He saved allowance to get his first guitar at Target. Now this local artist plays SXSW
Matthew Keller’s parents gifted him one of his first guitars when he was a kid. Last month they watched him perform on the big stage.
Keller, 23, goes by K. Williams as an artist. It’s a twist on his middle and last name.
Last month he performed at South by Southwest (SXSW), a week-long festival in Austin, Texas. Every year they bring in a variety of creators who showcase their work at downtown Austin venues. Keller “blends his hip hop influences into alternative and pop punk,” according to his description on the SXSW schedule online.
Keller wrote his first song as a sophomore in high school.
He showed interest in music from a very young age, his father, Mike Keller, told the Gateway.
“In elementary school Matt saved up his allowance and bought his first guitar from Target,” Mike Keller said.
A few years later, his parents upgraded Keller’s guitar and put him into music lessons in Gig Harbor.
During his senior year at Peninsula High School, Keller began thinking of a musical career. He went on to study music business at the Los Angeles College of Music.
Pablo Mathiason was one of his professors.
“In class Matt was super quiet and paid a lot of attention,” Mathiason told the Gateway. “As I got to know him more, we were always laughing and messing with each other.”
At the end of the course, Mathiason knew Keller was making his own music and asked to hear the one song he had out.
Shortly after he taught Keller, Mathiason became the general manager at The Noise Company, an independent music label based in Austin.
Mathiason was at the label for about two years before he reached out to Keller, hoping he’d sign onto the label and they’d reconnect.
“What he showed me wasn’t great, but I heard a lot of talent and potential in Matt as an artist,” Mathiason said. “I thought, if he just had some guidance, he could be great.”
Keller signed with The Noise Co. in 2022. Familiarity with Mathiason played into his decision, Keller said.
Mathiason connected Keller with a producer in California, Mike Green, to help Keller make another song.
“It was amazing to watch them work together,” Mathiason said. “You have to find the right person to work with. It’s like putting a couple together. Making music can be very intimate.”
They were the perfect fit, Mathiason said.
This was Keller’s first time recording in a professional studio.
The first song Keller and Green made together was “Delete me.” It’s become one of Keller’s most streamed songs.
Keller and Green have now made five songs together.
Keller records most of his music at home, he said.
“It’s just me, my computer, a microphone and a guitar,” Keller said. “It’s simple, but that’s why I like it.”
Being with a label helps distribute the songs and provide marketing opportunities a new artist might not have the resources for, Keller said.
Keller had only performed for a crowd once. In high school, he put on a small show for family and friends at Real Arts Tacoma.
“It was my first little taste of like, something, nothing too official,” Keller said.
The next time he was on stage was for his 20-minute set at SXSW.
Keller at SXSW
This year SXSW was March 10-19.
“They shut down a section of downtown,” Keller said. “Performers and creators fill downtown venues putting on different shows all week.”
The festival doesn’t just showcase music, but also tech, film, education, and culture, according to its website.
Keller performed Friday, March 17, at The Mohawk.
“It’s a beautiful venue and locals say it’s a flagship spot,” Keller said.
The Noise Co. got all eight of its artists spots at SXSW. The Austin connection helped make that possible, Mathiason said.
Walking onto stage Keller felt nauseous, nervous and excited all at once.
“I just really wanted to get up there and let people have a good time with me,” Keller said.
Keller had full creative control over his 20-minute set.
He chose a variety of his popular songs and some that might be streamed less but are his favorites to play, he said.
“Dead to Me” is Keller’s favorite to perform.
“It’s so fun and full of energy,” Keller said. “I love how it all flows together.”
“He came off like he’d been performing for the last 10 years,” Mathiason said. “The excitement, energy and confidence was all there. He won fans over that night.”
Keller’s family was in the crowd as well.
His father had never heard of SXSW before.
“I had to let my fingers do the work and Google what it was when Matt told me he’d be performing,” Mike Keller said.
The festival was bigger than he expected, Mike Keller said. He described the fans and atmosphere as vibrant.
“It was fun to watch him up there, doing what he loves with so much passion,” Mike Keller said.
In high school Keller experimented in the genre of rock.
“Flow-wise it didn’t seem like me,” Keller said.
Now he identifies with the alternative music genre.
“Alternative is kind of what you make it,” Keller said. “It definitely has rock and punk elements, especially at its roots. But alternative now is a wide variety of rock, pop punk, and hip hop all blended into each other.”
Keller said he looks up to artist Kid Cudi for his talent and also his openness to talk about mental health.
Keller wishes more artists addressed mental health and hopes his platform can reach anyone struggling.
“I’ve gotten a few messages from people saying that they love what I did and they put my song on when they’re having a bad day,” Keller said.
Mathiason said Keller is a wordsmith.
“He has such a great command of the language and how to use symbolic imagery with his lyrics,” Mathiason said.
Keller lives in Tacoma now and hopes to perform at local venues next.
Noise Co. hopes to get him booked in Tacoma, Seattle and Portland.