Eli Mattson is best known as the runner-up on season three of America’s Got Talent (AGT). The following interview was done around September 2009 (before the interview that ran on here … for a magazine that never went to press). Seeing as it is so very hard to find an artist that does deserve to be praised for their talent as much as this one, I thought the readers of Maximum Ink might like to see this interview (a prequel of sorts). Eli is a Wisconsin native who has been performing as a pianist and vocalist since the age of fourteen. He has made several guest appearances in Las Vegas with AGT winner Terry Fator. He has four albums to date and talent to spare. He recently performed along with several other musicians in the Tim Janis Christmas Carol at Carnegie Hall.
Maximum Ink: Where are you from and when did you first take an interest in music and why? When did you take up the piano?
Eli Mattson: I was originally born in Duluth, MN, but my family moved around a lot. We came to Wisconsin when I was about ten, and I was in Door County off and on most of the time. I can’t really say why I took an interest in music. It just always made sense to me. I started playing the piano when I was five, and I fell in love with it. I can’t imagine it not being a part of me.
MI: Who are some of your biggest musical influences and why?
EM: Well, Elton John and Billy Joel of course, but I really love all music. I think it’s important to listen and learn everything you can from any artist out there, especially when you’re trying to be one. Some other names would be, Jimmy Newquist, Alice in Chains, Harry Chapin, just to name a few. Good music is good music!
MI: What made you decide to try out for America’s Got Talent? What was it like competing? How, if at all, did it change the way you perform? What did you learn from it?
EM: I found out about the auditions for AGT while I was at a movie rental store. Something in my head told me I had to try it. I never really considered it a competition. I was just surprised that I kept making it through each round. It’s a very strange thing to be voted on and going through elimination rounds and so on. I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had on the show. The show itself didn’t change the way I perform, but I’m thankful there are no buzzers every gig I’ve played since. I did learn a lot about TV and that side of the entertainment business. It’s a wild ride. The real ones doing the work are the producers and technical support.
MI: I think I heard on America’s Got Talent last season that you used to play for food? I do love people with humble beginnings … is that true? Can you tell me about before AGT?
EM: Oh yeah, I have played for food, tips, and couches. Starting out as an artist is always feast or famine, but I loved it. An important thing to know is that you never stop paying your dues … ever. Things are always interesting though. I once played a fire boat cruise. Trying to sing while seasick is not a good time.
MI: I noticed since the end of last season that you have had a lot of family support. What is it like to work with your family when trying to get your name out there in the industry?
EM: I imagine working with family is always a mixed blessing. It’s amazing to have family support, but sooner or later you have to step out and do it on your own.
MI: If you could work with anyone in the industry who’d that be?
EM: Billy Joel, I have so many questions for him.
MI: How has America’s Got Talent affected your career?
EM: AGT really opened a lot of doors for me, and the show got my name out there. I’m having a blast chatting online with people around the world. It’s really amazing. Also, it gave me some confidence that showed me this is what I’m supposed to be doing.
MI: Where can you fans go to find you earlier works?
EM: I have a CD that I recorded before AGT when I was younger. You can find it on www.cdbaby.com . So here’s a massive shout out to everyone and anyone who digs the music because people like me cannot do this gig without them.
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