Matty Mullins of Memphis May Fire has been one busy dude. Tour after tour promoting Unconditional, as well as his solo project with Cameron Mizel. We were fortunate enough to get some time with Matty while on his current tour with MMF before their tour ended to talk about God, mental health, and what is to come for 2015.
First off, were you aware of any tension or did it seem like A Skylit Drive were having problems?
Matty: I wasn’t actually. Total surprise. I do know though that they have been at it for a while, and sometimes you’ll find that members just aren’t satisfied with what being in a band can offer. I love all of those guys and if anything, I hope they are still able to maintain their relationship with one another.
You and your wife Brittany got married at a very young age. With the divorce rate in America being so high, and then the odds being stacked against you even more for being a young married couple, did that ever scare you or make you fearful of the future?
Matty: Both of our parents had gotten divorced early on and I think that seeing so many failed marriages in your life, it kind of turns into a manual for what not to do. You know what I mean? I love my wife, she loves me. There has honestly never been a moment, even when we dated, been a doubt. We never broke up in the 4 years we were dating, we’ve been married for 8 years, and there is no question about it. We’re in this for the long haul.
Does it ever way on your mind that there are kids out there who legitimately look to you for advice? There are life choices that they make, based on your lyrics or your stance on certain things.
Matty: Oh my gosh yes, or at least it used to in a bad way. I really think that was a contributing factor when I was starting to struggle with anxiety and depression. The thing about those conditions that sucks the worst is that you don’t address the root cause, so you never see it coming. What’s worse is when you don’t even KNOW what the root cause is, you can never fix the problem. So that’s what’s really scary. You start to have panic attacks and not know why. In the past I used to hold that weight and part of the biggest mistake I made was my ego would feed into the fact that I was like “Well of course they look to me, because I’ve got some really cool answers!”
I would make small mistakes that would blow up into big things and before I knew it I was like, every record that I write has to be inspirational and perfect, otherwise someone might kill themselves. If I don’t write the right words, kids are gonna cut their wrists. What a beautiful thing to continuously be developing my relationship with Jesus though, to the point where I can literally point to him. I think that is what I was supposed to be doing all along. When people come to me and they ask me “Matty what do you think about this?” I might be able to tell them what I personally might do, but I don’t know if that’s the right answer. Look to scripture, look to the word of God, it’s alive! Everything that you need, it’s there. People have abused the Bible for personal gain or to cause harm, but the root of the gospel is that we are not perfect. Luckily, Jesus was. He died for our sins and gave us the gospel to get back to him. That is why I tell people about him, because he truly does have all of the answers.
I’m glad you brought up panic attacks because growing up I actually suffered from panic/ anxiety attacks. One of the worst attacks I had was when I was curled up in a ball crying for two hours under a teachers desk, for reasons I couldn’t understand. So if you’re comfortable with it, what was the worst attack or episode that you experienced?
Matty: For me the worst, was the first one. I was struggling with anxiety my entire life without even knowing it. Unless you seek out help for your symptoms, you’ll never really know that that’s not how everyone feels. You go through life thinking that this is how you feel in certain situations and that I can ease the tensions by doing this or that. My first real attack though, I was sitting on a tour bus. I was watching TV, eating potato soup, and boom. My entire world flipped upside down. To everyone else around everything was fine, but to me it was like a 747 had just crashed into the bus.
For someone that hasn’t experienced a panic or anxiety attack, it’s indescribable. It feels impossible to explain and it sucks because there aren’t people out there who can just listen to your plight and say “Heres whats wrong, do this and everything will be fine.” There are different answers for everybody and really attacking the root cause is so important. I am a huge supporter of therapy and obviously I don’t think therapy should be worshiped, I think God shows up in therapy and that’s the coolest part for me. My sister though owns a non-profit organization for counseling in Nashville called ‘The Refuge Center For Counseling,’ and it’s incredible. She has done such amazing stuff. I did what’s called EMDR therapy.
When you sleep your eyes move left and right and physical movement takes trauma and moves it from your frontal lobe to the back of your brain or to another part of the brain where you can store it that memory but when you think about those things that happened, you don’t associate the feeling that normally comes with it. So the problem is if you have something traumatic happen and you are not getting a good amount of rest, it will stay in your frontal lobe. The problem with that is that in any circumstance on any day, a normal situation can trigger that feeling and make you feel like your back in that horrible spot. So there would be times when something would happen, and I would feel like I was in a plane that was about to crash. So with EDMR what you do is there is a screen and you hold two buzzers and they monitor bilateral movement. There are a few other things you do, but it’s basically recreating that motion of what your body does when you sleep. While you’re doing that, you talk about the worst moments in your life and you start to remember things that had completely blacked out and you start to realize these sometimes pinnacle moments in your life and your brain starts to connect things and then you start to understand why you feel the way you do in certain situations.
I write songs that might do something for some people in a moment, but compaired to a therapist? Listening to those stories every single day and then going home and living a normal life? Incredible.
Beautiful. Now back to MMF. Things are going great for the band and it seems people are responding very well to your solo project. Do you think you’ve arrived at a place where you can start to bring your wife on tour with you and not have to deal with that distance?
Matty: Well she was actually just out on tour with us for 9 days! Britt does a chunk of every tour that we do. Sometimes it’s 2 weeks, some times it’s 4 days. We are home owners, and we are doggy parents. Those 2 things make it very hard to be on the road full time. Maverick, our Yorky, does not do well on tour. Super protective and can get yippy, he actually bit our bus driver one time. Those things are decisions we have made in our lives that we maybe sometimes think “Man it would be so nice to just be totally free and not have to worry about this and that,” but at the same time the way that God is orchestrated in our lives it keeps us so balanced. When I come home from tour I have a REAL home to come back to. A structured life where I’m married and I have a puppy and we’re responsible, we pay bills and I like it that way because then this life, doesn’t consume me.
A lot of bands they get home and they don’t know how to live real life anymore. “How am I gonna eat today if the rider doesn’t show up?” It’s a ‘The grass is always greener’ situation you know? Thank God for Facetime too!
You’ve describe Unconditional as ‘Full of gospel, but not religious.’ Could you explain what that means?
Matty: I don’t ever want to put the Jesus stamp on something just to sell more records. People in management have told us that “If you call yourselves a Christian band, you’ll sell 2,000 more records on release date,” because Christian parents will let their kids buy an album if they know there’s no swearing on it. I don’t want to do that. What did Jesus do? He hung out with people that needed him. He didn’t surround himself with Priests and Rabbis, Jesus surrounded himself with the sick and needy. The Metalcore scene is full of garbage that is being fed to these kids. So I wanted to put out a record not only that had the gospel in it, but that had an answer for this scene. An album that had the truth about God’s love.
Constantly remembering God’s unconditional love and being reminded that he is very real and very involved in every situation. My father is an incredible man of God and he works at an airport. Very blue collar job, but he tells me stories all of the time about people asking him “What do you have that I don’t have?” So if you ask him, he will tell you that he believes in Jesus, but he never forces it onto people. He doesn’t preach, and I don’t want to preach either. There is only one story that I can tell correctly, and that’s my story. God has really impacted my story so that is what I tell people when they ask.
Norma Jean, Bless the Martyr Kiss the Child.
Matty: Yeah man when Scogin was still involved? That album really shaped me as a kid when I was younger because it introduced me to heavy music in a way that I was SO drawn to. When that album came out I was in high school and my friends told me to check it out. Scogin was like 15 when he wrote that record too, freekin un-real! It brought outt emotions in me that I had never felt before and I loved that.
Well so when you got to tour with them, were you a little jaded because Josh wasn’t apart of it at that point?
Matty: Well actually before that I DID get to tour with Josh! We toured with Chariot and I was definitely star struck. Josh is so down to earth. He’ll sit down with you for an hour and a half, he doesn’t care who you are, he just wants to talk. When someone describes themselves as ‘Punk-Rock,’ it always rubs me the wrong way. If I could say someone was truly Punk Rock though, it would be Josh Scogin. He’s in his 30’s, has kids, but he doesn’t shower. He tours in a van by choice, owns his own merch company because he wants to print it himself, he is Punk Rock, and he is awesome! I will always look up to that guy. I am lucky to call him a friend.
(Looking at the wall) Is that a drawing of you?
Matty: Yeah! If fans send us artwork, we pin it up on that board. Some of these kids are just incredible artists!
Now without removing God from your personal life or message, you do have fans who are Atheist or Agnostic and are going through the same struggles that every other kids goes through. Broken home, depression, anxiety, all of those things. Do you have any non-religious advice for them?
Matty: Of course, PMA. Positive Mental Attitude is important. Kevin Heart actually said “Choosing positivity in a negative situation is not ignorance, it’s leadership.” I full heartedly believe that statement. I will always encourage people to seek out the word of God, because I do believe that THAT is where truth really comes from. I believe that when things go wrong if you instead of looking at that as a negative, you choose to rejoice in all things. It’s the hardest thing in the world but I think that that is what ultimately leads to happiness.
2015 is just around the corner, what can fans expect from Memphis May Fire?
Matty: Man, so much cool stuff that I wish I could talk about! Like almost all of 2015 is already planned, tons of things in the U.S and we’re really excited about that because we did a ton of Europe in 2014 and kind of ignored the B Market. We’ll probably hit the B-Market soon, a lot that fans have been asking for, and some that we have done in the past that deserves to be done again!
Dave Shapiro our booking agent has done an amazing job, and everyone that wants to see us in 2015 will get a chance. I REALLY want to get to South Africa, I hope that comes into play pretty soon as well.
Awesome, thanks so much for your time Matty.
Matty: No problem man, thank you!