Something inspiring is happening in the Dallas music scene, and Cakewalk is excited to be a part of it with SONAR Platinum. When Norman Matthew gets off the road from touring with his band Murder FM, or finishes up a major video or full length record, it’s not time to chill out. In fact for him, that’s the time when he buckles down and digs into his “little side-thing” which is a major music operation called The Sound Foundation (TSF) in Dallas, TX. Dallas has always been known to be a great music town, but Norman’s TSF has a great angle to its existence that resonates to the very core of his soul. In fact just recently, TSF caught the eye of the Ford Motor Company who took notice of Norman and his operation and were so impressed, they featured the establishment on their “Good Works” series.
If you’re reading this article, I’m sure you are aware that the Major Label system has pretty much all but collapsed. Look anywhere on the internet and you will find all the articles you can handle about how evil all the labels were, how they had this coming to them and how the lavish lifestyles of the greedy executives fostered this meltdown. But what you may not know is that “back in the day,” a good piece of that excess cash folks paid down on an $18 CD that cost $1.76 to make went right back into a pool of starving artists (not directly of course). It was called “Artist Development” and it helped pay and pave the way for many iconic artists who started out with the ole “Label Demo Deal.”
In fact some of the “demo deals” back then had budgets bigger than many “record deals” today. My point here is that there was a system in place to mentor, help and nurture new artists with potential. In 1997-ish this little thing called the MP3 appeared and wiped out the whole Major Label model—and one of the first things to feel that heat was the Artist Development cycle. So fast forward to 2016 and who develops those artists today? Sometimes a wealthy producer sitting on bags of money from residual royalties will find and develop an artist. But this isn’t a great scenario either considering times have greatly changed and getting advice from someone who made it in 1985 is usually more detrimental than helpful.
This scenario is the premise of Norman Matthew’s Sound Foundation concept—and we think it’s a great one. Give kids a place to feel comfortable experimenting with music. Give them a community to make friends and share experiences. Give them a positive vibe to encourage good choices and staying out of trouble while learning different facets of the music industry. The Sound Foundation in Dallas checks off all those boxes. And on top of that, it actually releases music as a label which teaches these young musicians the “other” side of the artist-coin… the business.
The proof of this new age Artist Development structure is starting to find its way through a young TSF artist knows as Vannah Red who just broke through the airwaves in Dallas on 97.1 KEGL—The Eagle. Norman has been working with this group since they were at the ripe old age of 11 years old, and this is just one of the many young artists he has been developing under The Sound Foundation umbrella. We got Norman to break away from his schedule for a few minutes to answer some questions about TSF and plans for the future:
Cakewalk: What is the goal of TSF?
Norman Matthew: To inspire, develop and cultivate cutting edge musicians for the next generation. When I was 13, I needed someone who was making it, or had made it to help guide me. I came from El Paso, TX, a west Texas city segregated from the rest of the major cities in Texas. We were more like Mexico than anything else. Local bands were rock stars to me and thinking back on it, it was amazing to interact with them and learn from them. I would go to shows and actually SNEAK in early just to see a sound check and how techs setup stages, how bands worked with one another, how they setup guitar pedals, wrote songs, discussed things; I just was obsessed with the whole scene of it. I learned that the psychology alone is a huge part of how to make a band work. I was fascinated and I still am.
So I try to provide this sort of environment for young artists who have potential. In the modern sense, I certainly consider myself a musician who’s “made it.” I’ve signed record deals, toured internationally, obtained endorsement deals, scored two Top 10 Videos in Europe, supported major acts on the road, landed in soundtracks and video games; and I LOVE being able to share the knowledge I’ve acquired over almost 20years since I got into music at 12 years old. On any given day I have CJ from Drowning Pool, Eric from Divine Intervention, special guests like Will Hunt of Evanescence, Gemini Syndrome, September Mourning, Aaron Comess of Spin Doctors among others who pop in when they’re in town to work with the artists. It’s a great feeling to see these pros taking the time to share their experiences and knowledge, and it confirms in my mind that I’m on the right track with this project.
Cakewalk: What is inside the TSF facility for gear and rooms?
Norman Matthew: I run SONAR Platinum on all our machines and they have been rock solid. The students love SONAR because it’s the best of both the analog and digital worlds combined. The program is actually great for teaching kids how to record because it’s fundamentally like a real recording console. It also has all the bells and whistles of other DAWS combined like the Matrix View, Step Sequencer, Staff View and other things that are great for teaching music production. I also have stacked Tascam US-1800 Interfaces, Roland A-500 Pro Midi Controllers, Gibson/ Epiphone Guitars & KRK Monitors. All the recordings we release are SONAR productions.
Cakewalk: How did The Sound Foundation get started?
Norman Matthew: I pretty much one day just woke up and decided now or never. I couldn’t wait for someone to believe in my dream, so I took the little money I had from writing songs for other artists and some bigger production work I had done, and put the pedal to the metal. I used to teach a young man whose mother is an amazing commercial real estate agent, and within a week and a half she had found the perfect place for TSF to become what it is today. It was actually an old studio and record label back in the day, so I was able to get in and modify it to our needs, make it a little more flexible, and I haven’t looked back since.
It’s a safe haven for musicians young and old. I work with all ages actually even though a lot of the artists are young; bands in different stages of their careers come to me that require different levels of development. From teaching them their first note, to helping them book their first tour, to writing that radio track with a developed artist, TSF is a full service Artist Development entity. It’s about the music, the vision, the passion and the dream—it’s amazing what people will do when you just believe in them.
Cakewalk: What does a “program” look like for someone who is working with you at TSF?
Norman Matthew: It varies and it’s open. There’s no real set parameters, because after I do an intake with each artist, I evaluate where they’re at and we develop it from there. I try to not give any artist the “Norman sound” or the “Murder FM style.” I really enjoy working with all kinds, from Country Artist Baylor Wilson, to indie power trio Vannah Red and even some well-established artists; they all get the same amount of focus and dedication from me depending on what they need. The services are tailor made to what will best serve them in their career. This is something major record labels used to do back in the day and I’m picking up where they left off, because it’s an important missing piece of the puzzle in the industry today. Artist Deveolopment—run the marathon, not the sprint and you will yield bigger and better results on every level. At least that’s what my belief is.
Cakewalk: What is a typical day like at TSF?
Norman Matthew: Loud, fun; music in every room and energy coming from every corner of the building with lots of good times everywhere. It’s a positive creative environment. Artists sitting around conversing with one another—creating around one another—growing together and becoming what they want and what they need to be. It’s a beautiful thing that has taken on a life of its own, and I hope it will grow into something bigger than me to live on forever. Maybe my son Dexter Matthew will continue it on. Daddy Loves you baby ;)!
Cakewalk: What are some of the highlights since you opened the facility?
Norman Matthew: So many, it’s a great feeling to see this all come to life. The first year in, we were the triple crown winner of the “House of Blues Bringing Down the House” national competition with The Bombs, Vannah Red, and The Neverending all walking away with awards for artists under 18. While still only sophomores in high school and already being featured on KEGL 97.1 FM in Dallas, the female duo The Projekt hit the road with Smile Empty Soul & Dead Sara. Another highlight was Griffin Tucker winning the “Top 10 under 20” at the Dallas Guitar Festival 2015 while only 11 years old.
Getting artists on the road and successfully touring has been a big accomplishment since it’s really the only lucrative model these days. Vannah Red hit the road with Hurt, Burn Halo, and The Heartists who were all under 18 and being supported by local radio airplay. Also, The all-girl band The Bombs opened for John Corabi of Motley Crue and performed at the world Famous WHISKY A GO GO, all while still in high school. And!… My KISS tribute band “Dressed to Kill” were given a nod by Paul Stanley of KISS (I still think that’s super cool of him). All my artists have released music in the digital marketplace (iTunes, Spotify, amazon, google play, etc), performed countless shows all across Texas and the southwest, featured in many publications and that’s just in a little under 4 years! There’s so much more to come.
The Sound Foundation Dallas chooses SONAR because of it’s sound quality, creative workflow and ease of use. You can try out any version of SONAR here for free.