While some artists keep trying until they find luck, Matt Stillwell was busy making his own. Hitting the Nashville pavement hard getting out his first self released single, he has been working day in and out to get to his success. Originally from North Carolina, Stillwell made the big move to Nashville to pursue his musical career after making a tough decision between music and baseball. Stillwell spent his years in college on the field until fate took a turn. "I got injured towards the end of the season, and you never know. That stuff is not a science. So, I didn't get drafted that year, and then my senior year wasn't as good…I could've gone and played independent ball and chased it much like I'm chasing music now. But I just kind of looked at it as, whatever I was going to chase, I wanted to be able to do it for a long, long time. It just felt right, I think that was where the decision was. I've always just kind of gone with my gut, and so I did then." It seems to the country music world, his gut feeling really paid off. In releasing his debut single "Shine," he climbed the Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart and hasn't looked back since. "Shine" pays tribute to Stillwell's North Carolina roots, a fun country song about mason jars and moonshine. "The best advice I ever got was actually from one of my youth group ministers. I've told her this too. It was to write about what you know. I know about moonshine; about everything and anything you experience in life. I try to do the same thing with choosing songs."
His most recent single is "Ignition" an emotional hit filled with perspective and drive. "The song has had the impact that the song had on me, with a lot of people. When I first heard it, it was the thing that stuck with me the most, was that it was vague enough that people could put their own story into it. I knew that it had an opportunity to affect a lot of people," said Stillwell. He really hit the nail on the head with this single; it is a true country hit with good lyrics, relatability, not to mention a soulful country voice. "A lot of people go through things, and whether they literally pull over to the side of the road and are crying or not, it still affects them in a positive way, and that's how I first heard that song. So it's been really cool to do that, and I think there's a life for that song still. Even though it's not being actively promoted right now, I think there's a big life for that song, just because it does affect people." says Stillwell. That is what country music is all about.
Stillwell, as he works to create a full length album, is taking care in picking and choosing the songs that will appear. Whether he is writing his own or deciding upon others he makes sure they hit his heartstrings before they touch the guitar strings. "That's why we have the Reba McEntire's and the George Strait's, and the Keith Whitley's that didn't write a lot of their own songs, but there was a chord in there that struck within them. I try to be very conscious of that in picking songs and in writing songs," Stillwell says he draws from his influences for his creative fuel. "Merle Haggard and Keith Whitley, and Johnny Cash, and Vince Gill is a big one for me. I studied what they do a lot. Their music has always touched me quite a bit, so I try to approach it more as a lesson than anything. Then going back to the songwriting community in Nashville, there are a lot of songwriters that I would rather listen to their demo of all their songs than anything else, and you learn from that."
He has been playing and performing and opening up for the artists like Luke Bryan, Zac Brown and Colt Ford. Currently, he spends his time touring and furthering his career. "Now I'm able to do this at a pretty good level and grow, and it's very humbling in that. But just the very basics of waking up and doing what you love to do, it's cool. Beyond that, I love driving the bus. I don't drive it all the time, but I love it. Being on the road has been a huge part of my life through baseball and this. It's just a part of me, and it always will be."
Just like the first days in Nashville, he realized he was surrounded by such creative talent, and that motivated and humbled him, he continues to pursue his passions with the same fervor today. He is working on Shinefest 2017 coming up Memorial Day weekend, an event founded and headlined by Stillwell himself. "The reason we did it was around the video. We knew we were going to film a video for "Shine". We knew where we were going to do it, and I just wanted to invite fans and friends. So, we were like, 'This is kind of cool. Let's try to do it every year.' The cool part about it is, rain, shine, whatever, there are people there to have a good time, and you are kind of in the middle of nowhere. That whole little energy thing is really cool."
2017 holds a lot for Stillwell, touring, creating a full length album, and preparing for Shinefest 2017. But I'm just as happy as I could be about all of that stuff. So, I'm excited about it. There are a lot of new things, a lot of stuff that's yet to be determined, which I don't mind. I mean, they're all in the works, and that's what I like to do is navigate those waters." Everything seems to happen for a reason and it looks like Stillwell is exactly where he was meant to be. "There's something about doing what you love to do and having the ability to do that, I'm really blessed in that situation."