Locally Grown: Mato Jacob Standing Soldier
Interviews with South Dakotans finding success outside their college major by Kyle Hallberg.
Mato Jacob Standing Soldier, stage name: Mato Wayuhi, is taking his motivation, culture and heart and taking the Sioux Falls music scene by storm. A recent graduate from Lincoln High School, Standing Solider started his music career with a makeshift studio, and an even more rudimentary sense of hip hop. Now doing shows at Icon with some of the MidWest’s most popular musical acts, Standing Solider is here to talk about where academics play a part in his journey to the top.
How did you get into music?
Mato Jacob Standing Soldier: Since I’ve been young, I’ve always been searching for creative outlets – whether that be poetry, storytelling or movie making. I got introduced to music my sophomore year of high school, and it just seemed limitless. I love it so much because it’s a way to take any excess energy you have to turn it into something positive.
Well, when we went to your show, we really saw how your music affected other people. Was your first show like that, too?
M: Well my first show was at The Taste of The Big Apple during an open mic. My friends and I all performed our new song “No Bad Days.” I tweeted it, thinking no one would actually listen, and almost forty people showed up… it was such a wild experience. From there, the shows just escalated.
So take me back to the beginning…
M: I started with writing raps. My friend and I would sit in my house and rap. Our first setup was a microphone with a hanger that we morphed into a circle, and then put a sock over it as a pop guard. I needed it, no matter what. A lot of my idols were already succeeding by the time they were sixteen. So I felt this intrinsic pressure to be there too.
Who are your top idols?
M: It’s a tie between Freddie Mercury and Tyler The Creator. They both crossed the boundaries of so many things, while still remaining extremely humble.
As a recent high school graduate, what’s next? More music, or more school?
M: I’m going to The University of Southern California. I’m going in as undecided – but I applied to the Lovine and Young Academy, and after I didn’t get in, I didn’t know if I could handle any more rejection. But, after a pep talk from my mom, I ended up getting that extremely excessive envelope of acceptance to USC.
California is pretty different than South Dakota. Are you worried about keeping your music what it is right now?
M: I was worried for awhile, but I talked to my brother-in-law and he said the best thing to do is keep it going during school. You meet people and find new inspiration in new experiences. I’ll be bring a laptop and little keyboard to make sure I can produce when it hits. I guess the only thing i’m worried about is keeping up with school, because once something hits me, it completely takes me over – it’s the only thing that matters until it’s finished. I’m working on this new EP I call The Pretty Pink tapes and I was writing about the feelings and I wrote “once these melodic testimonies take over me, it’s done.” I want to do it to fulfill me, because that’s all I want to do.
What makes you different?
M: Well, I think my name for sure. Mato Wayuhi is my Lakota name. When you become a certain age, you get this alternative name which describes you. Mine means “Conquering Bear,” who was a chief way back when. It took me awhile to embrace that, to embrace my culture. I feel like every kid of a different nationality experiences a time when they want nothing to do with it. There was a lot of shame and guilt, and for some reason I was ashamed of that. But, once I realized how beautiful I was, and my culture, I really started to love it. That love seemed to surface when I started with my music, so my music carried a lot of suggestive themes about oppression, assimilation and Native heritage. I needed to include this because I needed to create myself and my image, which is my culture.
My music is who I am. I feel like I am positively representing my culture. My position is not just to spread positivity and peace, but more importantly to represent the fact that stereotypes and ideals should not define you. Whether it is on a bar stage, or the campus of USC, Mato Wayuhi’s goal will always remain the same: make it to the top, represent my culture, and stay true to myself.
Though Standing Soldier is undecided, it wasn’t hard to me to decide that his music was worth listening to and his shows even more worth attending. He’s going places, not only in the Lakota community, but in the world of rap, EPs, and open mic nights. Take a listen to some of his stuff before his next show: