Matt Stillwell
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Matt Stillwell


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"Metronome Magazine Review July Issue"

"Matt Stillwellwell is a contemporary country music wielding singer-songwriter-guitarist that displays some great songs fueled by a genuine country voice on his latest album Take It All In. Stillwell's a playful songwriter that employed a host of notable session players for his recording sessions in Nashville. The result is a well-picked album filled with twangin' guitars and mandolin, sweet-sounding pedal and lap steel, soaring fiddle and banjo and Stillwell's expressive, real deal voice.

"Best tracks include the two steppin' "On My Own," the beautiful balladry of "Go Away", the snarling swagger of "Moonshine", the country rocker "What Happened" and the autobiographical "What I Do." With an album this good, expect to hear a lot more more this talented American songwriter. Good stuff!"

Douglas Sloan / Metronome Magazine

- Douglas Sloan

"Matt Stillwell finds warm reception in Knoxville crowds"

By Steve Wildsmith
of The Daily Times Staff

When the pressures of plying the country music trade in Nashville get to be too much, singer-songwriter Matt Stillwell has a solution every Thursday night.

He gets in his car, points it east and cruises into Kingston Alley Grill and Ale House, on Kingston Pike in Knoxville. There, he knows he’s not playing to a room full of industry executives. He knows he’s not being watched by a bar full of fellow songwriters critiquing his every word. He knows he’s not being sized up as the potential Next Big Thing by a record label suit eyeing him like a prized heifer.

He’s just Matt, the Thursday night dude who plays guitar and sings and helps locals forget about their own stresses for a few hours.

“I tell you, it’s nice to have people at Kingston Alley waiting on you, knowing that if they just lost their job or had a bad day, they still wanted to come see you,” Stillwell told The Daily Times this week. “That’s the best feeling in the world. I want to use Nashville for what it’s worth, because this town contains some of the most talented musicians and songwriters and engineers in the world. Its resources are wonderful, but I think you can get caught up in trying to be a star.

“I don’t play a whole lot here in Nashville, because you just don’t make any money here. Most of the people here are industry people, and in the tourist areas, your options are places like Tootsie’s and Legend’s at 10 in the morning. Playing a writer’s night or something like that, you can get some constructive criticism from other songwriters, so you know what’s going to work or not, but I’d rather play all over the South, where I actually do make money and build a fan base.

“For me, I’ve always really taken more of how fans react to me in Knoxville or in my hometown or in Atlanta,” he added. “I really take what they have to say to heart a lot more, because they’re the ones who buy the CDs and pay money to come see me and support me.”

Not that Stillwell minds the drive to Knoxville every week. Hard work has been a way of life for him since he was a boy growing up in the North Carolina mountains, where he was surrounded by Southern gospel, bluegrass and country music. As a teen, his tastes ran typical of high schoolers his age while he made a name for himself playing baseball.

The sport took his to Western Carolina University, where he earned All-Southern Conference honors. At the same time, he started getting back to the roots of the music he grew up with, and eventually he relocated to Nashville, where he became one more guy with a guitar trying to make the big time.

“It’s harder to get a reaction in Nashville, so if you do that’s a good thing,” Stillwell said. “I like to concentrate more on the relationship side of the business while I’m here — meeting and talking to people and other songwriters and producers and engineers and musicians. Those relationships are everything.

“It’s a tough town, and you’ve got to be able to play in the studio or in the songwriting communities you’re a part of and always be ready to do your best, because you never know who’s watching or listening.”

Through networking, Stillwell built his most recent album, “Take It All In,” from scratch. Producer Brian Kolb was someone he met through friends and stayed in touch with until he was ready to begin the record; through Brian, Stillwell met the session musicians who would add their own touches to the material. And from his own work in Music City, Stillwell learned what to do and what not to do.

More than anything, he said, he knows that if something’s going to happen to him, he needs to make it happen and not wait for it to come waltzing up and rapping on his door. Because if he waits for that, he’s going to be waiting a while.

“I want to create my own identity, to be creative enough that a record company comes to me and it’s a partnership and not a dictatorship,” Stillwell said. “I can go out and work my tail off and try to make it happen the right way, or I can try to take a shortcut. And I’ve learned that it’s the people who persevere and stick with it who make it.

“Sure, I can take one of those shortcuts and try out for ‘Nashville Star’ or ‘American Idol’ or something like that. Those shows give you an unbelievable platform of exposure that you can’t get as a new artist, but you’re not given the opportunity to be yourself on any of those shows. You’re basically a puppet of commercial music.

“I’d rather be Willie Nelson and be 70 years old doing this rather than have two or three years of crazy, out-of-control popularity,” he added. “That might be nice, but I don’t know if that necessarily translates into great music
- Steve Wildsmith of The Daily Times Staff

"Music Row Review"

Robert K. Oermann

Writer: Stillwell/Hutton/Henderson; Producer: Matt Stillwell/Brian Kolb; Publisher: none listed; Matt Stillwell (track) (
-Pleasant and well produced, the title tune to this guy's disc debut goes down smoothly. I give him a "B," and refer him to mainstream country's A&R staffs.

- Robert K. Oermann

"Review Pop"

Matt Stillwell

Take It All In

US release date: 13 June 2006
UK release date: 15 August 2006

by Stephen Haag

In today's frivolous world of Spike TV and Maxim magazine, it's easy to lose sight of the responsibility that comes with being a grown man. Country musician Matt Stillwell, on his self-released debut, Take It All In, wants to remind all the men out there that being a good man / father / husband takes hard work. And while Stillwell occasionally lapses into over piousness, he manages to find time to have a little fun, too. For instance, three songs about asking God for direction may be too many for your taste, but for much of Stilwell's audience, tunes like "On My Own", "Trying To Get To Heaven", and "What I Do" are exactly the confirmation they need that they're on the right path. And with the arrangement of guitar, fiddle, and mandolin, the songs are more Chevy commercial than church hymn. There's plenty of man-woman songs, too: "Good Hands"Œs narrator asks his girlfriend's dad for permission to marry her. He swoons over his wife's feminine charms on the intimate "Surrender" (a nice reminder that it's possible to be both religious and sexual), and leaves, but goes back to the girl on the single "Turn Around" both a road song, and a girl song. Stillwell, an ex-collegiate baseball player, knocks the upbeat song out of the park. He's got an ear for the sour side of love, as well "What Happened" and "The Motions" ("She deserves better and so do I") ring as true as the love songs do. And lest this all get too heavy, Stillwell lets his hair down on ³Moonshine²; in fact, one wishes there were a few more loose-limbed tunes like it ("It can heal the sick or start a fire real quick"). Stillwell won't convert non-country fans to the fold, but fans who are tired/ alienated by the genre's hyper-masculine image may appreciate Stillwell's more nuanced view. -

"Stillwell earns fans the hard way"

By Chris Cooper

What do the words “music career” mean to you? For many it’s big fancy studios, nice cars and whopping cash advances from a record label. Maybe a house in Malibu with a gold plated toilet. Worldwide superstardom and scads of shiny awards? Yeah, right.

Try this: Countless miles in your car, busting your butt to book shows and pay for your album, grabbing some sleep on a friend’s couch before heading to the next town, the next gig, and the next step down a very, very long road.

Fast food, gas station coffee and club owners whose grasp of reality is blurred by the rather precarious placement of their heads (more on that later) become regular parts of your life. But a fresh set of strings, the right kind of crowd and the buzz you get from a great show — these are the things that keep you going. This is a career in music.

Jackson County’s own Matt Stillwell knows this reality like the back of his hand, and as evidenced by the performance he and his band put on Saturday, April 8, at Main Street Sports Bar and Grill in Sylva, there’s no substitute for the experience a life on the road provides.

Kicking off, they barreled through a 30-something song set consisting of originals from his newest CD Take It All In and covers ranging from top 40 and classic country to some surprising rock standards. Stillwell and company demonstrated an ease and versatility that belied the mere four weeks they’ve been together as a band.

There are some that deride the whole process of learning and performing covers, tossing the term “bar band” around like an insult, when the reality is that in order to make a living AND make headway as an original songwriter, it’s often necessary to do just that: learn covers and play in bars, mixing in the originals where and when you can. It’s how you learn what works and what doesn’t, and it’s how you pay your dues in this industry.

Stillwell is aware of this and does it well — keying in on a lull in the crowd response, he’ll whip out “Rocky Top” or “Dixieland Delight,” because as much as he’s there to promote himself and his music, he’s also there to provide a good time. With the crowd bouncing around and singing along, he and the band can slide into “The Motions” from Take It All In and nail it.

It’s a feat of set-list engineering, and it works: having opened the show with a handful of covers, the band unleashed a burning (ha!) version of “Ring of Fire,” creating a receptive opening for his current single “Turn Around,” with guitarist Dennis Brown conjuring some Allman-esque sting in a glorious slide solo. “Moonshine,” another original from Take It All In rocked hard enough for me to put three exclamation points in my notes. That’s always a good thing.

Though the house wasn’t necessarily packed, the affection Stillwell’s crowd had for him was undeniable, as was his rapport with them. Joking, laughing and succeeding in getting audience members of every age up to shake a leg, there was a timeless quality to the night; a show like this could easily have happened 50 years ago on Main Street — except possibly for the fried mushrooms, cable TV and imported beer selection.

Whereas a live show is open to taking chances, an album is about details — the right arrangements, the right sounds and the right players. This is especially true in modern country, where the standards for performance and production value are set extremely high. Stillwell gathered a list of players from the Nashville elite, forming a five-piece studio band for Take It All In whose combined credits include Garth Brooks, James Taylor, Faith Hill and more. The results are fairly astounding, and I’m going to repeat something I tend to say a lot: independent artists are putting out albums as good as (and sometimes better than) much of the major label stuff. Maybe the limits work in favor of the artist — you can’t throw in the kitchen sink to hide the flaws, so the songs had better be darn good.

Stillwell’s voice is in great form, and his tunes are strong and memorable, mining all kinds of small town history, as in the Coffee Shop reference in “Take It All In,” or the sometimes heart-breaking portrayal of fatherhood in “Heroes And Men.”

A little after 1 a.m., with things winding down, I got the chance to talk with Stillwell about the set, his new band and being a musician. The band — consisting of guitarist Dennis Brown, bassist Jason Street and drummer Shaun Apple — came together through the inevitable connections a place like Nashville can provide. Brown (an alumnus of Ray Price, Doug Stone and Alan Jackson’s bands) wrangled tasty licks and a fat, burnished tone from his telecaster on every tune, epitomizing the term “hot picker,” and likely sent any other guitarists in the audience running for the woodshed.

Sadly, the discussion was cut short by an irate bar manger that obviously never read the rule book in regards to charging a $5 cover to late night stragglers AFTER the band has finished and AFTER 1 a.m. Let alone how unwise it is to kick up a stink about it in front of a music writer and the performer’s remaining fans.

Apparently 35 songs and more than three hours of music aren’t quite enough for some “business people” to justify paying an artist what they deserve. I hope that when everybody spoke up in Stillwell’s defense (even the staff), the argument was dismissed as ridiculous and petty, and met some kind of resolution. If not, well, you can catch Stillwell at the Rusty Lizard in Sylva next Friday.

Album: 5 stars

Show: 4 stars

Venue: nada, zilch, zero. Sorry.

(Chris Cooper is a guitar teacher at In Your Ear Music Emporium in Sylva. He can be reached at

- Smoky Mountain News

"Hey, Ya'll It's All About Country Music This Week"

Published - April, 18, 2006

Chesney & company
Hey, y'all! It's all about country music this week

Rebecca Ross

I'm on hold right now for Kenny Chesney.

Actually, I'm on hold to speak to someone in Kenny Chesney's management group, and by "someone," I mean "a random voice mail," and by "speak," I mean "leave another forlorn message."

Now, I'm not one to give up easily on an assignment, but I've just about come to the conclusion that it would be easier to arrange a quick phone interview with the Pope than with a country music superstar.

I bet Pope Benedict has better hold music, too.

And considering my extensive Southern kin, there's every possibility that I'm somehow related to ol' Kenny, and you'd think that a family press request would get booted to the front of the line.

Oh, well. See if he gets invited to the reunion this year.

While I'm waiting, however, I can remind you that tickets still are available for the popular Chesney's back-to-back concerts, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., at the Pensacola Civic Center.

Tickets for the "Road & the Radio" tour, which includes opening acts Dierks Bentley and Sugarland, are $64.50, available at all Ticketmaster outlets.

Details: 432-0800; Ticketmaster, 434-7444 or

Pensacola Opry House

This week is all about the country music, y'all, and it's happening all over town.

If you're looking for a homegrown show you can take both Granny and young Jolene to, you might want to head over to the Pensacola Opry House.

Pensacola has an opry house, you ask? It's true. This new venue, featuring country and western, gospel and bluegrass music, is open every Friday and Saturday night at Sam's Fun City on Pensacola Boulevard.

Guests can enjoy a two-hour, "Nashville-quality" show with the Opry House band and special guest performers, plus a buffet with all the fixin's. And you can always run out for a few games and rides at the park, after the show.

Upcoming acts include Confederate Railroad on May 5 and Earl Thomas Conley on May 19.

Tickets at the gate are $10; $18 with buffet; $21 for front row and buffet. Additional fees may apply.

Details: 944-8713 or e-mail pensacola

Matt Stillwell at Seville

If you can't make it to a Chesney show this week, don't despair. You can spend the weekend with Nashville singer Matt Stillwell at Seville Quarter.

Stillwell, who grew up in North Carolina listening to everything from Guns N' Roses to Garth Brooks, has developed into a talented performer with a broad appeal. There's plenty of old-timey twang and guitar picking in his tunes, which include the usual "done lost that woman" country music themes, plus more upbeat party anthems.

Stillwell, who can be seen regularly at Smith's Olde Bar in Atlanta, is on tour in support of his independent album, "Take It All In." You can hear samples of the CD on the Web site

He and his band will perform Friday and Saturday, beginning at 9:30 p.m., in Lili Marlene's at Seville Quarter.

Admission is $3 before 10 p.m., and $5 after. Seville Quarter membership card holders get in free.

Details: 434-6211.
- Pensacola News Journal

"Maverick Magazine Review"


Good, solid country from a youngster with bags of talent and potential.

Born in the mountains of North Carolina and based out of Nashville, Matt Stillwell is making his way into a successful music career on his own terms. He has built up a steady touring schedule by booking his own gigs, has self-financed and self-released this debut album and written or co-written all twelve songs. That usually sets the alarm bells ringing, but by the end of the opening title song I relaxed into listening to an incredibly accomplished album. He writes compelling songs that you have to reckon with. He has an honest voice that boils over with rustic experience and grit. He has brough in some of Nashville's finest session players including Dan Dougmore (steel, lap steel, and electric guitars), Chris Leuzinger (electric guitar), Wanda Vick (mandonlin and fiddle), Allison Prestwood (bass), and John Gardner (drums).

This is a great counry record with lyrical themes that tackle subjects ranging from love gained and lost, God and family, and party songs like the infectious Moonshine. I particularly enjoyed Turn Around, a compelling yarn of not giving up on a relationship. He also turns his hand to tear-jerkers like Heroes and Men, and works a new spell with Go Away, an exceptional ballad that shows off his vocal power. For an indie release this is first-class. Traditional country full of heart and soul and with a contemporary sheen that should result in the widest acclaim. AC - Maverick Magazine


Currently promoting "Take It All In" an all original 12 song album.

Previous Releases include:

13 song acoustic album titled "The Couch Sessions" 2005

4 song full band demo titled "At A Glance" 2004

8 song acoustic album titled "On My Own" 2003

12 song acoustic album "Stripped Down" 2002



“Oh lord won’t you help me to get where I belong, cause its clear to me, I can’t make it On My Own”. Matt Stillwell speaking through his own lyrics concerning his personal life has taken the exact opposite path: trying to make it on his own. Producing and distributing his own independent album and paying for it with his hard earned money from the road.

He is now out promoting that album which is titled, “Take It All In.” Matt's first single 'Turn Around' had over 100 stations playing it. The cd was released nation wide August 18,2006 through Select-O-Hits distribution out of Memphis. The album is presently being promoted to the Americana radio format and is sarting to make in roads at Americana Radio.
It features 12 original songs all written or co-written by Stillwell.

Matt produced the new album with young and hot engineer Brian Kolb. Together they called in some of Nashville’s A-list musicians to create the unique sound of “Take It All In”. They tracked with only a five piece band which gives “Take It All In” a very open and clean sound that showcases Stillwell’s voice and his lyrics. With a great mixture of up-tempo, mid-tempo, and ballads, Matt and writing partner Lyn Hutton have written a great first record that defines Matt’s music as roots based but also features his excellent songwriting skills. “Take It All In” tackles subjects ranging from love gained and lost, God and family, and party songs like “Moonshine”. "Good hands" is a true story about a friend of Matt’s that had a dream about asking his future father, who has died, for his daughters hand in marriage. "On My Own" is a college inspired anthem that deals with Matt's life experience as a college student. "Surrender" and "Heroes and Men" are songs that create instant reaction from the listener.

Musicians include Dan Dugmore, whose credits include, James Taylor, Faith Hill, and Linda Rondstad, played steel, lap steel, electric guitar, and banjo on the album. Bruce Bouton (Garth Brooks) played dobro, steel and lap steel guitars, Chris Leuzinger (Garth Brooks) played electric guitar, Harry Stinson (Marty Stewart) and Perry Coleman (Faith Hill and Billy Joel) provided background vocals, Wanda Vic played mandolin and fiddle, Allison Prestwood and Kevin Grantt were on bass, Billy Panda played acoustic guitar, and Jon Gardner (Dixie Chicks) played drums. Matt is well on his way to becoming one of Nashville’s hardest working artist and brightest new writers.

Stillwell has developed a strong following throughout the southeast. Up until 2006 traveling with just his guitar, sound equipment and clothes, Stillwell toured non-stop across the southeast. Now Matt travels with a band and their live shows have created quite a buzz and his crowds are increasing with every show. Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta, a very well respected music venue has given Matt a residency gig. Others to receive this honor are pop acts Gavin Degraw and Tonic lead singer Emerson Hart.

Musically, Stillwell’s influences started early. Growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, he was surrounded by Southern Gospel, Bluegrass and Country music. As a teenager he listened to what every teenager was listening to at the time which ranged from Guns and Roses to Garth Brooks. As he got more involved in his own music he started listening to a lot of older country, bluegrass and rhythm and blues. Living in Nashville he is able to learn from other songwriters as well. He listens and learns from guitar vocals done by the songwriters of brand new songs and songs that have become hits. He is constantly on the lookout for new artists to listen and learn from. Taking notes on performing and songwriting. Through all this he has created music that maintains a strong integrity and appeals to a very large audience.

A member of the Jackson County Athletic Hall of Fame, Matt incorporates the work ethic he learned from his family and that earned him All-Southern Conference honors as a baseball player for Western Carolina University, into his music career. .

Dennis Kurtz
Showgun Entertainment
Still 7 Records
404 378-1057 Office
404734-1154 Cell