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Singled Out: Matthew Wolcott's Western Lights

12/02/2016
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Matthew Wolcott

Dallas-based singer-songwriter Matthew Wolcott released his new debut EP "Western Lights" today (Dec 2) and to celebrate we asked him to tell us the story behind the title song. Here is the story:

Like many of my songs, the initial inspiration for "Western Lights" derives from personal experience, but the story is deliberately universal. I wrote it quickly by my standards, over a weekend after returning home from a wintery Las Vegas road trip that could not conclude fast enough. While the song is obviously about something coming to an end, it's not so much a downhearted take on endings as much as having the resolve for closure and a hopeful eye toward the future. The verses supply some context, but the overall message is encapsulated in two lines:

When those bright
Western lights
Fade from that December sky
And paradise is out of sight

That grand terrain
Will not let my spirit sway
And this mighty engine is
Screaming home tonight

My first instinct for the arrangement for "Western Lights" was that it should not follow a standard verse/chorus/bridge format, but instead be a driving song that built to an ending. This alone makes it stand out from other songs I've written, and it took some trial and error to sell myself on the idea. I recorded quite a few demos that ranged from a pared-down piano-swinger to a fuzzed-out garage-rocker. But with the final demo, I landed somewhere very close to where I started. From a mood standpoint, it's a contemporary attempt at the vastness and momentum of Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty" while maintaining the intimate energy of Fleetwood Mac's "Gypsy."

I love the instrumentation in the track. Drummer Victor Indrizzo and bassist Sean Hurley laid down as solid a foundation as there is. We took care not to let the acoustic guitars get buried in the mix, and when the song picks up, they provide a nice compliment to Victor and Sean's energy. The recurring piano line takes some prominence, but it's really Roger Manning's layered keyboard work and David Levita's arpeggiated guitar lines that help to create the song's wide, scenic feel. The driving synth part in the second verse evokes the pop sensibilities of Don Henley's early 80's solo work, and I think it serves the song well.

Being a solo artist affords a unique opportunity to seek out the right personnel for a project. I knew that Joe Chiccarelli would understand where I wanted to go and how to get there, and I was thrilled that he jumped on board to produce and engineer this EP. The recording sessions were an absolute pleasure, and while I was not sure whether they would yield a single, I was cautiously optimistic about "Western Lights."

Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the album right here!

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