He invents quirky solo projects, wrote a song for the Shrek soundtrack, plays with artists like Beck and Beyoncé, creates the music for the bi-cultural animated Nickelodeon show Ni Hao, Kai-Lan and records and produces with Jeff Turzo under the moniker of Wired All Wrong. He’s Matt Mahaffey, a Tennessee-bred, Los Angeles-based auteur whose span of sonic endeavors is both baffling and brilliant.
Indie zealots first became aware of him through four albums from his alter ego, sElf, in the Nineties. “I was in Nashville, the center of songwriting, and I prided myself on my material being the exact opposite of that,” he says. “I’ve now been in L.A. for ten years. I’ve embraced writing with other people to craft a great song rather than just getting pissed off and revolting against it.” Mahaffey is currently collaborating with a young band he is producing, The Cursive Memory, plus a shifting cast of co-writers that includes Tom Higgenson from Plain White T’s, Motown artist Tina Parol, Scott Cutler, Anne Previn, and Uncle Kracker.
Matt, with his late brother Mike, created a melody that virtually everybody knows: the ubiquitous series of notes that identifies “Expedia.com.” As he explains, “A two second mnemonic that paid the bills for quite awhile.”
YouTube viewers can witness Mahaffey performing AC/DC’s “Back in Black” wherein he sings, slams a snare with one hand, and pulls pulverizing power chords from an Omnichord with the other. It inspired British reps from the car company that manufactures the Mini to invite him to perform the song at their London convention; yet another color in the serendipitous kaleidoscope that is Mahaffey’s career. “I have to keep afloat,” he confirms. “I might be in the studio with a band for 10 hours, then come home and write ‘Happy Chinese New Year’ for five-year-old kids.”