Review Fix chats with singer songwriter Matthew Carroll, who discusses his origin in music and goals for 2018, including his new album, “Left to Burn.”
For a decade, Carroll has performed all over the country honing his skills as a performer. When he had a health scare that could have taken his singing voice away forever, he decided he could no longer wait to make the music that was within him. He spent the next three years planning, writing, and working tirelessly to make his first album a reality. With some help from Kickstarter backers, Carroll was able to self-fund the production of this album.
Review Fix: How did you get involved in music?
Matthew Carroll: My dad was a preacher so I was singing solos in church when I was 8 years old. But I didn’t feel a passion for it till I started writing my own songs when I was 15. Similarly, I spent the last decade living off of music as a cover musician at a pretty high level in my area but my passion has always been writing and so it’s really great to be finally releasing my own stuff in a serious way.
Review Fix: What makes your brand special?
Carroll: Branding is not my forte. I hope the music is great and that my passion shows through it. The story of this album is interesting though. As I said, I’d been playing cover music for the last decade at a pretty high level and as of a couple years ago, I was running myself ragged. I was doing 7 nor 8 shows a week, Most of them about 4 hours long and I ended up almost destroying my voice. I woke up one day without a voice and the docs said I had a vocal Polyp that would require a serious and scary surgery with no real guarantees that I would have a singing voice after. My voice is so tied into my identity that it was a really dark time for me. When I made it through that and was able to sing again, I committed myself to making this album. An album of music that came from inside me with all my favorite influences represented without compromise. And I think I got there.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Carroll: I like to lock myself away and write. I turn off everything. My phone, the tv. And I just sit with my guitar until it leads somewhere. Most the time, I don’t allow myself to do anything until I write 3 songs. I find that quantity is important to find quality. I wrote 200 songs that were considered for this album but I only recorded 12. When you are discarding a song you really love to fit a song you love a little more, I think you’re in the right space.
Review Fix: What makes you different?
Carroll: I think my commitment and follow through. I live in a world of cover musicians that all want to be doing original music, but they never take the steps necessary to break out of the grind. I’ve spent the last few months putting really lucrative gigs on hold so that I could pursue this passion project. One in which I am probably going to spend more than I’ll make on the album and the tour. But I believe in the music and if I can get it in the ears of enough folks, I think it has a chance of striking a chord. And if it doesn’t, it’s still something I had to make. I couldn’t keep it in.
Review Fix: What’s your standout song on Left To Burn? How was it written?
Carroll: I guess I would say “Heart on Fire.” This song was actually based on a painting by a local artist, Spencer Roeder. He is one of my long term artistic partners. We’ve been feeding off of each other’s energy for a long time. In this case, we set out to make a series of Paintings and songs that were companions of each other. So he painted a painting and I wrote a song. Then we swapped and we each tried to interpret the other persons art into our own medium. So he gave me a painting of a burning heart with a matchbook in the center that only had two matches left. That resonated with me so much. The burning heart represented passion and pain and the lack of matches seemed to represent a lack of chances that I might have left at love. So the song is that same idea put through my own filters of fear of commitment and fear of love in general. I later had Spencer Roeder paint a version of that painting that would fit the size needed for my album cover and I’m really proud of how tied in that album cover is to the whole project.
Review Fix: What are your goals for 2018?
Carroll: Get this album in as many ears as possible! I don’t know what a realistic goal is but I’m just going to do everything I can to get people to hear the album that I put so much of myself into.
Review Fix: What makes your debut album special?
Carroll: I think it’s musical diversity is pretty neat. At times, it was so diverse that I was worried about it not having a cohesive voice, but after sending it through the filters of the band and the engineer, I think it came together but there are still edges being pushed by every song towards different genres. I think it’s a virtue of me being a cover musician for so long. I have played and loved so many different styles that I couldn’t resist incorporating ideas from all over pop music.
Review Fix: How do you want your music to affect people?
Carroll: I want people to find themselves in it. Even if maybe you haven’t been in the exact circumstance described by the songs, I think you can feel the emotional core of what’s going on, and I think that’s the highest function of good pop music. Make us all feel less alone.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Carroll: This coming year is all about getting people to hear this thing! I’m planning tours, making videos, doing interviews. All with the single goal of getting more people to hear the album that we put so much work into. I’m also hoping to redirect my creative energies back to writing so I can start the whole process over. It was by far the most rewarding thing I’ve ever accomplished even before an album is sold.
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
Carroll: I really hope everybody loves the album!