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Kearney brings folk style, hip-hop rhythm to arts fest

Singer-songwriter Mat Kearney is one of two headlining musical acts at this weekend's Des Moines Arts Festival (the other is Eddie "Two Tickets to Paradise" Money). So in an interview with Kearney, it felt like the setting of the show was an opportunity to ask Kearney about art.

"I'm a lover of Basquiat, he's even made it into a song as a descriptive," Kearney said of graffiti-turned-abstract artist Jean Michael Basquiat during a phone interview. "In a song called 'She Got The Honey' I had a line 'purple boots and her Basquiat belt,' I don't even know what that means, but it sounded good.

"One of the things I love is doing is mashing up genres and putting things together that maybe don't belong together. I feel like he kind of did that in such a cerebral way that it felt very immediate, but today it still stands up."

Putting things together that maybe don't belong together describes Kearney's music to a T. He grew up listening to hip-hop acts like De La Soul and a Tribe Called Quest and a lot of hip-hop rhythm works its way into Kearney's music.

Despite the popularity of cross-genre collaboration, Kanye hasn't called Kearney yet about a team up.

"I used to really be bothered about am I either a singer-songwriter or a spoken wordy hip-hop guy," Kearney said. "I found the tension between the two is a spot I really enjoy being in. I feel like genre has almost died. Being defined by what kind of music you listen to has changed and now everybody is blending from everywhere. But when I started it was very 'What are you doing? You can't do that hip-hop stuff.'"

In February Kearney released his fifth album, "Just Kids," his first album in almost four years. He's got a lot of touring ahead of him in support of the album, but he's already thinking about what comes next and doesn't expect fans to have to wait as long for new music.

"I find it really exciting with where music is at. It's a brave new world or the wild, wild west," Kearney said. "I just feel more inspired than I ever have to create music that goes where it wants. That's what I get excited about. But I also just had a baby, so I'm burned out on changing diapers. I want get back into the studio soon."

Mat Kearney

When: 8:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Des Moines Arts Festival, Western Gateway Park, downtown

Cost: Free