Disclaimer: This is an interview I did with Crys last spring when she was originally scheduled to appear at the me&thee coffeehouse. That show was canceled due to the illness of the featured performer that night. I am offering the same Questions and Answers but including a revised introduction.
The first time I heard Crys Matthews at NERFA (North East Regional Folk Alliance), I knew she was very special. Not only did her words and music speak to me but it was something about how gentle and caring she was to her audience. It’s rare to feel that heart-soul connection from the moment someone walks on stage—but for me–it happened that afternoon in Kerhonkson, New York. Crys has been getting more and more critical acclaim as the days, weeks, and months have flown by and she continues to show her great commitment to her craft and helping to relay messages of hope, compassion, and strength.
When I heard about her upcoming albums last year, I kickstarted the project because I knew beyond a doubt that the music would be incredible and it is! Even the names of each of these recordings are amazing: The Battle Hymn for an Army of Lovers and The Imagineers. Crys has most definitely hit her stride. She won the New Song Competition – coming in first amidst 5,000 other songwriters vying for the same recognition.
Here’s a video of Crys singing “The Imagineers.”
You grew up in North Carolina as a preacher’s kid. Is that where you uncovered the power of music and how it impacts people?
I would say so. I think the first time I ever saw a gospel song move my grandpa to tears definitely impressed upon me the power of music.
Did you gravitate toward any particular genre of music as you were growing into the musician you are today?
When I first started writing, my music had much more of a soulful, bluesy feel, but I think all of that time in the Blue Ridge rubbed off on me. I’m definitely pretty solidly planted in the Folk/Americana genre now.
Do you have any guilty pleasures when you it comes to music? Now’s the time you can confess to turning up the volume when your special someone comes on the radio! 😉
I am such a Ruthie Foster fan!! I just got to meet her for the first time at Folk Alliance International and I was absolutely star-struck! 🙂
I love hearing about musicians’ creative processes. Do you keep a journal or audio notes on your phone to remind you about ideas that strike you at any hour of the day or night?
I absolutely do. I have a little app that lets me record audio on my phone, and I use my Google Assistant all the time to take down lyrics or ideas that hit me.
Do you carve out time for yourself to practice on a regular basis? Are you still discovering new ways to play your guitar?
Because I also moonlight as a wedding singer and vineyard entertainer when I’m not on the road, I have to work hard on keeping up my repertoire (and my stamina since most of those gigs last for three hours or more), so yes, I try to practice at least once a day, or once every other day.
Your song “Battle Hymn for an Army of Lovers” has definitely struck a chord with a lot of people. Do you feel like it’s the perfect storm for your songs of social justice and what’s happening in this country right now? Is the daily news a constant stream of inspiration for you?
One of the first lines of one of my newest songs (Changemakers) quite literally says, “Sitting alone in this hotel room, TV on tuned in to the news…” Yes, the climate right now is really reshaping my music in a profound way. Prior to the past couple of years, I really didn’t write a lot of political songs, but now it’s kind of what I’m known for.
You’ve been playing in the folk music world for several years now. Do you feel as though you’ve learned a lot about yourself, your music, and your craft over the years? Do you think you would have been ready for all the accolades you’re been getting this past year if they were bestowed upon you … let’s say even five years ago?
I’ve definitely learned a lot over the years, especially about how to craft a better song. I think songwriting and performing are definitely things that you want to constantly be pushing yourself to do better and better. As far as the recognition I’m getting right now, it’s been a long time coming. I have been working so hard these past ten years, and it’s really nice to feel like that hard work is paying off. Would I have appreciated some validation five years ago? Of course! But I’m a firm believer in everything in life happening exactly when it should.
Tell us about your experience at Sundance. It sounds like a pretty cool time. Was it a good place to mingle and meet all kinds of creative folks?
Sundance was incredible! To be around all of those amazing artists and creatives was just amazing! My wife and I got to see several of the films while we were there, and we got to participate in some Q&As with the directors. I don’t think a lot of folks realize what an important role music plays at this film festival. The folks at ASCAP have worked hard over the years to carve out space for festival goers to come together and have an up-close-and-personal experience with some pretty amazing artists. I was beyond honored to be among their ranks. ASCAP took such wonderful care of me; the other artists like Mr. Hudson and Michael Franti were so kind — the entire experience was one I’ll never forget.
What’s next in store for you?
I’ve written three new songs so far this year, and it feels like a few more are brewing. So, I’ll be releasing another EP later in the year. I’ll also be touring a lot this year thanks to being picked up by Jim Fleming of Fleming Artists!