Some of you have heard of him, some of you have not. He is the most prolific songwriter of not only our era, but of all time. He has written over 19,000 songs. He has 70+ aliases/band names. He is the 19,000 song guy. He is Motern Media. He is Matt Farley.
I first came across Matt on the Beautiful Anonymous Podcast, hosted by Chris Gethard. As many likely did, I did some research and was able to track down the man who has proclaimed himself (and rightfully so) the most prolific songwriter in the world, after totaling over 19,000 songs during his tenure as a musician. I became enthralled with Matt and his work, and I’m sure you will too. Here’s our exclusive with the musician.
How many songs are you up to now? Was there ever a plan in place to cap it at a certain number?
I’m at 19,007. Though there is no plan to stop, I wouldn’t mind if I earned enough money that I could slow down a bit. I’ve been recording relentlessly for more than a decade and even before that I was recording at a similarly high rate.
Why the persistence and constant rate of songwriting? Do you suggest this type of constant songwriters for others who are trying to get found? In the age of Social Media, the internet, etc., things have definitely changed, but do you think it’s easier? There’s bound to be more competition.
Well, the more songs you have out there the more likely it is that one of them will connect with somebody… anybody. So, yeah, I definitely would suggest that songwriters produce and release lots of material to get themselves out there.
However, my method isn’t just good for getting discovered or connecting with somebody. It’s good for getting better. The more you write, the better you write.
I find that lots of people get very bogged down during the writing process. They want to write a perfect song. So they work and work and work on the same song. Oftentimes, rather than perfecting the song, they work all the energy right out of it.
My approach is to work quickly, and not to think about it too much. If a song doesn’t turn out quite right, I don’t try to fix it. I just try to learn from it so that the next song will be better.
I’d rather spend a day writing 10 songs, 2 of which turn out to be good, than writing just one song. It’s too much pressure on that one song.
Many of my best songs came after I’d been working all day and was too tired to do anything other than just follow my instincts.
I really don’t think there’s one specific approach, though. My best advice would be to be completely obsessed. All I think about and talk about is my music. It’s awful for the people around me, I’m sure, but this relentlessness has at least gotten me to the point where music is my full-time job.
Releasing a lot of songs is good. Writing songs about unusual topics will often help you stand out. Sending albums to radio stations could lead to something. Sending albums to coffeehouses could lead to something. Leaving albums on park benches could lead to something. You could print out 1000 postcards with pictures of your album cover on them, then send them to 1000 radio stations, music websites, or even random places.
These are all things that I’ve done over the years. For every 100 things you do to get the word out there, 95 of them fail. But if you do it relentlessly for a few decades, that 5% slowly becomes a bigger number of people.
You’ve mentioned wanting to stop writing on your 40th birthday if you hadn’t made a million dollars. Why did you choose 40 as that specific date to cut things off? Not to pry, but Steve Carell was 43, Betty White was 51, Samuel L Jackson was 41, Morgan Freeman was 52, Rodney Dangerfield was 46, Julia Child was 49 before they all had their big breaks. I’d suggest, mathematically speaking, waiting until you’re at least 46.333 years old.
In 2015, I was still working my day job 40 hours per week. Another 30 hours per week, I was working on my music. The music was bringing me around $1,800 per month. For the time I was putting into it, I could have earned more by working most low-paying jobs. I loved doing it. But it was starting to feel like I was going nowhere.
…So I set a deadline that if things didn’t really start happening for me by the time I was 40, then I was going to quit.
I never specifically said I needed to make a million dollars by then. It was always just that things had to greatly improve.
Thankfully, things have improved to the point where it’s now my full-time job. So the 40-year-old deadline is no longer on the table.
It was never that I’d quit if I didn’t hit a million. There were a few articles about it that made it seem that way. It was always just a desire to see things moving in a way that justified all the time and effort I was putting into it. Lately, it’s been working! But who knows what the future will bring. There’s no way I’ll make a million this year. But I’m making enough to keep at it!
I also agree with your mentions of those other older stars. But for each one of those success stories are hundreds of sad, delusional people who didn’t know when to quit. I didn’t want my friends and family to be embarrassed for me more than they already were (and probably still are!). I’m all for staying on the path, but if I was still only earning $1,800 a month for all that work at age 40, I’d just have to call it quits. I’ll keep Betty White in mind if things take a turn for the worse before I hit that age.
What was, or what is, your end goal (in a perfect world) in all of this? Money? Fame? Respect? The recognized title of the most prolific songwriter in the world?
I’d like to be earning enough money that I could slow down my pace a little bit and focus entirely on the more straightforward music I’ve done as Matt Motern Manly Man, Moes Haven, Projection From The Side, The Finklestinks, or the more substantial songs by The Very Nice Interesting Singer Man. (This playlist is a collection of my more straightforward song. I like making my silly songs, of course. But these more heartfelt songs are what I’m more proud of: https://open.spotify.com/user/moternmedia/playlist/1dtIlTpCdQT3eDcqhcpFqf?si=srPyUgjOT3iFWSTTJrmm0Q)
I’d love it if I could release around 6 albums every year, play some live shows, and earn a respectable middle-class income.
Fame typically leads to more money. So I’d take it. But it’s not essential at all.
Respect would be cool. I’d love to have some music critics call me anything other than an opportunistic spam artist. I’ve written some seriously great albums. But they’ve all been ignored! Alas!
You’re on record, numerous times, speaking out about how much you despise record labels and their workings and restrictions. However, If you had to sign to a record label: Which would it be, and why?
I don’t know much about how specific record labels operate. I’d rather achieve success on my own. But I’d listen if a label made an offer. I’m currently earning barely enough to survive in this middle-class existence with a wife who also works, and 2 young kids who we are raising on our own without any childcare. So I’m not in any position where I could completely ignore an offer. (Though it’s very unlikely that a record company would be interested in me!)
You’ve also been quoted with some pretty heartfelt thoughts against Tom Petty. Why’d you choose to single him out? IS there a story that we don’t know about between a young Tom Petty and an even younger Matt Farley? Is there a change in these views after his unexpected death? On the record, I fully agree with you on hating on that 4 hour documentary he proposed. There’s a limit to being thorough. It’s a bit ridiculous.
It isn’t anything personal, Tom Petty just developed for me as a great example of the typical major label rock star. I don’t have issues with him that I don’t have with countless other major label stars. I’m bothered by how they all work for mega-corporations, yet they’re trying to sell the image that they’re iconoclastic outlaws. It seems hypocritical to me.
Petty has plenty of great songs. I’m a fan, really! But it’s hard to like him when you know he hired a director to make an enormous documentary about how great Tom Petty is. Ugh! I just wish these people would be honest about how self-obsessed they are, rather than hiding behind publicists, lawyers, and record companies.
For the record, I am completely obsessed with my own music. I am the greatest songwriter of all time. I made an entire movie about how great I think I am. It’s called LOCAL LEGENDS. You can find it on the MoternMedia YouTube channel. It’s uncool to speak so honestly about this. But I’d rather be uncool than dishonestly hide behind publicists who do the dirty work for me.
Petty’s death doesn’t change anything about my opinion. In fact, I was annoyed when he put out a book a few years ago when he talked about how he was a heroin addict back in the 90s. It seemed like he was cashing in on his addiction to get his name in the headlines again. It’s like he was sitting in his mansion, thinking, “I haven’t received enough attention. What should I do?” And then he called his publicist, who suggested that he open up about his 1990s drug addiction. So then they developed a plan for how they’d make this shocking announcement. Etc. Etc.
It’s embarrassing. He played the Super Bowl. He’s on the radio constantly. Wasn’t that enough, Tom!?!?!
Again, it’s not just Tom. It’s all of them. Rock stars try to act cool. But they’re the most desperate, needy people on earth. The more successful they are, the more pathetically desperate and needy they are.
You’ve been written about on Vice News, a song of yours was also played on the Vice News weekly TV show, and you’ve been on The Tonight Show. What was being on Fallon like? How’d that come about? Did they reach out to you? I mean, technically, you opened up for Mel Brooks and were covered by The Roots. Thoughts on that?
I’m incredibly happy about the attention I’ve received. The Tonight Show as an amazing opportunity. They gave me a gift bag with official Tonight Show coasters, which I conspicuously put on display around my house anytime someone comes over!
Hearing The Roots play my song was fantastic. They did a much better job with the song than I did.
But, still, I’m definitely aware that I don’t have many fans. Most of the people who listen to my songs on Spotify don’t know who I am. They just found the songs through random searches. That’s fine with me, of course! I live in the suburbs. Most of my neighbors don’t know that I make music, which is actually great. I only want enough fame that I can afford to keep making music for the rest of my life. That’s truly all it’s about for me.
Give us a glimpse into your iPod. Run down a list of your Favorite artists.
Last question. What is your favorite song that you have ever written?
Lately, my favorite is “Bench on Washington Street” by Projection From The Side. However, the long answer is that these 103 songs are the best 103 songs ever written. And they’re all by me! https://open.spotify.com/user/moternmedia/playlist/1dtIlTpCdQT3eDcqhcpFqf?si=UnhTa-CmSpOlQFYdBvgzRw
In closing, I’d be remiss to say that Consider The Consumer would be absolutely, truly, truly honored if you wrote a song about us. It’s one we’d all love to hear.
I’ll add it to my list!
Did you like this piece, or have a follow-up question for Matt? Did we miss a detail? Let us know! Send an email to Outreach@ConsiderTheConsumer.com, find us on Twitter or Facebook, or even connect with us directly on our website! We look forward to hearing from all of you.