In 2020, MNERVA hit the music scene with one goal, to turn the conventional wisdom of hip hop on its head. With his witty lyrics, sharp punchlines, and quirky production, MNERVA has forged his own lane in Hip Hop by fusing his rock, trap, and musical theatre influences into a cohesive sound.
Originally hailing from Germantown, Maryland, MNERVA moved to Nashville in 2015 to hone his craft and became a part of the Nashville music scene by playing drums for various pop artists. He also improved his artistry bywriting a jukebox musical based on the catalogue of one his biggest influences, Twenty One Pilots, and released a trailer of the show to viral success. Despite facing numerous obstacles, MNERVA released five successful singles during 2020 and is currentlyfinishing up his debut EP, “Talk Too Much.” He can’t wait to share his story through these new songs and finally cement his sound as an artist.
Getting to know MNERVA
If you could be a superhero, what would your superpower be and your superhero name?
If I could be a superhero, I’d have the ability to teleport and be named “Gateway.” I am not very patient and not needing to commute anywhere because of my ability would be game changing. But much more importantly, there are so many places across the world that I want to see and to be able to travel anywhere in an instant would be a dream.
Which fictional character do you wish was real?
Growing up, How I Met Your Mother was always my favorite show so I definitely wish that Ted Mosby was real so I could thank him for the life lessons he taught me and his role in shaping my perception of friendships and relationships. But, on the flip side, I’d also love to yell at him in person for his choices in the finale. It’s been seven years and I still haven’t fully recovered from that betrayal!
What makes you nostalgic?
I have a partially photographic memory so visiting old places makes me very nostalgic because I’ll literally see flashbacks of the past playing in the present in my head. That and hearing old songs has a magical way of transporting me back to a specific year when the track came out. For example, when I hear “The Search” by NF or Billie Eilish’s record, I immediately feel like I’m living in New York City and walking through downtown Brooklyn again.
Which are cooler? Dinosaurs or Dragons?
I’m so glad you asked this question! When I was a little kid, I wanted nothing more than to be a paleontologist so my answer is wholeheartedly Dinosaurs. To this day, there are few things more hype than a rampaging T-Rex and the fact that these creatures used to exist in real life amazes me. There’s also so much variety to the species and, for all we know about them, there are still so many mysteries left to uncover about what they were like and what happened to them.
What first got you into music?
I’m a second-generation musician so music has been a huge part of my life ever since I was a little kid. My dad used to be a professional drummer and I got started on the kit when I was five years old. Eventually, I joined my first rock band when I was thirteen and immediately fell in love with songwriting and performing. When I started college in Nashville, my freshman roommate encouraged me to start rapping and, before I knew it, I became obsessed with the craft. That was when I knew I wanted to be an artist.
How would you describe the music that you typically create?
Although I mainly rap, I’m truly an alternative artist at heart and love fusing my rock, theater, and hip-hop influences into something unique. I’ve been told I’m what would happen if Lin Manuel Miranda joined Linkin Park. On my past releases, I’ve focused on fusing ambient shoe-gaze guitars with trap beats but the next round of music is about to be a lot more rock and I couldn’t be more excited about it!
What does your music say about you?
Lyrically, my music has always been very honest and my peers say my songwriting “superpower” is saying the relatable thing that everyone is thinking but afraid to voice. I have always been an open book and my lyrics reflect that I am no longer afraid to put my true, unfiltered self out there. Musically, my songs are very high energy which also connects back to my personality and performance style. I’ve always had a lot of energy and I don’t tend to slow down. For example, I literally watch YouTube videos on 1.5 speed. Creating bombastic, intense songs is extremely gratifying and is authentic to who I am. I am beyond excited to finally play everything live one day where a crowd and I can feed off of each other’s energy.
Would you like to collaborate with anyone? If so who and why?
My absolute dream collaboration would be with Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park. They’re the first band I ever truly fell in love with and I frequently refer back to all of their records as a blueprint for how to genre bend in new and innovative ways. As a rapper, Mike is RIDICULOUSLY underrated and his production is just as incredible so I think we could make a stellar track. I know they say don’t meet your heroes but working with Mike would be a dream come true for me.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
I go on a lot of walks to inspire creativity. I find fresh air and movement get the brain flowing and I usually overcome my blocks within fifteen minutes with that routine. But if that doesn’t work, I usually get away from the project entirely for at least an hour. I used to bang my head against the wall for hours to get through blocks but now I know that creativity comes in spurts and it’s okay to not always be “on.”
Maryland bred musician MNERVA is ready to see change surrounding the stigma of mental health, starting with the release of his new single “Stuck.
The song is the first of many musical projects for MNERVA in 2021, including his upcoming debut EP later this year.
The writing process for “Stuck” soon became an outlet for MNERVA’s frustrations while in an all time creative low during the quarantine created by the CoronaVirus pandemic. Samples of news reports start the song followed by the melodic beats and emotional lyrics that mirror the dejected feelings many experienced during this time.
MNERVA opens up about his personal mental health struggles revealing he began quarantine by moving home but kept in high spirits before ultimately hitting a creative slump.
Realizing his mental health was taking a toll, MNERVA took solace in the familiar act of creating. “Writing this song was actually my first step to escaping the negative feedback loop and I started therapy soon afterward to finally get my life back on track. I really hope that people can relate to this song and I want them to know that there’s no shame in feeling trapped. What matters is how you take steps to keep pushing forward.”
MNERVA, also known as Matt Wagner, burst on the music scene in early 2020 with a bit of controversy surrounding his viral trailer for a musical based on the catalog of the band twenty one pilots. The project was soon defunct after receiving a cease and desist letter, however, this did not discourage MNERVA from continuing to create and perform. A drummer from a young age, he worked as a hired gun before releasing a handful of singles throughout 2020.
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