Matt McAndrew has gone from working at Trader Joe’s in Center City Philadelphia by day and playing small gigs or open mics at night to becoming one of the stars on Season 7 of NBC’s The Voice.
Matt used his tattooed charm and impressive vocals on songs like Coldplay’s "Fix You" and Damien Rice’s "Blower’s Daughter" to wow both music fans and superstar coaches, including his own coach Adam Levine of Maroon 5. Now he's in the Top 5 of the singing competition.
A native of Barnegat Light, New Jersey, Matt launched his music career while studying music at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts. He sat down with NBC10.com during a short visit back to the City of Brotherly Love that includes a free concert on Thursday night at XFINITY Live! in South Philly. He talked about the artists who inspire him (from Radiohead to Britney Spears) as well as how much his fans mean to him.
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Did you ever think you would be here?
Just with music in general, I always have been a big dreamer and I always hoped things would work out but you never know. With The Voice I had no idea. My ultimate dream with the show — when I first got involved with it — was to be on one or two episodes and I thought that would be amazing. I had no idea I’d be this far.
How did you first get into singing?
I just started out just messing around with a guitar ... I started trying to write songs when I was around 15. Then I was just sort of privately writing songs and signing whatever I would write. It wasn’t until I was about 17 that I started doing little house shows with my band and I also got the chance to sing at my high school Christmas assembly. That was the first time that anybody found out I could sing at all.
When I was a senior I didn’t know what I was going to do as far as college goes. I knew I wanted to be a musician but I was like, ‘man I really blew it by not taking any music classes, ever!’ But luckily I got hooked up with a Voice edition and I got in.
How did you wind up going from Barnegat Light to Philly?
I think everybody in South Jersey is aware of Philly — (NBC10) was always my news station growing up and would go on field trips or family trips growing up. UArts had come up, my guidance counselor told me to check it out. It was the only school I had applied to and I got in. It’s great, they have a really solid vocal program — shoutout to them. I didn’t know anything so I had to have learned a lot.
How would you describe your voice?
I’m in this category now where I like to do sort of a juxtaposition of more of a growly, high-end, more like rock thing, but then I also like to do the softer-, sweeter-type of stuff too. So, it’s sort of like a mix of both.
Why did you choose #TeamAdam?
I got three chairs (to turn around) — it was Adam, Pharrell (Williams) and Blake (Shelton). Blake was really kind of more mellow, but Adam and Pharrell, it was a long fight. What some people don’t know is that I was probably up there for 20 to 30 minutes just talking to them — that goes for all the contestants — and it gets edited down.
Adam really just put up a good fight and he just would not let Pharrell have the last word. I truly believe that he is the one that wanted me the most ... and I got a sense of his personality, which I think really kind of meshed well with mine. He’s a very Type-A kind of person, he’s like, ‘come on, come on, come on’ and that’s the way I would have been.
Even outside of the four choices — if we’re looking at anybody involved in music today — now that I really know him, (Adam)’s the perfect man for the job. Especially in (live shows) when we’re really working closely together as far as the song selection — that’s huge for this part of the competition — he puts so much effort into that part of the process and he’s just really picky. It’s a really cool collaborative thing at this point.
Which artist (outside of Adam) inspires you?
Recently I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on how I first got into music. I’ve been going back and watching a lot of old Radiohead live videos. They were one of the first bands that I would watch that stuff and be like, ‘man, this is what I want to do with my life.’ It feels good to reconnect with the reasons why I got into it now that I’m kind of being able to do it myself.
Onto your ink, Which of your 11 tattoos has the most meaning to you?
I think the empty square, the little checkbox tattoo, probably has the most meaning. But my favorite is this wolf tattoo that I have from Thomas Hooper — he’s my favorite tattoo artist in the world. He’s really, really exclusive — he doesn’t accept new clients a lot of the time — so It was a two-year process just getting seen by him.
I kind of consider myself a collector. I’m a fan of particular artists and I know their work so well. And I’m just trying to add on. I don’t actually have as many as you might think — my torso is still bare and I don’t have any on my legs. I went straight for the jugular, I got the checkbox and then I got my hand done next.
What song might your fans not expect you to be into?
Dude, I listen to all kinds of stuff. I’ve had days before where I only listen to ‘Oops, I Did It Again’ by Britney Spears on loop, like the whole day! And I just think, ‘this is an amazing hit record, this is awesome.’ I appreciate all the moving parts that went into making such a success.
I remember growing up idolizing people who do it all themselves and I still do. That’s still what I aspire for as an artist myself. But you can still give a lot of credit to — when everybody has a job and it’s just a very planned sort of success story with an artist. I’m very fascinated with that in this point in my career.
If you could duet with one singer — living or dead — who would it be and what would you sing?
Paul McCartney. ‘She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain’ (Matt laughs) No, anything, a Beatles song or one his songs or whatever. I’m a huge Beatles fan so I think that’s why it would be cool.
If you have one message for your fans what would it be?
Just one of extreme gratitude, it’s so cool. I think every good artist knows and appreciates their fans. But, the particular format that I’m in right now, it’s so obvious that the fan support is the only thing that is keeping me here ... that has me here.
These people work their butts off when it’s time to vote on the show. I put in my work during the week and I sit back and watch my song climb up the charts. They’re all on the app, they’re on email, they’re on everything. I just really appreciate all the seriously hard work (the fans) put in.
A bonus question! Is there a song that’s sitting out there still that you are just dying to sing?
Yeah. Not that I can give anything away but this coming week I have some really cool ones.