Crys Matthews thrilled to play ASCAP Music Cafe
Crys Matthews, who will play Thursday and Friday, Jan. 25 and 26, at the ASCAP Music Café, became a singer and songwriter a little more than 10 years ago.
“I’m a classically trained clarinetist and went to school for a music degree at Appalachian State University,” Matthews said during an interview. “My roommate at the time was a percussion major and she needed someone to play keyboards for a gig. So I thought it would be cool to sit in and play this one random show.”
When band got to the venues, Matthews was asked to sing one of the songs in the set.
“I sang that song and it was the most incredible feeling and moment that I had in my life,” she said. “The next day I wondered if I could write a song, and I did.”
Matthews entered the college’s talent showcase with the song and won first place, which included a $500 cash bonus.
“That, for a college student, was ‘I’m rich!’” Matthews said, laughing. “I had never gotten anything like that for clarinet, so I decided to keep writing songs.”
After a while of touring with a portable keyboard, Matthews switched to guitar.
“I realized it was easier to travel with a guitar, so I taught myself how to play it,” she said. “I’m a southpaw. So that’s why it’s upside-down and backwards.”
Landing the two-day slot at the ASCAP Music Café was the latest in an “crazy domino affect of awesomeness” that Matthews said that started with her playing the Lincoln Center 2017 NewSong Performance and Songwriting Competition in November.
“First of all, being a finalist for the competition was an honor because I got to play at Lincoln Center,” she said. “For me as a songwriter, it was just an honor to be among those other songwriters who do such a great job with their craftsmanship. And they really do a wonderful thing about making sure you don’t go in with a mindset that this is a crazy, cutthroat competition.”
After going home with the grand prize, Matthews found out about her upcoming Sundance trip.
“I didn’t have to have a freak-out, because my mom did it for me,” Matthews said.
Songwriting is an organic process for Matthews.
“It’s always been me just telling a story,” she said. “I draw my inspiration from my life around me — what moves me? What makes me question things? And there is always a hope someone can relate to things that are written by my perspective.”
Last year, Matthews simultaneously released two records — her full-length album “The Imagineers” and her shorter extended play, “Battle Hymn for an Army of Lovers.”
“I do not recommend doing that,” she said of the double release. “I have so much gray hair now because I released both at the same time, and I have to thank my producer Mark Williams for getting those songs right.”
While the songs on “Imagineers” are more typical and about love and life, the songs on “Battle Hymns” are social justice themed, and spurred by the political climate in the United States.
“I knew people needed to hear those songs that are on ‘Battle Hymns,’” she said. “I felt people needed to know they weren’t alone. It seemed more important for all of these songs to have their own platform.”
Although Matthews misses conducting and everything that came with her studies in music education and clarinet, she looks forward to the ASCAP concerts.
“I’m just beyond thrilled to play there,” she said. “It is still intimidating, and even though I’ve been doing this for 10 years, and I tell people, ‘If you’re still not getting nervous, then you’re also not doing it right.”
Crys Matthews will at 2 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, Jan. 25 and 26, at the ASCAP Music Café, 751 Main St. The events are free and open to Sundance Film Festival credential holders as space allows. For information, visit http://www.ascap.com/news-events/events/2018/sundance/sundance-landing.
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