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R&B/Soul singer Mateo has all the qualities that make for a lasting artist. Passion? Check. Mateo, who has been playing music since an early age, is determined to affect people with his songs. Spontaneity? He’s got it. The Morehouse College graduate left New York and a “cushy” job at a consulting firm behind when Philadelphia music producer Jay Staxx invited him to head to Los Angeles to work on rapper/actress Eve’s television show. Business Savvy? Mateo has that covered too. He knows that it’s important for artists to have a hand in every aspect of their career. “In this day and age, you can’t be the dumb artist; you’ll get stepped on,” he says. Most importantly, however, Mateo is talented. He uses his gentle vocals, which by the way, could easily turn him into your run-of-the-mill R&B singer, to deliver thoughtful lyrics in a stripped-down musical approach that values feeling over flair.

This element of his music is no accident. Mateo is on a mission. “R&B music has turned more into head-bop music; hip-hop beats over hip-hop loops. I want to bring R&B music back to where people actually have some type of emotion when they listen to my music,” the singer says.

Though Mateo says his musical influences include Lauryn Hill, India.Arie, Kanye West and Donnie Hathaway, listeners may compare him to John Legend or Alicia Keys at first, due to the integral role the piano plays in many of his melodies. “The writing process for me kind of varies but mostly it starts at the piano. If I get inspired by something I’ll jump on the piano and start playing chords,” the singer tells TRACE.

But Mateo’s musical familiarity doesn’t just stem from his instrumental skills; it runs in his blood. Mateo’s father, grandmother and grandfather were all musicians. “Ever since I was young, music was just a part of the family. My grandfather was a really, really big blues guitarist. My grandmother was actually a touring singer. When I was a really young kid, I started in classical piano lessons. It was inevitable that I would be in music,” he says.

Initially, however, Mateo did not decide to follow what he now deems to be his destiny. Instead, he pursued degrees in music and marketing from Morehouse College in Atlanta. He interned at American express, graduated and began the daily hustle and bustle of life in the working world. “I hated every minute of it,” he says. After realizing the financial world was not for him, Mateo decided to readjust his focus toward music. He started working on song ideas in a Brooklyn studio, met Jae Staxx and hopped on a plane to Los Angeles to work on “Eve.”

“It was one of those things that this was a chance, an opportunity. I didn’t want to be one of those people that had regrets of woulda, shoulda, coulda…” he says. Once in Los Angeles, a friend encouraged Mateo to perform live, something that terrified the singer. After his first live show, however, he was hooked. “That was when I got the fever. I was like, Man, this is good; this is fun!” With newfound confidence, Mateo posted his first song, “Human,” on his MySpace page. The one song garnered much attention, received over 200,000 plays and led to the demand for more shows. One of those shows led to a meeting with Quddus Philippe, an A&R consultant for MySpace Records, who helped get the singer signed to the label in June 2008.

Since then, Mateo has been preparing for the release of his debut studio album in early 2010. Our first taste, a single called “Complicated” is a beautifully crafted, simple yet passionate reflection on unintended love. The track can be heard on Mateo’s “Get to Know Me: Live at the Swing House” live performance album which was released in September 2009. He also released a cinematic mixtape, “Underneath the Sky,” as a prelude to his record. The 6-minute video offers a unique conceptual glimpse of what audiences can expect from the singer and features snippets of his songs as the soundtrack.

Mateo is definitely one to look out for in the coming months. With a humble sound and sincere voice, this newcomer offers a fresh approach to R&B. Currently you can check him out in a nearby city as he performs across the U.S. on his college tour.

Written by Shaira Brereton

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