Matt Rollings is a Steinway artist
On stage playing piano, behind the board producing, or alongside an artist writing songs, Matt Rollings staunchly subscribes to a philosophy that powers all aspects of his creativity and has led him to become a multi-platinum, 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 uses his innovative approach to great effect. His work has been met both with critical acclaim and commercial success, with credits including Willie Nelson’s two most recent GRAMMY®-winning albums Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin, and My Way: Willie Nelson Sings Sinatra, Mary Chapin Carpenter’s GRAMMY®-nominated The Age of Miracles, Keith Urban’s multi-platinum self-titled breakthrough opus, and the Edwin McCain Band’s multi-platinum Misguided Roses.
As far as service goes, Matt regularly does clinics and masterclasses for students and professionals and hosts the online video series AskMattRollings, willingly dispensing 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.
The last few years have represented further evolution for Matt. In addition to touring with Alison Krauss and continuing to produce records for Willie Nelson, Blues Traveler and others, in 2019 he garnered a GRAMMY® nomination as an arranger (Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals) for the track “It Was A Very Good Year” on the album My Way: Willie Nelson Sings Sinatra. This album won the GRAMMY® for “Best Traditional Pop” album that year, earning Rollings another award as a producer.
2020 is bringing the release of Matt’s highly-anticipated solo album MATT ROLLINGS MOSAIC, which showcases his cumulative mastery as pianist, arranger, and producer with collaborators Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss, The War and Treaty, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and more.
“My life in music is really a mosaic of sorts,” Matt says with a smile. “As a musician, I sit at the piano and try to coax beauty out of wood and wire, as a producer I join with singer and song to help make something bigger than both, and as an arranger, I look for some hidden truth in the music, a path of more or less. Mosaic is a conversation between all these parts of my musical life.”
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.”