How a Chicagoan and an Oregonian Brought Me "Closer to Love"

American University
United States

I believe everything happens for a reason. In my freshman year of high school, I spontaneously bought a concert ticket for myself and my mother to see Andrew Belle because I had heard his song “My Oldest Friend" in the background of my favorite show Greek. I instantly fell in love with his genuine stage presence and lyrics, and knew that it was meant to be. The words he wrote captured exactly what I was feeling in the most peculiar ways, and no other music could make me feel so understood at a time when I really needed understanding in my life. From then on, his songs got me through my first breakup and fights with my parents. “Don’t Blame Yourself” quelled my angsty teenage self deprecation.

His most recent album, Dive Deep, was released in full right before I left for college, and the final track “When the End Comes” made me remember that even though I was venturing away from home, I’d always have the people I love. It's also my favorite song of his. My musical tastes transitioned and grew with what he produced - from lighter, more acoustic tracks to a darker, synthy, electronic vibe.

I’ve been lucky enough to see him live three times now, but the magical, heart-skipping-a-beat feeling certainly hasn’t gone away. Despite a mostly sold-out tour last fall, Belle’s modesty and graciousness were the perfect openers for Mat Kearney at the Fillmore in Silver Spring.

Kearney is another vocalist whose discernable emotion in everything he writes has resonated with me since a young age. It was my first time seeing one of his shows, but I wasn’t nearly prepared for the elation in the crowd Friday night. Kearney’s songs feel like a breath of fresh air, which is exactly what the entire crowd let out when they heard the familiar twang of his voice. People were moved to tears, singing the harmonies and dancing to his unique beats.

There’s something to be said for artists who know that their fame and salaries don’t just come from immense talent, but also from the people who appreciate their work. To quote a concertgoer, Kearney “did it all.” He sang to every corner of the venue, made an effort to make eye contact with fans and even brought a kid up on stage to hold a disco ball during his rendition of “Forever Young.” Anyone who goes to one of Kearney’s shows feels appreciated and like their presence actually matters. His understanding shows in every aspect of his career, from the words he writes to the way he smiles at you when he sees you dancing.

Although the setlist was perfectly curated from nearly every album he's released, Kearney's new music got the attention it deserved. Both Kearney and Belle are discovering darker, electronic beats. “Kings & Queens,” my personal favorite from the new album along with "Memorized," is already a hit, appealing to older fans of Kearney but also to the newer, hip-hop inclined pop fans with lines like, “We don’t need no bankroll to make us feel alive, we don’t need no benzo to feel like we can ride.”

There are various shows remaining on the tour in the south and Midwest, and attending one is a must for anyone that enjoys music and witnessing people being passionate about it. It was probably the best show I will ever see, and definitely a notable night in my young adult life.

Kearney will always keep it real, because he knows that “the Hollywood hills won't ever make me feel as good as us.” His frequent mentions of his homes in Oregon and Nashville in his songs remind everyone that he knows exactly where he came from. He doesn’t seem like he will ever stop appreciating the individual people who got him where he is today, and that’s probably the most honorable thing a singer-songwriter can do.


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