With the breakout success of his debut single, “Prayed for You,” rising artist Matt Stell seems poised to become a big star. Though Stell’s rise in country music may seem rapid to some, he actually took a winding, and even surprising road to get to where he is today.

Get to know more about Matt Stell’s journey and discover everything else you need to know about the up-and-coming country star.

He Has Always Thought Of Himself as A Basketball Player Rather Than A Musician

Matt Stell’s earliest dreams of stardom actually didn’t involve country music, but it was instead basketball! Standing six-foot-seven-inch, Matt Stell played against LeBron James a couple of times in the Amateur Athletic Union summer league when he was in high school at Morrilton. 

He went on to play basketball on an athletic scholarship for Drury University in Springfield, Missouri.

He Used To Be A Construction Worker And A Farmer 

After he graduated from Drury University, Matt Stell moved on to work on his master’s degree in communications at the University of Arkansas, at the same time, worked on construction jobs and farming.

He Never Seriously Thought About Pursuing A Career In Music Until College 

Matt Stell’s mother bought him a guitar for Christmas when he was 12, which ended up being “promptly put it in a closet” the next morning. He might never have picked up the guitar if it weren’t for one fateful winter break in college when he was a sophomore or a junior. He’d stayed at school instead of going home because he was on the basketball team.

“I got it and then sat in front of my computer, and I started trying to learn how to play old country songs and blues songs and bluegrass tunes, and all the things you can play on an acoustic guitar,” he recalled.

With Americana and folk music as inspiration, Matt Stell started writing songs. “I don’t remember at that time thinking I would do [music] really, but music just makes me feel a way that nothing else does,” he said. “I guess I assumed it did that for everybody, and then I found out, ‘No, I have this passion for it.'”

His First Public Appearances Were On College Apartments And Frat Houses

During Matt Stell’s college days, he formed a band, and he said his band played a few gigs in Springfield anywhere there was a stage. But their first public appearances were in college apartments or frat houses around the university.

“I remember one of the first shows I ever played, there was a venue that opened up near my school that catered to Red Dirt or Texas country music. I think that was the first show that I ever had playing out live at a writer’s round type of thing playing original music,” Stell said. “I remember that pretty vividly. It was pretty great, and I was hooked at that point.”

But Did You Know He Could Have Been A Doctor At Some Point?

After going on a medical mission trip to Haiti, Matt Stell said he saw what the doctors and nurses were doing to help disadvantaged patients. That is when he decided to become a doctor.

He got into Harvard University’s Extension School Pre-Med program. However, six weeks before he was supposed to move to Cambridge, Massachusetts to pursue that dream, Matt Stell got a publishing deal with Wide Open Music. He definitely had a big decision to make after that record deal came through. 

“I moved to Nashville for a purpose,” Stell said. “So, I stayed here to pursue my music career.”

His Hometown Showed Up in a Big Way When During His Opry Debut

The “Everywhere But on” singer made his Grand Ole Opry debut in April of 2019. According to the Tennessean, about 150 family members and friends from the singer’s hometown of Conway County, Arkansas, came to watch the big moment.

His mother, Lisa Todd, and other immediate relatives were seated on a pew near the back of the stage. His mother dabbed at her eyes as Stell made a memorable Grand Ole Opry debut.

The Changes In His Life Have Arrived At A Wild Pace

Matt Stell’s “Prayed For You” song, which has already amassed more than 30 million digital streams, making waves on Billboard’s Country Airplay and Hot Country Songs Charts, is proof that his career in Nashville is going nowhere but up. He wrote the song with Allison Veltz and Ash Bowers.

But as much as Matt Stell has welcomed his career leap, the changes in his life have arrived at a wild pace, especially when it comes to time commitments. Ever since the single was released to radio last December, he spent most of his time on the road, promoting his music on the radio and performing on different shows. 

He confirmed to People that his time away from home had taken a toll on his personal life — and “unfortunately, my upcoming wedding and that relationship [have] dissolved for the time being.” Matt Stell’s girlfriend, Sophie LeBlanc, “spearheaded” the big decision, though he said, “I can’t say that I wasn’t sort of relieved a little bit.”

“There’s no hard feelings,” Stell added. “It’s the opposite, you know. We both want each other to be happy, and right now, that means that it’s not together.”