Posted by: Amy | August 22, 2010

Interview with Matt Stillwell, Average Joes Entertainment recording artist

Prior to Matt Stillwell’s recent performance in Atlanta, I was able to sit down with the Sylva, NC native and chat with him about what led him to music. Before pursuing a career in music, Matt’s primary focus was playing baseball. He played at the collegiate level at Western Carolina University. Eventually he realized that professional baseball wasn’t in the cards for him and he earned a music business management degree from Belmont University in Nashville. While he had sung in the church choir and high school chorus, he didn’t decide to pursue a career in music until after he had graduated from college. “I’ve been making a living playing music for about nine years, if you can call it that,” Matt said with a smile. “I’m very blessed to be doing this!”

Photo courtesy of The Factory Photography

Matt’s background in music business management has prepared him for his career as an artist. He has an understanding of the business side of the industry. “When I first came out, I was truly an independent artist. I put an investment team together and really started my own label.” That label was called Still 7 and yielded Matt’s debut album, Take It All In, and its follow-up, Shine. Last year Matt joined forces with Average Joes Entertainment. Earlier this summer the label re-released Shine and re-titled it Shine Deluxe. The updated album includes three additional tracks. He was introduced to Average Joes through his publicist, Ebie McFarland, who works extensively with the label and its artists. “I had been working with her for a long time and she had started working with these guys (the Average Joes team). I was looking for management, actually, and Ken Madson with Full Scope. Ebie kind of turned me on to them (Full Scope) and then that turned me on to Average Joes.” Working with Average Joes is a great fit for Matt because the label provides him the support of having a label while giving him the freedom to create the music that he wants.

Although he now has the backing of a record label, Matt isn’t afraid to put in the hard work necessary to advance his career. “I still set up sponsorships and call the radio stations. Now as things progress, that’s where the label comes in and gives you more gas. But you’re the one that has got to do it. No one cares as much about it as I do. You get record deals and it takes you a while to realize ‘I’ve still got to do this.’ They don’t wake up at 6:30 in the morning and think about Matt Stillwell, but I do. We’ve got a good thing going.” His business management training has helped him “understand what it takes to get from step to step.” He also credits his baseball playing days for giving him the drive to succeed in the music industry. “I think that baseball and athletics have taught me as much as anything from a goal setting situation and not getting frustrated (when things don’t go as planned) and to not lose sight of where you’re going. Being able to strike out two or three times in a row, you still have to go hit the next time. The two (baseball and the music industry) parallel each other big time.”

Matt loves playing his music for a live audience. In fact, he says that “everything is built around the live shows. Come see me if you want to know what it’s all about!” Matt recently hosted the third annual Shinefest at the resort at Fontana Village in a remote part of western North Carolina. The festival featured two full days of music from Matt and a host of other artists and songwriters, including several of his fellow Average Joes labelmates. Friday night featured two acoustic songwriters’ sessions followed by a jam session. Saturday’s festivities included a lake party during the day and a full band show that evening. The festival originally started because Matt decided to shoot the music video for his signature song “Shine” at the Fontana Village. “The resort is remote and kind of hard to get to, so I figured that if I was going to have people come to be in the video, we might as well make a weekend of it.” The attendance in the second year was almost triple the first year’s attendance. I haven’t seen information on this year’s numbers, but Matt was hopeful that the event was going to be even bigger this year. Guests of the festival were able rent rooms at the resort or camp out and had a whole weekend of good music and time spent hanging out with the artists.

Photo courtesy of The Factory Photography

In addition to Shinefest, Matt has been headlining shows across the Southeast and has played at several of the Aquapalooza events this summer. Check out Matt’s website to see his upcoming dates and to read more about him. You can also purchase merchandise and listen to his heartfelt new single, “Drunk Enough.” He’s a great guy who really knows what he wants in his career. He puts on a rocking live show and I recommend that you see him if he’s in your neck of the woods.

A huge thank you to Matt, to Ebie McFarland and to Shannon Houchins at Average Joes for facilitating the interview. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

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