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Ask the Cougar

A New Student Record

Matt Zutell, Class of 2013

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College is a time for preparing for the future – acquiring all the right skills, lining up all the right opportunities. And the way Matt Zutell ’13 saw it, you don’t do that sitting around making plans. Call him impatient, but he wanted to get started already. There is, he knew, only one way to get something done: Do it.

And so he did. He started a recording studio/record label/production company.

“I thought it would be a good way to not only build my portfolio, but make some money too,” he says of Coast Records, which he established in 2012 to prepare for a career in the music industry. "I thought it would make sense to create an umbrella for everything I’m involved with musically, whether it’s writing, recording, producing, or publishing. There are so many avenues you can take in the music industry – I want to be prepared to do all of them.”

Zutell had long known he wanted a career in music. He’s been writing songs and playing in bands since middle school. His senior year in high school, one of his original songs, “A Last Farewell,” was featured on Life on Tour, an EF Tours reality travel web series from the producers of The Real World.

It wasn’t until college, however, that he took interest in producing music. He started by playing around with GarageBand on his Mac and consulted his cousin in Atlanta, who records music and who taught him a lot. By the time he transferred to the College of Charleston, Zutell had upgraded to Logic Pro, honed his recording skills and was eager for more experience.

And, as he is wont to do, he got started right away. In the fall of 2011, he contacted Hootie & The Blowfish guitarist Mark Bryan, who founded the boutique music company Chucktown Music Group in 2009, and asked him if he could intern for the company the following summer.

“My first impression was, ‘Wow, this kid must be on the ball if he’s asking this far out.’ He was clearly and sincerely passionate about music, and wanting to learn from experience,” says Bryan, who took Zutell up on his offer – and he wasn’t disappointed. In fact, he chose “Out of Mind” – an original song that Zutell produced and co-wrote with two other students – for Chucktown Music Group’s Song of the Fortnight. He has since hired Zutell to do engineering, mixing and production work on his own solo tracks, and is always impressed by the “fresh ear and approach” he brings to the music. “No matter what task I have worked with him on – registering songs with ASCAP, guitar teching shows, organizing websites and social media – he is able to dig in, troubleshoot if necessary, and get it done.”

Getting it done. That seems to be the theme for Zutell. And, when you take the initiative to get things done, that usually means doing them yourself.

Which is one reason Zutell started Coast Records. When he got to the College, he found three things: (1) a lack of music recording club or organization, (2) a real interest in recording music, and (3) a ton of talent among students.

“I wanted to make a hub for all the music going on around campus,” he says, shrugging: “I already had people I was working with, so I started it with base clientele.”

All he had to do was establish a brand, build a website, lock up the name Coast Records on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and soundproof the walls of his bedroom. (Yes, the recording studio is currently in his bedroom. Baby steps.) By fall of 2012, he was open for business.

“Matt and I were friends before I ever recorded with him, so the vibe and energy went right into the music,” says Adam Pierce, a sophomore who produced his hip-hop mixtape A Fistful of Dollars under the name Ace. “Matt gave me the opportunity to put out quality music. He had the skills and means to help me on my pursuit in the music industry.”

As for his own pursuits in the music industry, Zutell – an economics major – knows the importance of understanding the business side of things, as well.

“The music industry, like all industries, has its eye on making money. Knowing the value of what you have to offer, how to offer it and whom to offer it to can make or break a career. Especially today, when most of the artists aren’t writing their own songs, you have to understand how to market your music and find the right artists to pitch your songs to,” he says, noting that – as much as he loves all aspects of the music industry, his ideal career would be writing alternative pop songs. “I’m going to keep writing and recording songs and shop them for the right artists. I want to establish myself as a songwriter for pop/rock artists.”

“I think Matt has quite a future in whatever combination of skills he decides to pursue,” says Bryan. “It’s clearly become more of a do-it-yourself world, and you can go a long way if you can consistently get the job done.”

And – whatever the job is – you can bet Zutell has already gotten started.