STUDIO PERFORMANCES

Matt Stell | KYGO Performance Studio

Apr 5, 2024, 1:21 PM | Updated: Apr 8, 2024, 2:25 pm

Some artists may use forgetting their guitar as an excuse to play hooky from a KYGO Performance Studio session, but some artists are not Matt Stell. As a solution, Stell simply plucked a guitar signed by Merle Haggard from the walls of the station. He paid homage to his guitar’s signer by starting out with an impromptu performance of Haggard’s 1968 release, “Mama Tried.”

Stell continued with three original songs: “Breakin’ in Boots,” “Everywhere But On” and an unreleased song, “Smooth.”

Arkansas-born Stell started out as an athlete, playing basketball in high school and later on an athletic scholarship for Drury University. His athleticism took a back seat when he pivoted toward music, and in the process he turned down his acceptance to Harvard University’s Extension School part-time pre-med program in 2014. Instead, he signed a deal with Wide Open Music, which coincided with a move to Nashville, Tenn.

Playing as the lead singer of “The Crashers” gave Stell his start in music and performing. He released three solo albums before signing with Wide Open Music: “The Sound & the Story” (2009), “Vestibule Blues” (2011), and “A River Through It” (2013). He added to his resume by opening for artists like Eric Church and Luke Bryan and writing songs for other artists, including “What Cowboys Do” for Casey Donahew, which was played during “Yellowstone” in its third episode.

The Arkansan has released four EPs since, including “Last of the Best” (2018), “Everywhere But On” (2019), “Better Than That” (2020) and “One of Us” (2023). “Everywhere But On” and “Better Than That” peaked on Billboard’s Top Country Albums at the 32nd and 43rd positions, respectively.

One of his breakout moments arrived with the release of “Prayed for You” on his first EP, which was named by Rolling Stone as one of the “10 Best Country Songs to Hear Now” and accumulated 44 million plays in one year. As a result, Stell was signed to the RECORDS label and was named a CMT Discovery artist.

Stell performed at the Grand Ole Opry twice in 2019, once during his debut in April and two months later when accompanying Old Crow Medicine Show and the Del McCoury Band. That same year, RIAA presented him with a Gold certification for “Prayed For You.”

Stell performs at the Grizzly Rose in Denver on Friday, April 5.

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