Matt Palmer Talks 'Lemonade'-Inspired Visual EP & the Importance of Queer Representation in His Music
It’s hard to do what Beyoncé did with her seminal 2016 album Lemonade. Producing a video for every single song on an album, and having them flow into a streamlined story is a feat all its own, and one many artists would shy away from.
That’s what makes pop singer Matt Palmer’s new EP Get Lost even more impressive. The Los Angeles based singer-songwriter has released seven tracks and seven music videos over the course of the last two months. Each video builds on the story of a relationship, starting with its early stages and culminating in its collapse.
Palmer’s final video for his song “Comfortable,” premiering below, fits in a broader context outside of a relationship as well. The singer told Billboard that the song was about “the world and society telling you to hide this part of yourself if you want success, or to be, you know, the most mainstream, easy-to-swallow version of yourself. And you don’t have to do that!”
Palmer talked with Billboard about creating his own Lemonade-inspired visual album, depicting his queer identity through his music videos and more.
“Comfortable” is really powerful, and it's got a very strong message about being true to yourself. What inspired you to make the song?
Well, it was actually the first song that I made for the record. I had heard a song that I thought was really great about coming out, and I looked into it, and I found that the artist was not gay. And it was a great song, but it was like, "I feel like if you're going to be writing a song about the gay experience, or the idea of feeling outsided because of your queerness, it would be nice to hear that coming from a person who actually lived through it." So that was the basis for it. But once it morphed into the concept of the album, it kind of took on a different meaning a little bit, but I think in the large scheme of things, that was my idea.
I feel like we're getting to the point where people are understanding queer art. There's obviously Call Me By Your Name and Moonlight, and there are these conceptual pieces of queer art that are coming out. But I feel like there's still that knee-jerk reaction of putting that into the category of LGBT music, or LGBT film, or whatever. In truth, the themes of falling in love and being true to yourself, I feel, is not an exclusively gay experience. It's something that people can relate to from all walks of life. Especially for young gay people growing up, I think it's good to see that kind of art. Like, "Oh, maybe I'm not so alone," because it's easy to feel that way growing up. So I feel like it's important to be able to express your perspective, and hopefully reach people that otherwise wouldn't be able to relate or wouldn't be able to hear it if it weren't for your voice being heard.
You are strikingly open about your sexuality in these videos and depict queer love interests. Why was that important to you?
I kind of made a conscious choice a few years ago. I put out an EP called Stranger Than Fiction, where I didn't want to not use pronouns. I feel like there have been some artists where they end up being the narrator of their music video, and then it's just them watching the nice straight people falling in love [Laughs]. And I don't know, I feel like my music, when I write it, is personal. It's about my experiences. So I feel like the truest art and the best art that hits me the most is the stuff that's the most honest, and the most true to the artist themselves. It's not about having that lens of separation — maybe it's more palatable for certain audiences, but it doesn't always translate as strongly to me. So yeah, it was important to me. It's nice to see yourself on-screen every once in a while, and in the art that you're consuming, and not having to play guessing games as to what this is all about. It's all right there.
This video felt very minimalistic and paired-down. What was the overall vision you were trying to accomplish with this video?
I think the song itself is so much of its own story, though it kind of fits in this story of a relationship — how it builds up and breaks down. The message in the context on the EP is like, "Don't change yourself in a relationship, don't put yourself in that position." But this has a context of, in the macro sense, the world and society telling you to hide this part of yourself if you want success, or to be, you know, the most mainstream, easy-to-swallow version of yourself. And you don't have to do that! You can be completely yourself and have that work for you. So I think the importance of keeping this video minimal was to keep the focus on the lyrics. I feel like the lyrics and the performance of the song is really what makes it. I wouldn't want to distract from that. Like I said, at the core of it all, these are thoughts that floated in my head for however long, and I just wanted to make sure that people were focused on the lyrics and the message of the song more so than a flashy visual.
I love the idea of doing a different video for every song on the EP. What made you want to make all of these videos?
Well, I had done music videos in the past, and I feel like it's becoming a part of the way of releasing them. Obviously you know that having a video attached to a song just makes it pop. When you hear the song, you kind of imagine the video playing in your head. Of course when Lemonade, Beyoncé's visual LP came out … that's a moment I will never forget. It just cemented in my head so clearly what her point of view was, and the songs stand up on their own, which is great. But watching it all as a film play out makes it that much more impactful.
So I thought, you know, I've always been a part of my songs, and I want as many people to hear them and to connect to them as possible. I thought about having a visual album, and for each one of them to drive home the message, and maybe elevate my work a little bit as well. She obviously was a big inspiration on that.
Who would you say are your major musical inspirations?
Growing up, and even still now, Mariah Carey has always been my favorite. As a singer, and even as a songwriter and producer, I feel like I wouldn't be doing music if it weren't for her. I grew up with Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and Babyface. I love artists that write their own stuff but also write for other people. That always really spoke to me. Now, I really love Disclosure's stuff, I love MNEK a lot, Years & Years, I mean, there's just so much about them that I'm obsessed with. I feel like there are a lot of UK-based artists that I'm into right now, and this is the first album where I tried to do a more dance-influenced thing. Not on “Comfortable,” but on a lot of these songs. And that's kind of where I drew some of that inspiration from.
Was it because of those artists that you wanted to have that dance vibe?
I grew up loving that music as well. I remember getting the imported copy of the Daniel Bedingfield album in high school, and Kylie Minogue's Body Language. I feel like now, you don't really have to stick to one genre, like you did before the Spotify and playlist era. You can do stuff where you're mixing things together. My whole thought was that I wanted to really be able to sing on it, but it's like, just because you can dance to it doesn't really mean you can't sing on it, too and have those R&B influences. That was my idea going into this -- just trying something a little different.