Kirk Matthews journey into music has been filled with highs and lows.
The native New Mexican is on a high right now with the release of his new EP, “Whiskey & The Devil.” It will be released on Saturday, Dec. 21, when he performs a show at Marble Brewery Heights Taproom.
“My evolution as a musician and performer has been vast,” Matthews says. “It was time to start over.”
Matthews is referring his recent name change.
After finding success in hip-hop music as Ceekay Jones, Matthews wanted a change. So he moved back to New Mexico to start anew.
But it wasn’t easy.
Due to the changing music industry landscape, streaming is the biggest way people consume music.
Algorithms have been developed to steer listeners in a certain direction, depending on their likes.
This leaves no room for being outside the “algorithm box.”
“I was doing hardcore underground music and hip-hop,” he says. “Then I had a meeting with Spotify, and I had two options. I was to overwhelm the algorithm or change my name. I don’t have a big enough fan base to do the first, so I had to change my name.”
Matthews says that on a personal side, the name change was something he considered for a long time.
“I was searching for my sound,” he says. “I’ve been involved in so many genres of music. It was me searching to find my identity sonically. This is my true sonic self.”
Matthews landed on Americana – something he’s calling Southwestern Americana.
“I grew up here,” he says of New Mexico. “For me, the Southwest is rooted very deep into who I am as a person.”
His new EP, “Whiskey & The Devil,” was inspired by the community of Taiban, in east-central New Mexico.
Taiban is best known for being the location where Sheriff Pat Garrett captured Billy the Kid and his associates in December 1880.
Matthews was looking for a location to shoot a video for the EP and fell in love with the push and pull of Taiban.
“There’s always been a battle between good and evil there,” he says. “I learned the history of the church there. It’s a really cool concept and inspired my writing.”
Matthews has identified with the project, and the writing shows it.
“I’m baring it all,” he says. “The writing is from an introspective standpoint. This is all coming from an internalized place. This has been the first time I’ve been 100% OK baring it, because before I wasn’t fully confident as an artist. I have none of those reservations anymore. That’s why I’m so invested in it.”