Rising star Matt Stell had no idea he would end up in country music. The Arkansas native grew up in a musical family, but didn't realize until he moved away how important music was to him.
"I have a part of my family that's very musical, and then I've just kind of always thought that I just liked music like everybody else," Stell said in a video shared exclusively with PopCulture.com. "It turns out I have a passion for it and I just love it, and so I think definitely having music in the house growing up was a big part of that."
Stell not only grew up surrounded by music, but he was surrounded by some of his own musical heroes, even though he wouldn't have necessarily called them that back then.
"Country radio was always a big part of what I was listening to, and classic country radio as well," Stell said. "I just ate it up. My grandpa was really big into classic country and Johnny Cash and Ernest Tubb and Patsy Cline and things like that, so I come by that stuff pretty honest. And of course whatever was on the radio at the time. My mom loved everything from Thriller, Michael Jackson to Alison Krauss, Hootie and the Blowfish as well. And I feel into that '90s rock music pretty easily as well. Alannis Morissette, Oasis. I loved all that stuff."
Stell left home to attend Drury University in Missouri, where the 6'7" student played basketball and got a degree in Philosophy and Religion. He also began playing guitar in college, after his mother brought him an instrument he had received as a child, but didn't hold his interest at the time. Stell began writing songs and sending them to Nashville, but after a medical missions trip to Haiti, he switched gears and pursued medicine, applying – and getting accepted – to Harvard Medical School, around the same time things started happening for him in Nashville as well
"I got in and I had a decision to make," Stell recounted. "Really about six to eight weeks before I was about to leave town, and head up to Cambridge to go to school, I got my publishing deal offer and signed it, and I had a decision to make. I chose music, because I felt like I'd be quitting if I didn't follow through with the opportunity that I was given. My life was definitely at a crossroads at that time."
While it's unclear how Stell's life would have turned out if he pursued medicine, his music career is going well. His debut single, "Prayed For You," from his just-released freshman EP, Everywhere But On, is currently at No. 22 on the charts, and climbing. Stell was also invited to join Chris Young on the fall leg of Young's Raised on Country Tour. Find dates by visiting Stell's website.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Monarch Publicity/Matthew Berinato