Arlo Matthews waits for daybreak

Suffolk student releases debut album

After years of his guitar sitting in his room going untouched, Arlo Matthews became inspired to pick it up and really learn how to play. 

Three years later, he released his debut album “Waiting for Daybreak” on Oct. 15. 

“Since middle school, I’ve been really into just listening to music. I’ve always enjoyed making stuff,” said Matthews. “Hearing so much of that makes you want to create something similar or that belongs to you. I think after doing that, eventually that’s what inspires you to pick up an instrument or learn to sing.”

Matthews said while he had a couple of formal guitar lessons when he was in sixth grade, he didn’t have the inspiration to truly learn until a few years ago. 

“Most of [learning guitar] was looking up songs I wanted to play, learning the chords to them and teaching myself how to put my fingers on the guitar,” Matthews said. 

This process of trial and error is how Matthews taught himself to sing, too. From there, he just needed the songs. 

Matthews calls “Waiting for Daybreak” his autobiography for the last few years of his life. 

The album explores themes of change, exploration and growth that come with leaving home and starting a new season of life, Matthews said. 

“It’s really weird to look back at it and think, ‘Okay I remember writing this when I was this age or going through this,’ and now I listen to all the tracks and [think about] how that was my journey from high school going into college,” Matthews said. 

The writing process, Matthews said, starts with only an emotional moment or thought. As he thinks about them more and writes them down in his phone, they eventually become lyrics.

On his song “All of my Strife,” Matthews sings, “How could you forget about your hometown?” paying homage to his hometown in Connecticut.

“That started as just a thought, you know, how could you forget about that?” said Matthews. “Then, later, I’ll think of a melody and it will start to flow in my head. It either starts as a thought or melody, and then somehow they combine. That turns into something I continue to express and think, ‘what else was I thinking?’” 

When he sits down to write the lyrics, Matthews said he is influenced by many artists who came before him. 

“Some of my greatest influences come from the 70s and 80s, sort of folk traditional songwriting. Tom Petty is a big one for me, but anyone from that sort of era who wrote rock music that dipped a little bit more below the level of ‘here’s a girl that I like,’” said Matthews. “I just have a lot of songwriting elements that talk about emotion and experiences and how to flesh those out into things that are more attainable.” 

For his very first album he wanted to go the traditional route and record the songs in a professional studio. 

Matthews recorded his album at Dirt Floor Recording and Production Studio in Haddam, Conn., near his hometown. He used money he earned from his summer job to be able to pay for studio time. 

“We ended up producing it together by the end of it which was really cool. We’d lay out all of the tracks, we’d come in and then we’d fine tune them in the end before we released them,” said Matthews. “I was very fortunate to be able to stumble upon [Dirt Floor Studio] and work with those guys.”

While most of the album Matthews created as a solo artist, there are three tracks that bring in other creators. 

In high school, Matthews said he had a band, Flipside, with his three friends: Aiden Bonilla, Luke Devenney and Drew Macneil. “Coming Home,” “A Hard Place” and “The Murderess (of Elwood)” began as Flipside songs. 

“There’s elements that are not just my own, which I like. It brings in some extra flavor I think,” said Matthews. “Getting in some outside people and diversifying my music palate a little. Without those three songs, I think the album would not be as diverse as you would hear it in its final form.”

On the release day, Matthews went to see Sammy Rae & The Friends at Roadrunner in Brighton. Still riding the wave of excitement from releasing his music, he said he brought a sign that read, “Hey, I just released my debut album,” and the lead singer read it from the stage. 

From that moment, he said people approached him after the concert asking to check out his music and he passed out cards to promote his artist page. 

“We were leaving the concert and people were listening to it in their cars. That day is probably one of the craziest days of my life. It was such a unique experience — I couldn’t have lined it up any other way to have it happen again,” said Matthews. “It was very cool to have people who weren’t originally connected to me or my music to listen to it as well. It just means everything to me.” 

Although the debut album tells a very personal story of Matthews’ life, he said he still hopes people connect with it. 

“I think some of the songs just come from a certain emotional place and I know there’s people out there who feel the same way. I hope the people who are looking for this kind of music and are looking for these kinds of emotions that I’m portraying can hear it at the right time, I guess,” said Matthews. “I don’t think anyone needs to feel anything specifically from my record, but I hope that people who listen to it will feel something.”

While Matthews is pursuing an undergraduate degree in journalism, he still plans to keep music close to him. 

“Music is just my outlet, it kind of distracts me from the rest of my life when things are getting too difficult or when work is getting too overbearing, music is always there to be a fun thing on the side,” Matthews said. “Maybe if some stroke of good fortune happens and I was allowed to turn that into my career, I would reconsider things, but for now it’s just a fun pastime that I enjoy that gives me a little extra something to get out of life.”

“Waiting for Daybreak” is available for streaming on Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube Music, and Matthews posts updates about his music on his artist Instagram @arlomatthewsmusic.

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