TORRINGTON — Ian Matthew is on a roll.

His music videos and songs have been played more than 500,000 times on ApplePlay, Spotify AudioMac and YouTube. With another new song about to be released this week, Matthew is excited about the future.

The Torrington-born 28-year old has transitioned from hip hop to a slower style of singing, mostly ballads with a smooth beat, acoustic guitar and percussion, with a rap sound in between the lyrics. In his first online hit, “Ashtray”, the singer changes to using his voice and guitar skills in his music.

“My career’s in transition right now, and we’ve been watching it grow and grow,” he said. “We’re going to be doing the same formula and keep releasing new music, to keep people entertained.”

Matthew’s professional career started in 2010, but he’s been playing and making music since the age of 12. He took a music technology class while attending Torrington High School and learned to record himself, he said.

“I played in some different bands, but I finally started making my own music when I couldn’t get a band of my own together,” Matthew said.

The then-18-year-old focused on hip hop back then, creating his own style that was influenced by Lil Wayne, Outkast, UGK and Jay-Z, he said. “I also grew up listening to my dad, he’s a rock and roll guitar player, and I loved listening to Stevie Ray Vaugh, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix,” Matthew said. “I heard a lot of punk rock too — the Clash, New Found Glory, MXTX ... Today, I think their music is still very relevant. It’s still a hit when people hear it.

“I always loved early punk, 80s and 90s hip hop,” he said. “You know, that ‘stick it to the man’ kind of music.”

That affection for such a variety of music kept Matthew’s mind open to different types of sound, he said, and when he met a sound engineer by chance, he saw an opportunity. He was working with another recording artist in a studio in Torrington when he met TB, also known as Thomas Birmingham.

“We started talking, and I got his number and called him,” Matthew said. “He came back to my studio to record, and we made this connection. We made magic in the first session we had together, and we’ve been working together ever since. TB ended up getting a bigger studio, and we’ve been growing our careers at the same time.”

In 2018, Matthew was still recording hip hop music. One day, he was in the studio playing guitar and singing, and a friend said, “How come you never do that?”

“I sang a little more, and we decided to make this transition to singing like that,” Matthew said. “I mean, I played guitar, but nobody heard me. The first song I did was ‘Ashtray’ that has heavy guitar influence and showcases my singing. It was a way to show what else I could do.”

“Ashtray” was a hit online, and still is, Matthew said .”It still gets a decent amount of streams,” he said. “We’re up to a half-million streams between AppleMusic and Spotify.”

Once he decided to take his work in a different direction, Matthew focused on songwriting and music with his new sound. “Now that we knew what people wanted, we had to figure out how to stay true to ourselves, and do the kind of music I wanted to do,” he said. “As far as me being an artist and giving my fans what they wanted, it was about finding a balance.

“It’s been easy to do that, because I listen to so many different genres of music — those early influences, for me, were Billy Joel, Bob Dylan; people who can really tell a story,” Matthew said. “The Temptations and anyone from the Motown era have also been an influence for me. With them, I was able to make my own sound.”

He just recorded a cover of the pop hit, “Aint Too Proud To Beg” made famous by the Temptations. “I love that song,” Matthew said. “The feelings that you hear in those songs is what I like. That’s why I turned to that era for songwriting. I don’t listen to a lot of new music, because there’s so much old music to find.”

After recording “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” friends wanted to know what it was. “They’d never heard it before,” Matthew said. “That early music, from people like Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters and BB King influenced so many people. Look at the Rolling Stones, they played that too.”

With his online presences growing, Matthew recently signed a partnership with Foundation Media in New York City, which describes itself as a “multi-purpose media and marketing company specializing in distribution and label services,” according to its website.

“They’ve got a pretty rich history in the music industry,” Matthew said. “They give me structure in my new releases.”

Many recording artists use the internet to further their careers , instead of heading to New York or California to be “discovered,” Matthew said. There’s no album on the horizon for now, but Matthew will continue to release one song at a time.

“We haven’t made any big moves; there’s no big contracts or anything yet,” he said.

“It’s so different now,” he said. “I can stay in Torrington and have fans in Australia. I can work on my social media presence and interact with the fans and grow the fan base from home.”

Matthew also stayed in Torrington for personal reasons. His 6-year-old daughter, Ava, attends the city’s public schools. He also wants to give back to the city where he was born.

“So many people told me that I needed to leave to be successful, and that kind of put a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “I mean, people say they want to leave here, because they think it’s a dead end. But it doesn’t have to be. I want to try and make my community better. These people have taken the time to listen to my music, and the hometown support is something I’ll always remember.

“If I get a recording contract, I’d like to put in a recording studio right here, for kids to have a spot to go to,” Matthew said. “Maybe I could have a performance space for the high school, if they need help with that. I haven’t reached that financial level yet, but if I do, I want to do that.”

Two years ago, Matthew held a Christmas food and clothing drive, donating the food to FISH and the clothing to THS’s Comfort Closet, for underserved and homeless students.

“We had money left over, and we got gift cards for those kids too,” Matthew said. “It was cool to see that I was able to bring the community together. I was happy to do that; I don’t want to forget Torrington.”

Matthew’s new single, “Finally Changing” is now on Spotify and can be heard here.

His videos including “Ashtray” are also on his website, https://ianupnorth.com/#music

Connecticut Media Group