"It is such a thrill. The work is definitely similar and it pays off in a similar kind of feeling," Matt Stell tells PEOPLE while discussing his new EP, Better Than That


If you ask Matt Stell, there are more than a few things in common between music and motorcycles.

"There are mechanics to how songs work, with what goes where," the 36-year-old country singer tells PEOPLE. "If you make one decision in a song it'll influence the other decisions you make in different places, and you have to make sure they all work together — it's very similar to working on a vehicle or motorcycle."

"Everything's got to work together for it to run," he continues. "Once you do get them running, once you do get them working, it is such a payoff. It is such a thrill. The work is definitely similar and it pays off in a similar kind of feeling."

Matt Stell
Matt Stell
| Credit: Dustin Haney

When he hasn't worked on music, Stell has spent the last few months piecing together a Japanese motorcycle with his friend and co-writer, Joe Fox. The two are attempting to get a 1978 Honda CB400T running again — but, so far, it's been easier said than done. 

"I've been working on this motorcycle that he bought, to try to get it running," the Nashville-based artist says. "So far we haven't, but we've taken it completely apart and put it completely back together. So we're hoping we'll get pretty close on it... I didn't know much about this kind of bike going in, but I sure have learned a whole lot."

Matt Stell
Matt Stell
| Credit: Courtesy Matt Stell

Yet the motorbike isn't the only mechanical project Stell is taking on — he also plans to rebuild a 1970s Ford and is overseeing the restoration of his grandmother's 90s-era GMC truck.

For him, there's a certain type of magic to bringing a machine back to life, and it's something he picked up from his late father, who had a fascination with classic cars. 

"I learned about getting them running, but I also learned a lot just from spending time with the old man," Stell recalls. "I learn about those old cars and where they came from and things like that. But a lot of it was just spending time [with him]."

"You also get a real appreciation for the people who really know how to work on them," he continues. "When you try to do it yourself, you understand how it could be difficult, and the expertise that those people have. It gives you a good perspective."

Away from the machines, Stell has poured his energy into his latest EP, Better Than That, out Friday.

Much of it was recorded pre-pandemic, but Stell worked on nearly a third of the final product after the outbreak. That meant he and his team put the finishing touches on the project while following COVID-19 safety protocols — and thankfully, the process went smoothly.

Stell now hopes the EP — which features five new songs — resonates with fans during this difficult time.

"I hope it's the kind of entertaining thing where it's something that folks want to come back to," he says. "I always love songs that lyrics do a lot of the work, because it makes me want to listen to them over and over. I just hope when people hear it means something to them, and it's something that they want to come back to because I'm proud of these songs and excited to have them out into the world."

"Hopefully this can kind of step in and be that new something for folks during this pandemic," Stell adds, "until we get back to normal."