Words and melodies strike like lightning from Matt Maeson.
He’s kinetic. His voice has its own wattage.
Maeson makes his Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion debut 9 p.m. Saturday on the 7th Street Stage. Fringed in pop sensibilities threaded with strands of rock, Maeson aligns well in the alternative world of music.
“I’ve always written songs, since I was 15, to try to understand my own life and myself better,” said Maeson, by phone last week from Hampton, Virginia. “Like, what if I made the right decisions? What if I made the wrong decisions? No matter what, somebody loves you.”
Hear Maeson’s juxtaposition of life in the balance on his new LP, “Bank on the Funeral.” Its 12 stylishly fashioned tracks depict a the search of light from a world of darkness.
“We all experience heartbreak, confusion,” Maeson said.
In a manner, Maeson’s album brims in the form of rock-fueled confessionals. These aren’t feel-good odes to snap one’s fingers to.
“Every song on that record is about something I’ve gone through in one way or another,” he said. “I get metaphorical, but every song is something I’ve gone through. Everything I talk about comes from a real place. I think that’s why my music does so well. It comes from a place of authenticity.”
Response to Maseon’s music on Spotify qualifies as astounding. He’s accumulated more than 100 million plays. More than 50 million of those were for “Cringe.”
Furthermore, until this week, “Cringe” had lodged four weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Alternative chart. In that feat, Maeson topped such superstar pop and rock acts on the chart as Lana Del Rey, The Black Keys and Jack White’s Raconteurs.
One result: Maeson sold out his first tour as a headliner, which culminated in May. In October, he begins another headlining jaunt, The Day You Departed Tour.
“Yeah, baby!” Maeson said. “It’s cool, so surreal. We grinded for 12 months on this record. When it finally paid off, it’s sick. It’s really rad. It’s definitely some validation, definitely some luck, too.”
Spy Maeson’s tattooed forearms. One says “Born a sinner” while the other states, “Die a martyr.”
A native of Virginia Beach, Maeson grew up in a family who led a prison ministry. His uncle was murdered by a convict.
As a teenager, Maeson descended into drug abuse and drug dealing. He floated in and out of jail as he sought some way out of the morass. “Cringe” addresses those darkened days and lost nights.
“She said I’m looking like a bad man now, smooth criminal,” Maeson sings on the song. “She said I don’t look like me no more, no more, I said I’m just tired, she said you’re just high.”
It’s a hit, but it’s also bone-hard truth.
“When you’re in it, you don’t see it’s so crazy,” Maeson said. “Even in the worst parts of it, there was a sense of I knew who I want to be. I knew I was going to hit rock bottom, but I’m going to get back up again.”
As part of the reclamation of his life, Maeson toured with his parents in their prison ministry. Evangelism through spoken words as well as music, the experience turned therapeutic for the singer-songwriter in his early 20s.
“It was amazing,” Maeson said. “I was in a very transitional period of my life. I was 22, 23, trying to figure my life out. You see these guys (in prison), they were so beat down. You go in there, there’s a light into a really dark place. That shocked me.”
On certain levels, that’s Maeson’s music. Lights into oft-darkened places — of life, of one’s heart, one’s soul, they resonate with a collective message of overcoming even what appears to be the most insurmountable of circumstances.
“I want to do this for the world,” Maeson said. “I want to do it, to make a mark with my music. I want to convey that I’m still here.”