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Woodbury native Griswold tracking the sound to California

Matthew Griswold

There are artists who aspire to write No. 1 hits. There are artists who dream of being besieged by adoring fans.

Neither of those possibilities appeals to Woodbury native Matthew Griswold. In his dream, he gets to hang out with Oscar.

In September, Griswold moves to California where he will create music specifically for TV and film. If everything goes according to plan, Griswold could be in position to achieve his dream of recording an Academy Award-winning soundtrack -- a longtime pursuit, but one that once seemed like pure fiction to the 30-year-old.

"With this new move, it's maybe less fictional," Griswold said. "It's kind of a dream come true."

Griswold's music has been selected to appear in nearly 20 different films, television shows and commercials since 2010, though that exposure could just be the tip of the iceberg. He has signed a recording deal with APM Music where his focus will be almost singular, allowing him to apply his creative vision to characters, settings and scene.

The venture seems custom-made to Griswold, who said soundtracks have always connected deeply with him.

"My music is very dramatic and very dynamic," he said last week in an interview with the Bulletin. "I wasn't surprised when I became more appealing to a production company than others."

Being able to paint a lyrical tapestry from another piece of art has appealed to Griswold ever since he was exposed to one of his favorite soundtracks -- "Philadelphia" -- recorded by Bruce Springsteen.

Griswold said he thinks the dynamics of his music and his ability to waver artistically between subtlety and intensity in the span of one or two musical lines is likely what makes him a good fit in the industry.

Some of those qualities are evident on Griswold's third album, the acoustic "Solitary Sessions," which will be released Aug. 6.

'Solitary Sessions'

The introspective and at-times dark album was recorded entirely in Griswold's St. Paul apartment.

Griswold said the stripped-down feel of the album -- just him and his guitar -- conjures recordings from the 1930s, and that's where the irony comes in: "Solitary Sessions" was recorded exclusively with Griswold's iPhone. He said he originally intended to bring the songs to a studio and remaster them, but the more he listened to the phone recordings, the more he liked them.

"I might be the first recording artist to do that," he said of releasing an entire album recorded on an iPhone. "Maybe I'll make friends with Apple after this."

Griswold said the solo recording environment fostered a more authentic experience that allowed him to be more emotive without what he termed "studio anxiety."

"This was where I was most comfortable," he said.

If the music on "Solitary Sessions" seems dark in parts, Griswold said there's good reason for it. He recorded it several months ago during what he called "the winter that wouldn't let go." That, coupled with a recent break-up, drew out songs that he said carry "a perspective of solitude."

"A break-up can kind of stir up some emotions and thoughts," he added.

Going to California

Griswold's departure to Los Angeles represents the latest in a string of successes for the musician in a relatively short time frame.

After attending Woodbury Elementary and then Woodbury Junior High, Griswold spent his high school years at Concordia Academy in Roseville, where he graduated in 2001. He attended one year of college at Minnesota State University-Moorhead, before taking a year off to pursue his musical career.

At age 20, he enlisted in the army and was stationed in Germany before being deployed to Iraq in 2006. His combat experience included the bloody Battle of Ramadi, where U.S. forces fought for months with insurgents for control of a key capital city.

After returning from service, Griswold immediately returned to the music scene -- first in Nashville, and then back in the Twin Cities. He began playing gigs locally in 2009 and released his first album, "Screaming from the Witch's Tower," the following year.

That first album leaned heavily on Griswold's post-war struggles. He said his military service still informs his songwriting, but no longer to the degree it once did.

"Indirectly, it's still very much there," Griswold said.

His second album, "East Suburban Serenade Revival," was released in 2012 and mined new depths in songwriting.

Since Griswold's first breakthrough, his music has been used in the TV show "Push Girls," by the PGA and during the inaugural season at Target Field.

"When things like that happen, it all seems very quick," he said.

He acknowledges that his success has been on a progressively upward trajectory, but not without the requisite elbow grease; Griswold generally plays about 200 shows a year. His 2012 concert schedule has been booked solid for a year.

And now he gets to stretch his legs in L.A., where he'll have a new focus.

It's fitting, perhaps, since he said movie soundtracks generally allow for "room to explore." Griswold said that doesn't always mean drawing on first-hand experiences, either.

Take his song "The Fall" -- the one used in "Push Girls." It describes the agony of a break-up, but that experience didn't belong to Griswold; he said it drew from a friend's relationship.

"I was not going through a broken heart at the time," he said. "My best stuff often comes from what I'm detached from most."

Just how that will play out in the next phase of his career is unwritten, but the wheels are already turning. Griswold said APM has arranged a meeting in September where he will link up with a film or TV director for a possible project.

"This opportunity is one that is recognizing a strength I know I have," he said of the L.A. move. "I feel like this is something where I get to use the things I'm strongest with moving forward."

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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