Mat Kearney takes Lauderdale Live audience on successful first date

Holding a music festival during South Florida’s busiest cultural weekend doesn’t sound like the brightest idea. But for those who attended Lauderdale Live instead of Art Basel from Friday through Sunday, it was a rare opportunity to have an intimate experience with the musicians (by default of having such a small crowd in attendance).

Mat Kearney, the “Ships in the Night” singer who got his start in 2006 with the album “Nothing Left to Lose,” performed in Downtown Fort Lauderdale’s Huizenga Plaza Saturday night, and took advantage of this atmosphere.

During his set, Kearney adopted an anything-goes approach, which made for a memorable experience.

“Tonight was unique,” he told The Miami Hurricane.

Kearney broke typical concert rules when he asked the crowd to shout out their requests and performed a song that his band didn’t even know how to back: “City of Black & White,” the title track off his third album that he rarely plays for an audience.

“With a music festival like this, it’s not like a small venue where everyone comes for you. It’s kind of like a first date,” Kearney said. “The challenge is to win them over. You’re hoping to at least get a kiss at the end of the night.”

As if this weren’t enough, Kearney again strayed from the beaten path during one of his songs, free-styling comical yet impressively smooth lyrics about the crowd in front of him. And finally, he jumped off the stage and into the small crowd to interact with every person there – all while holding a note.

Although it may have seemed to the audience like this spontaneity is the norm for Kearney – a man who decided to quit college in California and follow a friend to Nashville to pursue his music career – he says he can be quite analytical.

“I come from a family of lawyers,” Kearney explained.

The good news for great fans: This methodical musician is now working on his next album. It’s been in the works for about a year, but Kearney only recently hit the studio.

“I officially started recording a couple of weeks ago in L.A. So I have a ton, almost 50 songs, but I’m narrowing it down and starting to finish the record,” he said.

Much like those off his last album, “Young Love,” Kearney says the songs will be beat-driven with a hip-hop sound.

“‘Ships in the Night’ was the leading point into this new album,” Kearney said, moving his hands as if he were steering a ship in a new direction.

And the multitalented man hasn’t limited his focus to music-making. Kearney recently released a Napa Valley red wine called Verse and Chorus, which is now being sold at Whole Foods. For more information, visit