While studying in Boston at Berklee College of Music, Matt Cusson instinctively found his way to Harlem’s Apollo stage. And in the years to follow, as a three-time winner of the venue’s legendary Amateur Night, Cusson would eventually perform alongside some of the music industry’s greatest contemporary voices: Babyface, Christina Aguilera, and Norah Jones, to name a few.
In July 2009, Matt Cusson’s jazz composition, “One of Those Nights,” was announced as the 2008 Maxell Song of the Year. (In previous months, the song was unanimously heralded as the winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest within the “Jazz” category.) Quite fittingly, the grand prize was presented to Cusson by his long-time mentor, Brian McKnight.
Upon review of Matt Cusson’s self-titled debut, the accomplished singer and songwriter managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on his Berklee experience, the inspiration behind “One of Those Nights,” and the inevitable challenges that independent artists face.
At what point in your life did you realize that music was going to be a part of your destiny?
To be honest with you, I don't know if there was ever one point that I knew it's what I wanted to do. My mother always jokes that I kicked to the beat in her womb. It's really odd. I started playing piano – I must have been around 6 or 7. Started singing shortly after that. Played the drums for a couple of years when I was a kid. I wrote my first song when I was ten. It's really all I ever knew, and all I ever did.
And when I was fifteen, I sang in a church. And this lady — she must have been in her late eighties — came up to me after I sang with tears in her eyes, and she said, “You were meant to do this.” Maybe that was the point where I was like, “I always loved music.” I always knew what I wanted to do and I never knew how. But that moment kind of got me saying, “Man, if I have to sing in church every week, I'll sing here. If I have to play background for somebody, I'll do that.” And then it kind of grew from that.
Then I went to Berklee College of Music and things really took off there. I started meeting other musicians and it just kind of went from there. It's taken an upward hill since then, and hopefully I'm going to keep climbing.