What’s the Joke? “How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, Practice, Practice.”

Matt Crowder says he was born in January 1987 during one of the worst snow storms to hit Danville – 21 inches on the 21st of January. Like many musicians, he was introduced to music at an early age. “Mom would always sing while she rocked me. Specifically, ‘You Are My Sunshine.’ That one has always been pretty significant in our family. Dad played in bands when I was growing up. Even at three or four, I would tag along to his rehearsals. Typically, one of the other band member’s girlfriend would babysit me, but I’d always try to sneak into the music room whenever the opportunity presented itself,” Crowder says.

Crowder officially started playing guitar at age fourteen. “I took a trip to The Music Post with a friend and even though I didn’t play, I fell in love with this one guitar. When I got home, I begged my parents to buy it for me. They couldn’t afford it, so I asked my grandmother. She was hesitant because she didn’t really have the money either. But, she gave me a bucket of quarters. Dad and I sat on the floor of our living room that night counting and rolling them. The next day we went to The Music Post, and we had exactly enough to buy that guitar.”

There were always instruments – keyboards, guitars, drums — around Crowder’s house. “Having all that influence at home and seeing my dad play really gave me the desire to learn. Dad showed me a few chords, but I was impatient, always wanting to learn the next thing. It was very much like the picture on a puzzle box. ‘Ok that’s what it looks like. How do I put it together?’ He’d show me the picture, and it was up to me to figure it out. I’ve always been more of an autodidact when it comes to music. I observe and absorb,” Crowder says.

It didn’t take long before Crowder played for an audience. He got his start playing in a “laid back southern Baptist church where the hymns mostly consisted of Hank Williams’ ‘I Saw the Light’ and Johnny Cash’s ‘Daddy Sang Bass.’” It was there that Crowder began playing bass. He dabbles with many instruments, but the guitar is his go to.  He adds, “The music really doesn’t change from instrument to instrument…only the way it’s produced.”

Crowder finds inspiration to write and perform in life, books, movies, and other songs. “The love that turned you down. The love that didn’t. I receive inspiration from many sources. But, just like playing an instrument, writing takes practice. I’ve written songs I’m extremely proud of and some that I’d rather no one ever hear,” he laughs. “But, I always try to allow myself the freedom to be creative.”

His taste in music fluctuates. “I love all of that old school country, but there’s definitely some rock & roll in my blood. I always tell people I grew up on Hank Williams and The Beatles. That dichotomy of the obvious and the abstract has had a long lasting effect on the way I write.” When asked about his favorite record, Crowder says it’s like a musical carousel. One day, it’s The Wall by Pink Floyd. Ask him another day and it’s Willie Nelson’s Redheaded Stranger or Leon Russell’s Hank Wilson’s Back! or Gary Clark Jr’s The Story of Sonny Boy Slim. But, today, Crowder says, “Right now, it’s gotta be Blue Collar Bones & Busted Knuckles by Jason Springs. They’re great songs, and I played the electric guitar parts on the album, so I may be a bit biased.” He laughs again.

You can catch Crowder playing at KickBack Jack’s in Danville every Wednesday 9-12 pm and Frank’s Italian Restaurant every other Thursday 7-10 pm. On weekends, he travels, playing shows throughout Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Soon, Crowder will be adding connecting states to the list. He also hosts and produces a podcast called The D Chord where he interviews musicians and features original music. It’s available for free on Soundcloud and iTunes with new episodes coming out every Tuesday.