When Texas native Troy Cartwright was 12, his dad gave him his first guitar—not the scooter that he had hoped for. It turns out that father knows best. By 14, Troy was penning his own songs and calling area clubs trying to schedule shows. A few years later, a summer music program at NYU exposed Troy to the world outside Dallas and inspired him to pursue music at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. After college, Troy returned home and began playing more than 100 shows a year, opening for the likes of Hayes Carll, Turnpike Troubadours, Randy Rogers Band and more. Troy packed up his bags and moved to Nashville in May and is slated to drop a new five-song EP, Don’t Fade, on Oct. 7.
Total Request Live
I grew up listening to a lot of music. But the first kind of experience listening to singer/songwriter stuff was Pete Yorn on TRL, remember that show with Carson Daly? I had just started playing guitar around 12 years old and thought, “He’s kind of like me.” I took some guitar lessons and began playing in church. Eventually I started playing around town. I was emailing venues at 14, begging them to let me play a show. There’s this neighborhood in Dallas called Deep Ellum, which has gone from being a hip spot to being dangerous to back to being hip now. I would book a show in the area then beg my mom or dad to drive me to some shady bar. They always did it. They sat in the back of the bar making sure everything was cool.
I knew I kind of wanted to do music when I was in high school, but my parents were big on me going to college. I did a weeklong music program at NYU when I was 17. I went to a show up there—Bob Schneider at the Knitting Factory, which I don’t think is there anymore. It was so cool. I knew right there that music was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be as cool as Bob Schneider.
I ended up going to college in Boston at Berklee College of Music and I used to walk dogs to make extra money. I’d always put on Robert Earl Keen’s Spotify and listen to him while I walked dogs. I listened to a lot of Pete Yorn, his Musicforthemorningafter ablum was great. One of my friends introduced me to the Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker record. Then I just started listening to a lot of the Texas country and got into Jack Ingram, who I’ve always admired because he’s a Texas guy who made it big-time in Nashville.
Music City Comradery
I moved to Nashville in May and I’ve been touring really heavy the past summer so I haven’t been in the city much, but I love it so far. Every weekend that I’ve been in town, we’ve found another cool spot to go to. I’ve been doing a lot of songwriting, making the rounds at publishing companies. Songwriting was never something I decided to do, it just happened. I started writing songs when I was 14. I tell people that songwriting is like the only thing I was never told to do, so it’s all mine. When you hit it off with a writer, it’s a great way to make friends in a new town. Everyone in Nashville has been really helpful. I love the collaborative aspect of the Nashville. Everyone is sort of connected.
My new single is “Busted.” It has done really well on Texas radio and gotten some national airplay as well. It’s about looking at your car or truck or relationship—and sometimes things just break. I was driving back from Denver to Texas with one of my buddies and it was like 120 degrees and the AC goes out in his car and we broke down on the side of the road. And we were just looking at this busted thing trying to decide if we should just leave it there and get on with our lives. Sometimes relationships are like that and you ask yourself if it’s really worth investing more time and money to fix this thing up.
I recorded Don’t Fade in Austin, Texas, at Rattletrap Studios with producer Rob Baird and Brian Douglas Phillips. Rob had a whole plan for the album. He had an entire plan of the cost, who he wanted to bring in and play, just everything. We went to Austin a few days at a time and paired down 50 or 60 songs to five and went in the studio and tried to make magic. We titled the album after the song “Don’t Fade.” The song just means so much to me. It’s the stamp I wanted to put on the record. I wanted to make something that would last a long time and stand the test of time, not just cater to current tastes. I hope the album touches listeners’ souls in some way. I think this EP has a lot of longing to it. If you’re in that place or have been in that place before, I think it’s something you can relate to. I hope the songs resonate with listeners.
Check out the five songs from Don’t Fade below.
photos by Jamey Ice