Troy Cartwright Focuses on Love, Coming Home on New Album
You can take the boy out of the South, but you can't take the South out of the boy. It's an old adage, but singer-songwriter Troy Cartwright is proof that it holds true.
A Dallas native, Cartwright shipped off to Boston after high school to attend Berklee College of Music, and even stayed up North for a while after graduating in 2012, earning a living as a wedding singer and dog walker -- but he knew that country music was his calling, and he knew that Texas was the place to be.
"I was actually making a living playing music [as a wedding singer, [but] after I'd been doing it for about six months, I realized, that's not why I got into music," Cartwright tells The Boot. "I got into music because I had these songs that I wanted to sing, and I had things that I wanted to say, and I knew that country music, and specifically Texas country music, it's an entry point for someone like me."
"Come Home," one of nine songs on Cartwright's self-titled LP, released in February, was inspired by his homecoming, a familiar tale to him and plenty of other twentysomethings set to a peppy beat: "'Cause when you're 22 / And don't know what to do / You come home / And when you realize you / Don't have a clue / Well, come home."
"It was important for me to have that sort of support from family and friends because it's very hard, and it's not a particularly lucrative career at this point," Cartwright says, adding later that moving back to Texas was made easier by the fact that so many of his college friends had left Boston as well. "I was just like, 'Man, if I stay here any longer, I'm not going to have anyone to hang out with!"
While Cartwright admits that he found it "very difficult to play original music" in Boston -- "I don't know if that's because I went to Berklee, so everyone had a band," he adds -- going to school for music proved to be beneficial, especially for his songwriting skills.
"I think those [lyric-writing classes] helped me tremendously," Cartwright says. In a class taught by Pat Pattison, a songwriter, author and professor whose former students include, among others, John Mayer, "it was like a light bulb came on. I don't think I'd be where I am at now without having had that experience."
But the Texas country scene is where he belongs.
"There are a lot of people who are just fans of music and who like finding new artists ... and who want to support you," Cartwright explains. "It's its own little scene that a lot of people don't even know exists.
"I love Nashville, and I love going there, and I love writing there, but it's hard to just do music, unless you're fortunate and you get a great gig," he adds, "but in Texas, it's not so unusual to support yourself just by playing."
Cartwright's current single off of Troy Cartwright, which was produced by Wes Sharon, is "Next Flight Home," a mid-tempo love song (love is a big theme on the album, Cartwright says) with a driving drum beat that, in keeping with the theme of coming home, proclaims, "Yeah, the city's great / But it's you that makes me come around here."
"It was a very scientific process of asking my friends and other people that I knew in the industry what they thought would be a good single," Cartwright says of selecting the song as a single, "but I also kind of knew in my gut that that was the lead single because the song means a lot to me personally, and I think it's very much like my sound; the way that I imagine my music sounding is really in that particular song."
Love and home are two of the album's big themes, but "Come Home" and "Next Flight Home" aren't completely indicative of the project as a whole. Cartwright selected everything from "Southern rock numbers" to "very ballad-y, acoustic songs" for the disc.
"Ryan Adams was my favorite artist [growing up], and he is notorious for having these albums that are like, he's got straight-up honky-tonk country tunes, and then he's got punk-rock tunes," Cartwright explains, "and I don't think I'll ever go that far, but I like the freedom as an independent artist to choose the songs that are the best songs and have the songs stand on their own and not worry too much about, 'Is this a Texas country song?' 'Is this a Nashville country song?' 'Is this a pop song?'"
Any song was game for the album -- as long as it showed growth from his 2013 EP, Bull Run.
"Hopefully [the songs on Troy Cartwright] are better than the ones on the EP -- they are to me," Cartwright says. "I know that's not a thing you can base on any real fact, but I'm really proud of this record."
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