Interview by Zach Grossfeld
Nobody wants to feel disconnected. Sound can instill hope in the most dark, detached moments. In this conversation, Slow Meadow discusses developing an inner connectedness through exploring sound, creating music while high, his relationship with movement, and 2 Chainz.
Matt Kid, aka Slow Meadow, harnesses an inner spirituality that can be felt through his music. His view of the world has evolved through the lens of great thinkers, meaningful sounds, love, and the struggle of staying connected to the moment. Plug in your headphones and you won’t hear words. Slow Meadow crafts sonic landscapes that pull on listeners’ bliss, fears, and anxieties.
To build these landscapes, sometimes, he takes a film, mutes the audio, and pretends to score it. Other times, he plays the same progression for hours. As he says in an interview with Echoes, “I can just hit a chord, let it vibrate, let it move, until it just dies, and I am be so moved by that.” The right combination of keys and chords can sweep our hearts and awaken our minds, if only for four minutes. Slow Meadow channels these chords to fill the gap between the places we are and the places we want to be.
Auxoro: You have videos for your songs that are like musical moments with no set beginning, middle, and end: a woman lying on grass, a moon disintegrating in space, waves crashing. What about that visual style matches your music so well?
Slow Meadow: I like the idea of having visuals in general. It started as experimentation. I would pick out images that I would vaguely see while listening back to my music, or composing. There is no narrative to most of the visuals. It’s sort of meditative. The idea with ambient music, to me, is that it doesn't have one. There are no lyrics. I want my music to be aesthetically immersive and people can take it however they want.
To me, playing has always been somatic and intuitive, with not a lot of words involved. The idea of music and movement intertwined, it’s an expression. Literally, my hands are creating the sounds by touching the guitar or piano. There is something wild about experiencing visuals and music without language.
A sequence of sounds played in the right combination can hit people with overwhelming emotion. I’m consistently blown away by the effect that music can have on my frame of mind.
I don't view the music that I create as mine. To me, I'm organizing vibrations and borrowing them from the universe. I got into ambient music because I've experienced those powerful moments of the music overtaking you. Awhile back, I was on a flight having an anxiety ridden, existential moment. I was listening to Hammock, this song ‘Stars In The Rearview Mirror,’ and it just washed over me. Not that singer-songwriter music has never done that for me, but this was something different.
Like you were looking at the sunset through the lens of the music instead of the anxiety?
Very much. When I put on the music, it reframed that view and made it into this beautiful sunset type of vibe. The music changed the character of my mind.
You have this track called ‘The Grandeur of a Modest Moment,’ which perfectly encapsulates the everyday miracles that pass most of us by. What are some of these ‘Modest Moments’ that you’ve notice yourself or others taking for granted?
Getting older, I’m becoming better at paying attention to my body because of panic attacks and anxiety. I go to therapy to try to work on these things - paying attention to my body and the signals it gives me, and how that relates to my mental state. I’m getting to know myself.
It’s easy to take your body and your mental state for granted. In an intimate relationship, you can get in fights because you're not giving yourself pause and realizing simple things. Like recognizing, “I'm hungry right now, therefore I'm going to be more irritable” or “I didn't sleep enough last night.”
The most consequential thing that I have been trying to develop is more awareness of myself and what’s around me. Noticing negative thoughts, truly observing them, can diffuse negative emotion.
How do you think about the relationship of movement and the sounds that you make? You have this beautiful video on your YouTube channel of a dancer named Kya Bliss dancing to the song ‘Quintana.’
When I first started Slow Meadow in 2015, I wasn't thinking about dance specifically. I was learning piano, and I still am. Developing skills on the piano made me see the nature of hands dancing on a keyboard and having a relationship to the body. It feels somatic.
Before I learned piano, I would sit on a laptop and mess with plugins or manipulate sounds. The process was much more technical. On the piano, the journey started in my head and moved into my hands. Because of that, I do tend to think more about dance movement.
How did 6lack end up sampling your song ‘Lachrymosia’ for his track ‘Luving U?’
I got a formal email from 6lack’s label asking for sampling. Then I forwarded the request to my manager and he handled the details. Later, he sent me the track and I loved it. It was fucking awesome. 6lack really is incredible and inspiring. He, to me, represents one of the most innovative approaches happening today in music.
As a musician in your mid-30s, do you worry about losing touch with the younger generation?
Yes. The “getting older” realization is new to me. It started becoming more real when I turned 35. I need to stay proactive about keeping in touch with new ideas and social norms. My worst fear is becoming an “older” person. There are some people in my generation that seem to hate on kids. When I hear that, it makes my generation seem out of touch.
Every generation thinks that the newer one is worse and that things were better back in the day. I don't like that type of nostalgic thinking, especially in the way that it’s been used politically. It's not the true picture of what's going on around us. Connecting with all types of people, that’s the key to not falling out of touch - being open to new minds.
As an electronic producer, you can spend a lot of time by yourself in the studio. How do you make sure that you stay open to collaboration and other people’s ideas?
Right now, I’m more insular. I'm zooming in on learning piano, developing my own sound, and playing around in computer creation world. At the same time, I stay conscious of the need to collaborate with other people.
I used to be part of a church community where the music gigs would force me to interact. I wouldn't get along with some people because there was some friction. I miss that. I never value it in the moment, but the best things in my life have come from reconciling differences and relationships - people calling me out on my bullshit. With the way things are now, I can do what I want musically, but it’s easy to get stuck in an isolated echo-chamber.
The variety of the human interaction, like the moments where I'm not sure if I can do a good job and people are watching, forces me to be uncomfortable. I have to step up and do whatever it takes. That's one way in which I try to combat sitting in cave all day [laughs].
What is one thing that a producer or an artist can do everyday something that may seem small, but will have a huge return on investment in the long run?
Develop a sound authentically. For me, that goes back to movement. As I've learned piano, I’ve started to feel movement in a different way. I’m using my body to make music. Learning an instrument very deeply has been important for my musical integrity, like learning a language. You start to see and think differently. But, don’t disregard recording software. Learn them together. Use them to enhance each other. Whether it’s producing, engineering, mixing - learn this technology and don’t stop learning.
What negative experience something that you never want to have to repeat has changed your life for the better?
Public middle school [laughs]. Actually, I would have to say playing in churches for Christian artists. I wouldn't be the musician I am today without having played in that community. I'm grateful for the musicianship I learned and for the friendships I made, even the ones that went south from religious disagreements. I'm grateful for how it shaped me, but I wouldn’t want to go back.
What are the biggest things that people don't understand about what you do every day?
A lot of times, it’s not very fun. It's a lot of lonely work. I’ve been lucky to play gigs at cool venues and some people think that's what I do all the time. That’s just a small part.
Another thing that others may not realize is that there is a group of people in the ambient music lane that don’t like Spotify or the playlist “economy.” They think that it's changing the way people listen in a bad way. I can understand that sentiment. Sometimes, I can be put into a box because of a popular playlist where my music appears.
Others may look at me and think that my following was generated on the back of good playlist placement, not on all of the work I’ve done. I don't know what to make of it, but it's been cool for me. I feel very lucky to be reaching that many people through a playlist.
Even if you get placed on a playlist that helps you launch to another level, that doesn't discount all the work that led to that point. As the great rapper 2 Chainz once said, "It took me 10 years to become an overnight success."
I love that.
Why should people listen to music that challenges them?
It's important to be challenged in general. It opens you up to new experiences. Most people would say that it's good to try new foods, and to expand your palette. You may not like something at first, but give it time to change the way you think or interact. It takes dedication to listening to something that takes time to digest. You can get angry at a song if you don't like it. I love music, but I also hate some of it.
Maybe I don’t like the aesthetic of some songs. Maybe there’s something that actually does challenge me. I do think that I write music that takes time to leave an impression. It asks something of the listener. I hope that my music challenges listeners to slow down. It could be something as simple as noticing your body or your mood.
If you could solve one mystery of this universe, what would it be?
Consciousness. I think that’s the true mystery. What is the heart of consciousness and how does the brain do it? How does it start? Where does it end? For me, that question has provided a lot of motivation, especially with ambient music. I’m constantly questioning consciousness and the universe, especially when I’m high [laughs].
Now that you mention it, how has creating music while high affected your relationship with sound?
Making music high has blown my mind. I went through various stages spanning panic attacks to moments like “woah I'm conscious!” I had this transcendent experience with a YouTube series called ‘Symphony of Science’ made by a DJ called Melody Sheep. He’s insanely good.
I love everything he does musically, and he’s an amazing piano player. He makes these autotuned, beautiful remixes of Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and other great thinkers. While listening, I was stoned and had this feeling of “wow, everything makes sense here, right now.”
I've also experienced various versions of being stoned while working. When I first began creating while high, I was pretty clumsy and didn't have anything prepared in my sessions. I would be too high and inefficient. I would look at what I wrote the next day, but none of it was super interesting. But subjectively, being high while playing felt like such a cool experience, so I kept trying it.
Now, I prepare my plugins so I have an array of sounds that I can fuck with. When I’m stoned, everything sounds amazing. It's a great place for me to start a song because I'm going to be less judgmental. Also, the sounds bleed into my visual field. I don’t hallucinate, but sounds become a bit more three dimensional. I can pay much more attention, which carries over to when I'm sober.
The next day, I have something that I started, didn’t judge, and can now rearrange. The other great thing is that, when I’m stoned, I can play the same piano part for two hours. Muscle memory is great because you don't lose it. For me, it's a great state of mind to practice because I don’t bore easily bore.