Hailing from Perth, Ontario, Matthew Runaway’s vocals ooze country rock – characterized by deep, powerful belting and bright, edgy twang.
Last week, the artist and Youtuber sat down with us on the Front Porch to discuss his latest release “Stay”, how he found passion in music, and fostering authentic connections with his fans.
Matthew Runaway’s Cover of “Stay”
I asked Matthew why he chose to cover “Stay” by The Kid LAROI and Justin Beiber, hoping selfishly, it’s because his last name is Runaway.
“Ha-Ha, no. Actually, it was really because of my YouTube channel, where I do reaction videos and did one for “Stay”. I remember when I first heard the song, something just clicked. I found myself later on, just kinda humming it more and more. It became a song that I was listening to all the time, which was odd for me because I’m not really into the pop scene.
“I started playing around with it vocal wise and felt like, with the belting voice I have, that I could really do something different with it. I didn’t want to cover another country song. I want to do something that was challenging where we had to really reinvent a song.”
Building a Youtube Channel
Over the last four years, Matthew’s built a following of over 80,000 subscribers on YouTube. I wondered how that project started and how it’s helped him grow as a musician.
“It was during the pandemic I saw everybody be like, ‘oh, I guess we’re just not doing music for a bit’ and there was no way I was going to do nothing. So one of my best friends, who has a massive YouTube channel, and I started chatting and we came up with the idea of me doing covers and reaction videos.
“I was pretty lucky. I made a ‘Country Singer Reacts to Eminem’s “Godzilla” featuring Juice World’ video. It was like my third video and it got almost a hundred thousand views on it which was just extremely lucky, honestly. The next few videos I put out all bombed until one day, the views just started going up and the subscribers grew from there, faster and faster. So consistency is key and that absolutely translates to how I feel about making music too.
“The one thing the YouTube channel has really helped me with is expanding the variety of music I listen to. I started liking things that I never thought I would before.”
Finding a Spark in Music
When I asked Matthew where his love for music began he shared:
“In grade 11, my mom took me to a Def Leppard concert. I remember, it was like a light bulb turned on in my head. They started playing the encore, ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me,’ and my brain exploded. I thought ‘I’m gonna do this whether it kills me’. The next day I bought a cheap acoustic guitar and just became obsessed with it.”
On the Writing Process
“How I usually start the writing process is just strumming an acoustic guitar and trying to find a melody. I kind of just spit out random things until a bit, three or four words, come together. Sometimes I may have a topic in mind I’m basing off of until something really clicks.
“If I’m really stuck, it’s nice to have co-writers. That really speeds the process up. When one person’s stumbling, usually one other person’s got something.
“I like to go into a writing session and start with having a conversation with everybody. You need to kind of just see what everyones feeling that day. Nothing’s worse than when, say, everybody’s in a really happy mood and you’re trying to write a slow break-up ballad. You’re probably not gonna write a great song when you’re not feeling it.”
Growing up in Perth, Ontario
I wondered how Matthew’s background, growing up in Perth, being raised on a farm, and living in a small town, affects his artistry today.
“I think I just grew up working hard, taking things at face value, you know, having trust in a handshake. I want that to come through in my music. I don’t wanna portray any fakeness. I’m not a massive rockstar and I don’t act like that. I want to keep honesty and the truth of who I am in my songs.
“In ‘Just Drive’, there’s a part in it where I sing ‘I had to call my dad’. I went into such detail with that where, originally, I said a name and it was, my uncle actually, when I was writing it, it was Herbie. My producer at the time though, he was like, ‘You can’t put that word in. That’s too hard to sing. It can’t be Herbie.’ So even though we changed the wording, there’s a real story in that song.”
Connecting with Fans
On his listeners, Matthew wants his fans to know he’s approachable.
“I wanna learn their stories just as much as they wanna learn mine. I think that’s one of the coolest things that we live for, you know, as artists, is meeting people and learning their story. And if you’re not willing to, I don’t know why you’re in this industry, right? Everybody’s got a cool story. Even if you don’t think it’s special, most people have something that they went through that’s been really cool or really hard and I love hearing about that stuff.
“So I want to meet you. That’s the biggest thing for me.”
Matthew agreed, having a YouTube channel is a great tool to foster this connection. As an extension of himself, he gets to show his viewers a different, though equally authentic, side of himself through his reaction videos and open a new line of communication and connection.
His Dream Venue
“Red Rocks Amphitheatre – It’s probably the coolest place I’ve ever seen. Just imagine playing out in the middle of a desert basically to 50,000 people.”
The Music and Artists Matthew Loves
On a song that everyone needs to hear Matthew said…
“I’m gonna say ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ and you can pick any version – Bob Dylan or Guns N Roses. The reason I say that song is I think it’s a very raw, honest, and simple song, and it proves to the world that you don’t need a crazy elaborate rhyme scheme with a wild hook in a song to make it great. It’s been covered by so many people for a reason, and I guarantee you, if you go into any dive bar, somebody’s gonna play that song.”
Of a Canadian country artist he’d love to record or write a duet with Matthew said…
“This always changes, but lately, just because it’s happening right now in Canada, Shania Twain, How do you not pick Shania? If you had asked me a couple weeks before, I’d probably say, Jade Eagleson. I’ve always loved Jade’s work.”
Wondering what song Matthew wishes he had written?
“It’s gotta be ‘Living On A Prayer’ by Bon Jovi. It’s a song I’ve always loved because it was something I found pretty early on in my life. And then as I started learning more about music, I was able to appreciate how pretty crazy that song is. There’s a great key change at the end of it and you don’t see that much nowadays. It’s just a great song – it’s timeless.”
Stream Matthew’s Music
Any man of mine knows I’m a lover of anything involving music, writing, and beer.