Designer by day and rock and soul belter by night, Mattiel Brown has got life in the palm of her hand. An only child, she grew up on a five-acre farm in rural Brooke, Georgia. Besides riding horses western style, she spent her childhood sharpening her powerful voice to her mother’s 60’s folk and pop record collection, which included Donovan, Peter Paul and Mary, and Joan Baez. As a young adult she relocated to neighbouring Atlanta to pursue a career as an ad designer and illustrator. There, she expanded her musical palate. Long drives to her job at Mailchimp saw her wailing full throttle to all kinds of new (and old) music, from Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Jack White to Andre 3000. Before long, the desire was there to create music of her own.
Totally confident in her ability to command, Mattiel wields her voice like a weapon, glaring into the crowd with wild eyes as she unleashes rabid, room-silencing howls that threaten to crash the mixing desk.
Mattiel swiftly manoeuvred herself into a position whereby she was jamming with the two founders of InCrowd, an Atlanta-based song-writing and production team. Randy Michael (once session guitarist for Bowie) and Jonah Swilley (talented producer and younger brother of Black Lips bassist Jared) immediately sensed chemistry. “She blew me away! She sounded like ’60s-era Cher doing Dylan”, Michael has since said. At the time, the pair were making music under the name Black Linen, a southern soul/rock project whose raucous, brass-frilled tunes sounded like soundtracks for imaginary Tarantino films. This was a perfect match for Mattiel’s hugely characterful vocals, and on top of Black Linen’s instrumental compositions, the young singer began composing melodies and lyrical content.
Recorded live and fed through a rare analogue Peavey soundboard, these alchemic jam sessions produced not only an EP, but a full-blown album. With Mattiel positioned as both the face and the name of the group, their eponymous debut album landed in 2018. Its gun-slinging opener, ‘Whites of Their Eyes’ is one hell of a first statement, pairing Mattiel’s dynamite swagger with duelling guitars in a delicious blend of retro rock and soul. ‘Send It On Over’ follows suit, seducing with hazy organs and the brooding refrain: ‘You think nobody knows, but they know’. Earworm lead single ‘Count Your Blessings’, meanwhile, could come straight out of Jackie Brown. Packed with cowboy guitars, dramatic brass and euphoric girl-group vocals, it showcases the soulful extent of Mattiel’s XXL voice and rip roaring energy.
This energy steps up three gears when taken to the stage. There, Mattiel’s voice becomes a revelation. Totally confident in her ability to command, she wields her voice like a weapon, glaring into the crowd with wild eyes as she unleashes rabid, room-silencing howls that threaten to crash the mixing desk. When she plays at Manchester’s Gorilla, there will be the added excitement of a fresh new album for Mattiel to stalk her way through. From the two tunes we’ve heard so far – ‘Keep the Change’ and ‘Je Ne Me Connais Pas’ – it’s going to be an even more captivating record than Mattiel’s debut. With that in mind, we’ve the feeling that the world is going to cottoning on to Atlanta’s best kept secret in a pretty big way soon. Whilst the opportunity is still there to catch Mattiel in a pretty tiny, and also pretty great, venue, don’t miss it!