Q&A: Singer-songwriter Matt Maltese uses acerbic lyricism to articulate heartbreak and apocalyptic fears

Matt Maltese, best known for “As the World Caves In,” talked with WSN about his lyrics, the possibility of venturing into film and TV soundtracking, and his new EP, “Quiet Recordings.”

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Stephanie Wong

Matt Maltese is a singer-songwriter that has recently released a new EP, “Quiet Recordings.” (Photo by Stephanie Wong)

Stephanie Wong, Staff Writer

If you’ve been on TikTok at all in recent years, chances are that you’ve come across Matt Maltese’s unexpectedly viral apocalyptic ballad “As the World Caves In.” Despite having been released in 2017, the song took off rapidly in mid-2020 and has now garnered over 200 million plays on Spotify.

Debuting as a sardonic, shaven-headed crooner on his first album “Bad Contestant” before shifting with the more melancholic, stripped-back “Krystal” two years later, Maltese’s style has clearly evolved over the years. One consistent throughline underlying his songwriting is witty and deftly crafted lyrics. His third and newest album, “Good Morning It’s Now Tomorrow,” is no different. Accompanied by the usual self-deprecating lines, the album also contains a new air of maturity and sincerity.

WSN sat down with Maltese to talk about his tour, whether or not he’d ever consider soundtracking a film or TV show, and which of his albums would win in a three-way brawl with each other.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.

WSN: How has your U.S. tour been so far? Have there been any highlights?

Matt Maltese: It’s been amazing, it kind of blew me away to see so many crowds know the songs and show up! It’s hard to pick highlights, but I loved Austin, Dallas, San Francisco — I always love going there — and the LA show was amazing. Lots of amazing shows, I don’t want to pick favorites.

WSN: Is this your second tour in the United States?

MM: It is, yeah! I toured here like three-and-a-bit years ago, and that was a solo tour — it was probably a fifth of the size, so it’s been a very different experience! It’s been an overwhelming amount of different experiences, really — even driving around rather than flying has been pretty amazing. I didn’t realize how big this country was. 

WSN: One thing that I think a lot of people can agree on is that your lyrics are a hallmark of your music. Are there any songs you’re particularly proud of lyrically?

MM: I think the ones that I’m fondest of change a lot of the time — I guess you sort of have these songs that you carry through the years as different life events, or even world events, can make them feel more relevant to you. I think a song like “Good Morning,” when I sing it, means as much to me as when I wrote it back then. And obviously, “As the World Caves In” has been getting more relevant by the year. I’d say it changes, as for what lyrically moves me, if it’s as much as it used to or gradually more over the years. 

WSN: You’ve covered “Little Person” from the “Synecdoche, New York” soundtrack, and I think a lot of people can agree that “As the World Caves In,” along with your other songs, have a certain cinematic quality to them — do you think that’s something you’d consider going into, like the realm of film soundtracking?

MM: Yeah, I’d love to! I don’t want to underestimate how big a task that is and how much it would have the potential to take me away from making albums or writing songs without a project in mind, like a film or TV show. I’ve been sent a few scripts and I’ve been thinking about it, but I’m definitely wary of being like, “Oh, I’ll write for a film!” and thinking the skills would transfer over exactly, which I know that they won’t. There’s probably a whole bunch of things that I’m unprepared for, but I think that’s also exciting! It’s something I’d love to do, and I feel like I’d learn a lot and be overwhelmed in a good way. So yes, I’d love to, is the short answer.

WSN: Are there any films or TV shows that you wished you could have soundtracked?

MM: There’s this amazing show called “Flowers,” which is still my favorite TV show ever. That kind of strange, dark, silly humor is my favorite — so anything with some dark humor I would love to write for. 

WSN: You know how people wish they could rewatch one of their favorite movies for the first time? Has there ever been a specific favorite moment in your career so far that you wish you could relive?

MM: I’d say all of my favorite shows that I’ve done — I think shows can be very hard sometimes to be present for, because there’s so much riding on them, and you can get overwhelmed by the event of it all. I think I’d love to relive some shows and just reassure myself that it’s all going to go well and just enjoy every second of it. I think I’m getting better at being more present with shows, but there’s often a feeling kind of like if you host a birthday party where you’re thinking, “I need everyone to be having a good time!” and you’re not able to have a good time yourself. So yeah, I think I’d like to relive some of the London shows because that’s a homecoming show for me — and also because they were great as well, I’d love to just relive them. 

WSN: OK, this next question is going to be a bit silly, but if each of your albums were somehow turned into a person and had to compete in head-to-head combat, who would win? And why?

MM: [laughs] I think the “Bad Contestant” person would have a bit of grit to them. But I also feel like “Good Morning It’s Now Tomorrow” — since it’s probably my most mature album, just because I was the oldest when I made it — I think they’d be quite the schemer. It’d be between them two. “Krystal” would crumble and fall. 

WSN: What if we threw in your EPs? 

MM: [laughs] Maybe “madhouse”! Maybe “madhouse” would have a shot as the underdog. 

WSN: Tell us about your new EP, “Quiet Recordings.”

MM: Oh, yeah! I have this song called “Smile in the Face of the Devil” which I’ve always wanted to release, and I’ve been waiting for a moment for it to have its own thing. There are also some other piano versions of songs from “Good Morning It’s Now Tomorrow” — I like this idea of making a kind of sleepy, soft EP, just for this time of year. Now that it’s spring, I guess that things are a little louder, but I think that especially in the last six months, it’s hard not to just sit and reflect on everything. I wanted something that was going to help do that.

WSN: A lot of aspiring young musicians read our publication — what advice would you give to them?

MM: I’d say make the music that you want to make, not what you think you should make. Social media is sort of the harsh reality of every musician’s life, and I think that doing it in a way that you feel is fun and not toxic — however that might be — is really important, because it’s not just about the songs, as much as we would like that to be the case. Doing things in a way where you can look back and not reflect on them and think that you were trying to play a game or that you were thinking about it too much, and just doing what feels like you. But that’s hard, because we’re all just trying to get comfortable in our skin.

Listen to Matt Maltese’s music on all streaming platforms.

Contact Stephanie Wong at [email protected]