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Interview with Matthew Ebel, Singer-Songwriter

Posted in Future Legends, Indie Music, Interviews | 5 Comments »

Matthew Ebel is another wildly-talented singer/songwriter who granted me an interview in November 2008, which I am happy to share with you.

The Rock Star Life Lessons Blog Interview with Matthew Ebel, by Carla Lynne Hall

Matthew Ebel

Rock Star Life Lessons: How often do you perform?

Matthew Ebel: Right now I have a regular gig once a week in New Hampshire. I’m hoping to expand beyond that, obviously, but it’s my first anchor gig in New England since moving here. I’ve been looking for a booking agent for years now, but I don’t know how to get one that will actually WORK for me. I can perform my ass off, but convincing an agent to even return a damn phone call is like getting a label to solicit a submission.

Of course, during the summers for the last couple of years I’ve been doing a residence gig 5 days a week on Block Island. That’s a lot of fun, but a LOT of work. And good money. That one fell into my lap, but I’m glad it’s there. My performance partner, Ernie, got me that gig and he’s a blast to play with.

RSLL: What’s your traveling/touring schedule like?

ME: Right now, thin. I won’t take a gig unless it will at least break even, and that means I don’t tour much right now. Granted, a string of small-paying gigs will make a tour profitable, but I am so busy with studio work that I don’t have the time to book such a tour right now. In the mean time, I’m being flown out to conventions for gigs a few times a year. Those are the real good-paying gigs and they’re usually full of people who already know my music and will sing along.

RSLL: Over the summer, you were an Artist in Residence on Block Island. How do you get gigs like that, and what are they like?

ME: Like I said, that one fell into my lap… but like someone said once, luck is the intersection of preparation with opportunity. I’ll work it backwards for you: My friend Ernie already had the Block Island gig, but he doesn’t sing so he needed a frontman. He found me at the Podsafe Music Live gig we set up in Nashville when C.C. Chapman was coming to town. I was part of the PML thing at Edgehill because I was friends with Geoff Smith and Kevin Reeves, and of course C.C. I got to know all of them through podcasting all the way back in 2004. The thing that got me into podcasting was a geek friend of mine mentioning that some guy from MTV’s heyday did a regular internet show and that I should send him a song from the new album I was working on (that would be Beer & Coffee).

So I guess the answer to that question is I got the gig because I had a geek friend a few years before I got the gig. In the music business you can always see the road behind the tour bus but the road ahead goes in all directions.

RSLL: You are like the Podcast Music King! How did you get your music featured in so many podcasts?

ME: First of all, thanks! The key, I guess, was getting involved early. I lived in Nashville when podcasting really broke and everyone was all excited about it, so for me there’s a perfect comparison at work here: The Music City is one of the biggest ponds a small fish can be in- a well-established machine that funnels songwriters to publishers to labels to artists to session players and eventually to both CD sales and live gigs supporting those CD’s. It’s the standard rich-and-famous contract from the Muppet Movie with millions of musicians standing in line to get it.

On the other side there’s the cutting edge. A brand new medium (podcasting) that nobody but the pioneering nerds listened to, but something that had great potential. The smaller the pond, the bigger the fish you can be. I saw that small pond being fed by a river of excitement and innovation, so I could see that small pond getting bigger very soon.

I guess it’s a bit like surfing. There are thousands of waves, but only a few you can ride all the way to the shore. Once you’ve paddled through a few duds, you’ll figure out how to spot the wave that’s going to curl just right long before it even starts to rise.

Tossing this labored analogy aside, I guess I was just so excited about the medium itself that the other geeks like me could see I was genuine. I was in it for both promotion of my music AND for the promotion of this new medium. You can’t fake genuine enthusiasm, and New Media types in particular can smell a marketing pitch miles away. I just happened to be able to add my music to a very small pool and speak the vernacular of the geek to help spread it around.

Now podcasting is huge and major labels are toying with it, so it’s a wave that’s already curled and heading for the sand. What’s the next wave? You got me, I’m still riding this one.

RSLL: What other music-related ventures are you doing these days?

ME: Right now I’m trying to start my own wave. Over at there’s a new subscription service where my fans can sign up for brand new music and live recordings every single month, along with other exclusives. Gas prices are making it harder to tour every year. My fans, thanks to the internet, are spread out all over the world… but very few of them live in a concentrated enough area to support a real live concert. With the subscription, I can send new music and live shows to them without going bankrupt on gas and hotels.

I got the idea from Geoff Smith’s Ring Tone Feeder site. He’s got a subscription for iPhone ring tones, I’m doing new music and concert recordings. If I can get enough subscribers, I’ll be able to just focus on making good music and less on marketing to new customers. I’m hoping that this model will actually work so new musicians can earn a living off of their own music.

If you’re interested, check out the site at – I just sent out the first song to podcasters, too, so people can play some of it on their shows!

RSLL: How has your marketing yourself and your career changed in the last 5 years?

ME: Well for starters I stopped trying to figure out what my fans wanted and just started asking them. That was a big shift for me and fortunately my fan base, for the most part, is familiar with feedback mechanisms like blog comments, Twitter, and AIM/Yahoo/Skype. As for actual marketing, I’ve also come to the realization that I can be a marketer or a musician, not both. I’m trying to find someone now who will act as a marketing agent of sorts, someone who will make the noise and maybe do PR for me without having to function as a record label.

RSLL: What is one action a musician can take to build their music business?

ME: There are thousands of things I could say here, but since I’m geek-centric I’ll start with a big one: Don’t settle for a shitty website. Seriously. Register your own domain name ( does NOT count), hire someone to design you a killer WordPress site, and learn how to use it. Publish your blog via RSS and Twitter, update it frequently, and don’t settle for a shitty website. Ever.

If you’re cruising for a restaurant and the first thing you see are folding chairs and paper plates, you’re not likely to care how good the food MIGHT be, you’re heading to the next restaurant. Your website is your store front, your chance to control the user’s experience. It’s your jolly roger for your pirate ship. Make damn sure you’ve got one that strikes fear into the heart of your enemies.

RSLL: If you were starting all over today as a musician, what would you focus on?

ME: Starting from scratch? Music. I would make sure my music was worth paying $150 for the cheap seats to go listen to. I would surround myself with people who aren’t afraid to tell me what sucks and what doesn’t, people I trust enough to listen to. No matter how clever your marketing, you will be better off if your songs mean something, stick in people’s heads, and make people want more. If you can’t do that, you need to keep working before you start any marketing.


For Matthew Ebel, music is the key to the journey of life, not just the destination. The Massachusetts based singer/songwriter/keyboardist has experienced several musical lifetimes, each one providing him with the skills to accomplish that rare songwriting feat –to have his listeners emotionally inhabit the shoes of the characters he creates.

Fully immersed in the new digital music world, Matthew is committed to being a trailblazer for other artists. “I want to leave a legacy for other musicians and show them that it’s possible to be a one man operation or a small band and do it on your own. I’m always looking for new ways to do that for myself and I’ll be letting people know where I’ve succeeded and let them know what to avoid from my failures,” he says.

In 2009, Matthew plans to develop himself as a touring artist. “My goal is to be touring with a band,” he declares, following with a laugh, “across the country, globe or universe.” He’ll also be beginning the follow up to Goodbye Planet Earth, of which he says, “I’m going to get back to a more organic feel. I think I want to call it Songs for Geeks,” he says with an impish grin. It will continue to be a fascinating journey for Matthew and his music, as well as a rich and rewarding ride for those who choose to follow.

Matthew Ebel’s main website
Matthew’s Music Subscription Site
Matthew Ebel on Twitter
Matthew Ebel on Facebook
Matthew Ebel on MySpace
Matthew Ebel on