Mateo follows America’s most notorious gringo mariachi singer on his misadventures in Cuba. Matthew Stoneman dreamed of pop stardom. Instead, he went to jail, learned Spanish, and emerged as “Mateo,” America’s first white mariachi singer. Mateo is on the brink of completing an album of original songs in Havana. But his estrangement from friends and family, his criminal past, and his love for Cuban women could derail him on his quest for fame.
Matthew (Mateo) Stoneman and Aaron Naar sat down for an interview with Jae Monique on Examiner.
Jae Monique: What was it that drove you to do a documentary?
Matthew Stoneman: Aaron approached me..I was in a L.A. Times Art. Different companies approached me and I started to make plans with them…I met Aaron and I felt that he would do my story right.
JM: How long did it take to complete the documentary?
MS: 4 years. Just every time I would take a trip or something came up, I would tell them. They took several trips to Cuba, they took a trip to Japan, and they went to New York to interview.
JM: How long have you been a mariachi singer?
MS: I learned it in prison. I really started there singing for the guys in the yard. In prison, that’s the only job I did. I did it every day.
JM: When is your album expected to be released?
MS: This year. We’re putting it together right now.
JM: How did you get involved with the documentary?
Aaron Naar: When I moved to L.A., I heard about Matthew performing in restaurants in L.A. I seen a few times and I read about him in la times. T talked about him going to jail. He’s just a layered guy. I just followed my instincts.
JM: What was the process like?
AN: It was definitely a lesson on flexibility. Following Matt around all day and figuring out what he was about. It took a long time before Matt let us into his apartment. It was good for building trust and also insight to how he lived.
JM: What was your favorite part about filming this documentary?
AN: I loved going to Habana, it was so beautiful. It was just getting exposed to different parts of L.A., New Hampshire, Cuba, and places I never been exposed to before. Dynamics between Matt and me changed over time. Watching Matt develop his music and develop me as a filmmaker.
JM: What can the audience expect?
AN: Hopefully a great story with amazing music. We were privileged to show all different sides of him. I really think people are going to identify with him. Hopefully they’re up for a roller coaster. Beauty through music that you can express yourself.
The film was released in theaters August 21, 2015 and on VOD and iTunes August 25, 2015. Some tracks from Mateo are available for free on CD baby.