Singer-songwriter Matthew Wolcott is taking the road less traveled, stepping out from a successful law career in favor of his first love, music. The Dallas native, who began playing piano at an early age and performed with his fair share of bands, is releasing his first EP of original songs called WESTERN LIGHTS on December 2.
For his recording debut, Wolcott worked with producer Joe Chiccarelli, whose credits include Alanis Morissette, Jason Mraz, the White Stripes and Boy & Bear among many others, recording live at Sunset Sound Recorders in Los Angeles. Fleshing out Wolcott's rich vocals and turns on guitar, harmonica and trumpet were a host of local studio players, including Roger Joseph Manning Jr. on keyboards, David Levita on guitar, Sean Hurley on bass, Victor Indrizzo on drums and LA artist Patrick Park on backup vocals. Texas artist Haylee Ryan created the painting that graces the cover of the EP.
WESTERN LIGHTS offers what Wolcott calls "a well-curated sampling of literate, late-night reflections spun into relatable tales of nostalgia, melancholy, heartbreak and hope." The title track, "Western Lights," is being serviced to AAA radio and a music video for the song is in the works.
Matthew Wolcott grew up in suburban Dallas listening to his father's collection of '60s and '70s vinyl that included the requisite Beatles, Beach Boys and early Chicago. His father told him about once seeing Chicago in concert in a venue that was so hot that trombonist James Pankow sweated through his clothes and played the final song shirtless. Although young Matthew had been playing piano since the age of six, that image inspired him to take up trumpet as well.
Throughout junior high and high school, Matthew played trumpet and learned music theory in the school band. Getting a MIDI keyboard led to composing his own songs and eventually taking up guitar to play them on. Matthew attended LSU on an academic scholarship, studying mechanical engineering and computer science as a path into the aerospace field. But music always called out to him, as he continued songwriting and spent several years on and off the Dallas live music scene in various bands, although his passion would only parallel both law school and a law career.
"Music then became an inward-facing pursuit," explains Wolcott. "I finally returned to writing and playing music behind closed doors, trying to unearth the sound and style that were truly my own. Being completely away from the music scene for a couple of years helped me to reach a point at which I was finally comfortable in my own skin as a songwriter."
The result of this clarity is WESTERN LIGHTS, Wolcott's debut release, comprising five original songs, most of them written during late nights at the piano. "When I write, I generally take at least partly from personal experience and try to turn that into a relatable story," he says. "The common thread among these songs is that they are, generally speaking, sad, reflective stories, lined with a tinge of hope."
Wolcott's Americana-infused vocals are beautifully lifted by infectious melodies and inspired instrumentation. Producer Joe Chiccarelli says that "the tracks reflect Matthew's singular artistic vision."
The title cut, "Western Lights," features a driving melody punctuated by a pounding rhythm section and Henley-esque synths, while the unexpected trumpet hook in "Dixie's Waltz" gives way to warm, funereal strings and piano musings.
"Olde Towne Blues" is a nostalgic song that attempts to revive the good memories that we'll always associate with certain places or people, even if they've since seen hard times. Explains Matthew: "My dad grew up in Slidell, Louisiana, near a part of town called (you guessed it) Olde Towne. I drew some inspiration for the song from early Tom Waits, one of my favorite songwriters. He often name-checks people or places that are implicitly meaningful to the storyteller, but not necessarily to the listener. I tried to employ that here because I believe that many people have an 'Olde Towne' of their own--a place with which they will always associate good memories and that the very mention of unlocks that nostalgia."
Rounding out the EP are "Who Are You Tonight" with its sad refrain "where there is smoke, there's an alibi....." and finally the pared-down acoustic "Lost in the Roses" with its plaintive harmonica. Throughout WESTERN LIGHTS, Wolcott demonstrates how carefully-crafted sonics can tell the story as effectively as the words themselves.
WESTERN LIGHTS will be available on iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, Amazon Music and Deezer. The CD will be available from amazon.com and other retailers on December 2.