Matthew Koma is one of the music industry’s most sought-after songwriters and producers, having written for such pop artists as Kelly Clarkson, Brooke Candy, Tinashe, Hillary Duff, and Shania Twain (he also remixed his idol Bruce Springsteen’s song “Rocky Ground,” which The Boss chose as his radio/video single). The Seaford, Long Island-raised Koma — who was playing in a punk band with his older brother at 14, and grew up enamored with classic storytellers like Springsteen, Elvis Costello, and Tom Petty — is also known for bringing an emotional, singer-songwriter heart to chart-topping hits for some of the dance world’s biggest artists, including Zedd (“Spectrum,” the No. 1, Grammy Award-winning single “Clarity,” “Find You”), Tiësto (platinum-selling No. 1 dance single “Wasted”), Alesso (“Years”), Hardwell (“Dare You”), and Showtek (“Cannonball (Earthquake).” He has also been featured on and co-written songs with Giorgio Moroder, Steve Aoki, Afrojack, Sebastian Ingrosso, Flux Pavilion, RAC, Fedde Le Grande, Audien, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, scoring eight Beatport No. 1’s, and four Billboard Top 10’s along the way, and leading Entertainment Tonight to dub him “The Man with EDM’s Golden Touch.”
“It was a very unique time period to be a singer/songwriter who wrote singer/songwriter songs,” Koma says of the past two years when he became EDM’s go-to guy and played solo DJ sets at the world’s largest festivals including Coachella, Ultra Music Festival, and EDC Las Vegas. “I still hear ‘Clarity’ sometimes and think ‘Those are complicated words to have been embraced by such a universal audience.’ I was able to be a writer who pulled from the heart, someone who listened to Springsteen and Costello, and wrote about emotions that felt spiritual, and then paired them with a genre that hadn’t necessarily focused on words or storytelling.”
Koma draws from both worlds on his debut EP for RCA Records, Eros Ludus — a four-song set that pairs his well-crafted, emotionally resonant pop songwriting with cutting-edge electronic production by such up-and-coming dance world innovators as Louis The Child, Grey, Jai Wolf, and Flux Pavilion. “This is the first window I’ve had to make a body of work that’s cohesive and not serving other people’s intent,” says Koma, who adds that he stepped away from collaborating with other artists over the last year to focus on finding his voice as a solo artist. “It’s been a definite shift to ask myself, ‘Okay, who am I and how are these songs unique to me. I had to get into that selfish mode of digging. It was the only way the songs would be different from any of the things that I had been a part of.”
Koma telegraphs the intimate results with the EP’s title, Eros Ludus. “Eros and Ludus are two types of love,” he explains. “Eros is erotic, committed, and passionate, and Ludus is the opposite – it’s Latin for game. It’s the person who is incapable of being able to attach or commit. So when Eros and Ludus are paired together, it creates mania, which speaks to a lot of the lyrical content on the record. I’ve always been in relationships where I’m battling it being romantic and also completely unstable. One without the other doesn’t seem to work for me. So the title speaks to the narrative of the songs, which are about love, but also about relationships with yourself, with your success, and with your humility.”
Koma’s candor, wit, and willingness to reveal his vulnerabilities are evident right from the start with the Louis The Child-produced track “Hard to Love.” The lyrics deftly capture the duality in Koma’s life where he has found massive success but still suffers from crippling fear. “I’m OCD with panic attacks / I’ve got a thing for Japanese dry snacks / My voice was on like every fuckin’ house track / Tell me when you’ve heard enough….” he sings in the first verse. “That song is truly autobiographical,” Koma says. “Making this record and searching for truth, it was like, ‘I just have to tell my story.’ My studio is called Dry Snack Sound because I eat dry snacks all day, I have a history of terrible panic attacks, and my voice was on every house song. It’s my story to a T.”
“Kisses Back,” produced by Flux Pavilion, is a “face-value infidelity anthem,” Koma says. “It’s about that vulnerability and regret when you find out there was dishonesty in a relationship and how something so intimate could be ruined upon finding out more information: How kisses shared could feel different in retrospect after finding out somebody was unfaithful.” “Easy,” produced by L.A.-based production duo Grey, finds Koma obsessing about an ex-girlfriend with lyrics like “Every song I write has a line / Desperate to just be heard by you.” “It’s a song about that moment of putting on a tough face when really it could be the hardest thing on Earth, just growing out of somebody,” he says.
Finally there’s the Jai Wolf-produced “Dear Ana,” which Koma describes as the most personal song he’s ever written, detailing as it does, his experience with anxiety and restrictive eating disorders that led to major health issues. “I never really confronted it because it was easier just to plow ahead, drink coffee, stay busy, and drive myself into the ground,” he says. “But It got to the point where my body was telling me, ‘If you don’t get your shit together, there’s not going to be shit to get together.’ So I wrote it as kind of a love song to the disorder. ‘I can’t live without you, but it’s killing me to keep you alive.’ It was really therapeutic but also borne out of fear because I was at the very beginning of facing that demon. And it felt so freeing to be honest and talk about something that real. Millions of people go through things like this and don’t know how to voice it.”
For Koma, Eros Ludus feels like “the beginning of my story,” he says. “I’ve created a body of work that I feel is a fair introduction to what I do. I feel like people are going to get an accurate snapshot of who I am and how I tell stories from an honest place. Because this was me, in my bedroom in Woodland Hills, writing every song. “Well, actually, to be fair,” he says with a laugh, “at my coffee shop in Woodland Hills, writing every song. Every day.”