, and Blue Traveler’s anxiously awaited thirteenth offering. He’s also expanding “AskMattRollings” (AMR) yet again.
“I’ve had a handful of mentors who helped me more than they’ll ever know,” he smiles. “They never asked for anything in return. They saw someone who was willing, so they helped. This is my chance to pay it forward. AMR is going to progress and expand. We have some big ideas for it in the future with public events, webinars, master classes, and more.”
In the end, Matt’s devotion to mastery, innovation, and service makes for an enduring connection with each show and song. “To me, music is all about feeling,” he leaves off. “Yes, it involves craft and intellect, but it ultimately has to have feeling. That’s how I communicate to the world. It comes down to authenticity.”