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Mat Kearney. Photo: Pamela Littky.
Mat Kearney. Photo: Pamela Littky.
If you go
What: Mat Kearney
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Where: Ogden Theater, 935 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, 303-832-1874
Cost: $22.50-$25
ogdentheater.net

Mat Kearney first made a name for himself with his 2006 debut album Nothing Left to Lose.

But before he made his name famous, he made it shorter. Mat with just one T isn’t some attempt to be cool, it’s the correct spelling of this name, thanks to a mistake on his birth certificate. No one in his family even noticed until he was in eighth grade, and he’s stuck with it ever since.

Once Nothing Left to Lose was released, people would start to recognize the odd spelling. The first single and title track off the album reached No. 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and the song “All I Need” was featured on “Grey’s Anatomy” and “NCIS.” TV actually played a big role in grabbing Kearney some attention. Early in his career, his music was played on at least 30 other shows, including “30 Rock,” “Scrubs,” “One Tree Hill,” and “Friday Night Lights.”

“That’s what kind of put me on the map, but this record hasn’t been on as much as the last one,” Kearney said. “I think that’s a huge way of what introduced me to the world. That first record, Nothing Left to Lose was on so many TV shows.”

That’s not to say that his music can’t stand on it’s own. Kearney stands out for his unique, beat-driven style of singer/songwriter rock, and his 2011 album Young Love went to No. 1 on iTunes. Now, as he’s touring in the wake of that success, he’s found a special attachment to the new music.

“They’ve aged — even though it’s been six months — very well to me, and I still feel the excitement that I felt writing them,” Kearney said. “It’s very joyous and jovial, but also, I’m very at home in these songs. They feel very close to the audience.”

He’s been touring almost constantly since Young Love dropped, on a packed schedule with multiple shows in many states, but he doesn’t seem to be wearing down.

“It’s amazing. It’s really, really amazing. It has been some of the most fun shows I’ve played in my five-year career so far,” he said. “I think that the new album has really opened up my show to become something really special, and I also think I’m just getting better and more comfortable with what I do, being able to be more present in the moment.”

Like many other songwriters, the nonstop touring has presented a bit of a challenge for Kearney when it comes to writing new material. He’s found that writing and performing put him in two very different mindsets.

“The more I’ve developed as a songwriter, the more I find sitting in my living room by myself and processing the journey on the road,” he said. “I’m learning that writing is like going inside yourself and listening, and performing is very different. It’s going out and communicating and emptying what’s inside of yourself onto the world.”

In the end, the music is all coming from the same place — that mysterious place inside that churns out songs people can related to.

“At different moments in my life, I’ve made it a point to write every day, but with Young Love, I didn’t do that,” Kearney said. “I just waited for the moments when I had something to say and I’ve continued that philosophy. You feel it, it’s a heaviness in your gut.”

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