Before making his season 10 appearance on NBC’s The Voice, Matt Tedder had been on a mission to broaden his horizons. Shortly after graduating from Aledo High School in 2013, the blues enthusiast packed his bags and headed to Nashville. He never could've imagined it would lead him to national TV and eventually back to Dallas, where he's getting ready to release his first EP, California Mercy Me.
Heading to Nashville before he was even old enough to vote was a matter of Tedder throwing caution to the wind. “I was there with a 17-year-old mind, just getting out of high school,” Tedder says. “I wasn’t too involved in the scene at the time, here in Dallas-Fort Worth. So, it was a little bit easier than if I were to leave now because I’ve really come to love the scene.”
Tedder busked to pay bills in Nashville, watching his guitar heroes play as much as he could. He even represented Nashville in the 2014 International Blues Challenge. “I moved there with the mindset of challenging myself in a new environment, seeing new places, meeting new people, getting pretty far away from where I grew up and stepping out of my comfort zone — just having music alone,” he says.
During his time in Nashville, Tedder says he tried to join a few bands and worked with several producers, but nothing ever felt right. “Not to talk down on any of those experiences, but I just wasn’t really fitting right in. Not that I care to fit in too much, but it didn’t feel right,” he says. “After awhile, I would be playing out on the streets at night to pay my bills, because it’s really hard to get shows out there. I learned a lot. Pretty much the whole Nashville experience, I felt like it was my college.”
After three years in Nashville, Tedder was ready for a change — and that’s when The Voice happened.
Generally speaking, every season of The Voice features a healthy selection of artists from Dallas-Fort Worth (there are five this season). Not too many people can say that Pharrell Williams gave them a standing ovation, though. For his blind audition, Tedder, a lifelong lover of the blues, took on Muddy Waters’ classic “Hoochie Coochie Man.” In response, Williams rose to his feet and exclaimed, “You just come from a completely different era; I think that’s so awesome that we have someone like you on this show.”
“The Voice show was just exposure, but on the level of, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m scared and I want to hide,’” Tedder says. “Just being presented on the level and being presented exactly how I wanted to be. I don’t want to be molded into anything and they didn’t do that at all. They let me be me. So, to be accepted on a network like that and play a 60-year-old blues song was great.”
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Following his exit from the show during the knockout, Tedder headed back to the DFW to spend time with his family. But he was also determined to lay down some tracks at Modern Electric Sound Recorders with producer and engineer Beau Bedford. “I felt like I hadn’t really met too much of my match in Nashville, as far as who to make a record with, and that’s another reason why I wanted to get down here to Modern and cut something like that and see where it would take me,” Tedder says.
So far, his journey has taken him to his debut EP with a slew of musicians, including some of the most respected players in the area. Among them is Quaker City Nighthawks drummer Matt Mabe, of whom Tedder has been a fan since he was 17. Tedder says California Mercy Me is a collection of songs that clearly exude his wide array of influences.
“I want to be completely honest about this. The first band that changed my life was AC/DC. And I think that’s a beautiful introduction to what I ended up getting into,” Tedder says. “What did Muddy Waters say? The blues had a baby and they called it rock 'n' roll.”
MATT TEDDER’s debut EP release show featuring Natural Anthem will be at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 8 at Three Links, 2407 Elm Street.