Watching her onstage, that brown bob of hers whirling like a cyclone as she unleashes her brash and husky riot of a voice, it's hard to imagine Mattiel Brown was ever anything but a natural-born performer, a tried-and-true self-empowered presence.
"Honestly though I never even believed I could do this," Mattiel, one of rock's most thrilling young talents, says. Still, dig deep and she'll admit to those times when she'd let herself dream: of one day stepping onstage, gripping that microphone and showcasing her skills. Then, she imagined, could at last let it all go, unleash that deep-seeded passion of hers for melody and rhythm and intricate storytelling and channel her pent-up ferocity into something real and palpable and powerful.
"But," adds the singer, whose youth was shaped by an eclectic range of
music - from folk to punk and hip-hop - and who for years only sang by herself in private, "I remember thinking all along, "Yeah, I would love to do that but it's out of my wheelhouse, right?" Mattiel pauses and smiles as if to say she now knows she was capable of becoming a masterful frontwoman all along. "I guess I just really had to break out of my skin."
It's a damn good thing she did: following encouragement from Jack White during a chance encounter in Nashville with her chief musical inspiration and eventual touring partner, Mattiel made the crucial decision to jumpstart her musical journey by writing and recording with Jonah Swilley and Randy Michael - two contributors who's songwriting is rooted in gospel, rock n' soul, hip-hop and new wave. Less than five years later Mattiel stands as one of the most singular and buzzed-about acts in rock music. She is no longer a teenager afraid to sing in front of strangers, but rather performing for rapt audiences across the globe in the wake of her acclaimed eponymous 2017 debut LP, released via Burger Records; wowing viewers with their fiery TV shows like last year on "Later... With Jools Holland" and more recently "Last Call With Carson Daly". And now, she's gearing up to release her highly anticipated second album, Satis Factory.
"It's all still wild to me," Mattiel admits with a laugh of her whirlwind past two years. "It's so incredible knowing I've invested my time in something that has really started to work." Swilley chuckles when hearing of the singer's typically humble take on the
present day. Having become Mattiel's most trusted musical ally and bandmate
since they first began writing together in 2014, he's seen her evolution firsthand.
"I believed in her from the get-go," Swilley says. "Because when you hear her sing" - a blend of Grace Slick and Screamin' Jay Hawkins with the ferocity of a punk-rock head-Thrasher - "you instantly know it's for real."
Mattiel, for her part, is hardly one to sing her own praises. But having seen their debut album (released on iconic indie Heavenly in the UK and Europe) be so embraced by such well- respected outlets like the BBC's Radio 6Music , even she can let herself admit her collaborators may have been right all along. "Randy and Jonah were so confident about how well my debut would be received," she recalls. "They were like, 'The real music fans are going to get this.' And they were right.