Exclusive: Matt Sassano Holds Nothing Back While Encouraging Others ‘In Defiance’

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Chart-topping Christian rock radio vocalist Matt Sassano is slated to release his electrifying new EP, In Defiance, via Rockfest Records tomorrow (August 26). Featuring deeply honest, urgent singles “Not My Name” and “Dear God,” Sassano combines his powerhouse vocals, heavy rock melodies and EDM undertones with his faith and unique life story to deliver a love letter to misfits everywhere across five tracks. Sassano holds nothing back as he tackles topics including life with a disability, addiction, mental health, and struggles with loved ones with the hope of resonating with fellow rock fans who seek strength and solace in his lyrics. In this TCB Exclusive, Matt reflects on his initial vision for the EP and how that evolved over time, he talks about the decision to address such deeply personal issues on the collection and he talks about how he hopes listeners are impacted by the new music.

Can you share a little about the timeline for the conception of In Defiance and how the project has evolved since your first vision?
I’m super excited for the “In Defiance” release. It’s crazy how the project has changed since I first cast the vision to Josiah Prince from “The Ranch” studio. I had an original vision and as time went on new realizations about what was needed in the project kept coming up.

When I first brought the idea of an EP to Josiah, “Not My Name” had not even been written. I had another song in mind. It was a good song but it was about a breakup I went through. As time went on, I really felt like something was missing. I had this nagging sense that kept coming up. My thoughts were “You never have talked about the most central thing in your life. Living with disabilities. Write a song about it.” Before this, I had been insecure about even talking about my disabilities.

My first question was “How? How do I take a song about something like disability and make it universal so that the general public might like it?”  There really was no example to follow from other artists with a topic like that. It took some thought, but I quickly emailed Josiah and said “I really want to write a song for people like me with disabilities.” I came into the studio with the verses and bridge for that song complete. While in the studio, conversations with Josiah quickly led to the concept of “Not My Name.” I’m happy to say not only did we reach our goal, but it went #1 on the Christian rock charts which is amazing.

Another idea was to do a cover of Linkin Park’s “In the End.” I love that band, and I was going to do a tribute track with my own twist! I still might do something like that one day, but for this EP I thought it was more important to tell my story. At the last minute, the idea of the song “Sorry Is a Dirty Word” came to me. I know there are a lot of people that may struggle with getting closure with someone they’ve been hurt by. I was having a conversation about that theme with my girlfriend who also happens to sing for her own music project. Her and I had some meaningful conversations about people who have hurt us in the past and how we struggled to cope with it sometimes. That’s when I was happy to bring her in and do that feature for the song unexpectedly. It timed out better than I could have even hoped.

I’m also stoked that another last-minute but amazing idea was to have Josiah Prince featured on vocals for the title track “In Defiance.” (Which was originally named “Break the Silence”). I love the band “Disciple” obviously. Josiah’s vocal work on their song “Cuff the Criminal” led me to ask Josiah what it would take to have him feature on “In Defiance.” To my surprise, he quickly agreed, and it was a done deal.  I couldn’t have been happier with how it turned out. It was a surreal moment. Disciple was a huge part of why I love music so much. I tried to play it cool but deep down was flipping out when Josiah told me he’d sing on that track!

There have been tons of changes to my original concept, but all have really been needed changes! It makes me super excited to be getting the feedback I’m getting as each song is released. We seemed to have made some great choices. People are really connecting with these songs so far.

I’m also curious how you decided on the title and cover art for the EP?
At first, I had no idea that the name of the EP was staring me right in the face the whole time. I was throwing ideas out there, but none really stuck or had the right “ring”.

One day I was discussing it on a text thread with the Rockfest Records team. Joseph Rojas just threw it out there “What about ‘In Defiance?’” I was like “why didn’t I think of that? Come on Matt!” Haha

To me, “In Defiance” means so many different things. First, there’s me. I do my best every day to stand in defiance to my own limitations and disabilities. Some people are facing a spiritual battle or mental health issue of some kind. Others are having to stand face to face with addiction and say “No” every day as they attempt to get clean. I hope “In Defiance” is a reminder to music fans to stand against anything that brings them down, tells them they are not enough, or makes them feel alone or fearful in this chaotic world.

The album art just made sense. There’s this normal, everyday person standing face to face with what looks to be some sort of unmovable storm. The storm has these big red eyes and almost takes on living characteristics. The face-off is about to begin between the 2 characters in the artwork.

I think the album cover is great. Thank you to our friend Jared Ward for lending his talent in creating amazing, eye catching and meaningful artwork to this project!

“Not My Name” is a single from the EP, which has seen some great charting success as your first career top 10 single! How does this single preview the full EP?
Thank You! I think in a way, “Not My Name” previews the EP well. It not only sets the tone for the sound of the body of work musically but also the vulnerability of the EP lyrically.  It wasn’t easy for me for the longest time to even want to talk about my struggle with Cerebral Palsy and Dyscalculia. It’s second nature now, but for the longest time I would run away from these kinds of conversations. “Not My Name” was my way of coming out with the most vulnerable topic in my life. That set the tone for the rest of the EP. We are also talking about everything from my past with physical and emotional abuse, my struggle with porn addiction and many other topics that aren’t particularly easy to talk about. It’s needed though.

How do you hope this project will impact others?
I hope it will open a conversation about things that impact listeners most. Music is a powerful thing. I hope by hearing these songs, people will be empowered to stand up for what they believe in. I hope they will be encouraged to seek help in confronting their personal demons or vices head-on. I hope by hearing these songs they will be inspired to be more transparent about whatever they are struggling with.

Which track was the last one added to the EP tracklist and when did you know it was the right fit for this project?
”Sorry Is a Dirty Word” was the last track we added to the EP. I think I dove into some of the history of that track early in this interview but I’m so glad we did that song. I got the chance to debut some of these tracks while on tour with Seventh Day Slumber. It’s such a rewarding feeling to have people come up to me after a show and say, “That song told my story and impacted me in a big way!”  The power of a meaningful and relatable song can speak to people in a way that nothing else can in my opinion. I’m so glad that songs like “Sorry” and “Not My Name” were added to the tracklist.

Are you looking to complement the recorded project with any visual components?
I know we are getting ready to release a music video for our song “Dear God” which I’m super excited about.  It may be released by the time this interview comes out. I hope everyone will go and check it out! I’ve done music videos before in previous band projects but none like this that really tell my story and that I felt so invested in. Shout out to Joel Burris, Jake Jones and AJ Lavoie for helping bring that vision to life in such a captivating way.

What are you most expectant for in the remainder of 2022?
I’ve had a blast going on 3 tours with Seventh Day Slumber. Being with them has certainly taught me so much about the road and what it’s like to be out there every night baring your soul on stage. Joseph and the rest of the Rockfest team have really taken me under their wing and I know it’s their desire to see me fly. With that said, I’ve been investing in sound and lighting and am getting ready to do some headlining tours up north. My kickoff tour in September will be called the “More Than Conquerors” tour! I’m getting excited to hit different spots in upstate New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and more. I hope to see people really impacted by these shows.

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