For Matthew Ebel, music is the key to the journey of life, not just the destination. The Massachusetts based singer/songwriter/keyboardist has experienced several musical lifetimes, each one providing him with the skills to accomplish that rare songwriting feat –to have his listeners emotionally inhabit the shoes of the characters he creates.
Whether it’s outer space adventures or a single father struggling to make a Christmas for his daughter, Matthew's songs and stories resonate in the minds and hearts of an ever-increasing fan base. Ebel is also paving the way in the new music economy, showing that it is possible for independent artists to support themselves through their music; growing his audience by utilizing new tools available to artists, and communicating to all what works and what doesn’t.
Growing up in Washington State, Matthew began playing piano at the age of five, and started performing at recitals at the age of six. With twenty years of lessons and a BA in music (emphasis in composition) from Whitworth College, Matthew gained the skills to hold his own in any musical environment, and to know how to communicate musically with anyone. “I’ve been able to notice from playing with session players who has really studied music,” he says. “There’s something about the way people play when they’ve studied, and are technically skilled in improvisation.”
Getting his start as a touring artist in the contemporary Christian music scene in the late 90’s, Matthew packed up a U-Haul and moved to Nashville with the intention of becoming big in that genre. “That’s why I moved to Nashville, but I quickly realized it wasn’t for me,” Matthew says. He follows with a smile, “For the rest of my life I’d have to write about the same subject, and there’s no way I could have done that, no matter how much I love God.”
Out of Christian music, but still in the Music City, Matthew enjoyed some special moments there. “It was a small enough city that I could make a name for myself. I backed up Billy Currington at the Grand Ole Opry; it was the first time I could remember shaking before going on stage. But then the practice kicked in, and it went beautifully. And the scene backstage, with all of those luminaries, was an awesome experience.”
Matthew’s five years in Nashville strongly influenced his arrangement and writing style. “I developed a taste for more organic sounding instrumentation,” he says, “but the emphasis on storytelling through the lyrics is what left the most lasting impression.” His albums, Filling The Pages (2001), The Wee Hours EP (2003), Beer and Coffee (2005) and Goodbye Planet Earth (2007) saw Matthew evolve from a more traditional piano-based singer/songwriter in the realm of Billy Joel or Elton John into something more uniquely his own. And slightly twisted, in the best possible sense. Jettisoning some of his more organic sounds on Goodbye Planet Earth and incorporating loops, synthesizers, beats and more, Matthew found that the new sounds matched his tales of outer space adventure and odyssey.
Reaction to Goodbye Planet Earth has been impressive, with Matthew earning radio play on over a dozen radio stations, and gathering glowing reviews on iTunes from satisfied customers. But it has been in the podcasting and blogging world where Matthew has shone the brightest, and his exposure there has allowed him to take his career to the next level. He explains, “Podcasting is what exploded me out of obscurity and social media is the reason I don’t need a day job. I have a paid podcast at MatthewEbel.net and between blogging and meeting people through other blogs, it’s created a community around my music.”
He elaborates, “I want people to take my music and then go off and create something on their own. The greatest thrill for me is when people write blog posts based on my music or are inspired to do a version of one of my songs in their college choir – it’s the act of creating something new from my work. It’s amazing.”
Fully immersed in the new digital music world, Matthew is committed to being a trailblazer for other artists. “I want to leave a legacy for other musicians and show them that it’s possible to be a one man operation or a small band and do it on your own. I’m always looking for new ways to do that for myself and I’ll be letting people know where I’ve succeeded and let them know what to avoid from my failures,” he says.
In 2009, Matthew plans to develop himself as a touring artist. “My goal is to be touring with a band,” he declares, following with a laugh, “across the country, globe or universe.” He’ll also be beginning the follow up to Goodbye Planet Earth, of which he says, “I’m going to get back to a more organic feel. I think I want to call it Songs for Geeks,” he says with an impish grin. It will continue to be a fascinating journey for Matthew and his music, as well as a rich and rewarding ride for those who choose to follow.