Matthew Clanton ’18 remembers his reluctance toward singing in elementary school.
“Singing’s not cool, that’s for losers,” Clanton recalls his 2007 self saying.
But that outlook would soon change for him, all thanks to a solo in a medley of High School Musical songs that the choir performed. His solo was in the movie’s first song, “The Start of Something New,” an ironic choice for the now Los Angeles-based musician.
“In a way, I see that as the start of my personal interest in music versus just going with the flow,” Clanton said. “It’s a funny coincidence that that’s the name of the song.”
Clanton said he decided his main instrument was his voice by the time he was in high school. Voice was also what he chose when declaring his music production and recording arts major at Elon.
On Clanton’s Elon graduation day, he dropped his first EP titled “Goin’ Up,” featuring four songs, two of which had been released as singles leading up to the release. A month later, Clanton started offering freelance music services on Fiverr, an online platform for freelancers across art forms.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, his 9-to-5 job at The Vocal Corner Studio in L.A. ended and he noticed his numbers on Fiverr spiking.
“It was just getting to a point where some months I would make more on Fiverr than I would make at my job,” Clanton said, “and it was in the back of my mind, like, I would love to just be doing Fiverr because it just gives me so much more autonomy and flexibility of my time and allows me to then take on other opportunities that aren't necessarily paid but have opportunity for payment down the line.”
Over 300 clients later, Clanton offers his services full-time, such as production, studio engineering, songwriting and vocal services. During the summer, Clanton released two collaboration songs and dove deeper in electronic dance music, a genre he found massive success with following a career shift.
In 2021, Clanton collaborated with German EDM artist Neptunica on his remix of the song “Love is Gone,” originally by David Guetta and Chris Willis. This was the first song where Clanton didn’t keep himself anonymous upon release. The song blew up in Germany, now sitting at 39 million streams.
Clanton predicts that the song will hit 40 million streams this month, complementing his recent accomplishment of hitting 1 million monthly listeners on Spotify, although that number has shifted down.
The two have continued to collaborate since then, releasing their song “Living Life, in the Night” in 2022, which garnered 11 million streams. Clanton said they have another song coming out together next month.
Outside of this past summer, Clanton said his freelance endeavors include recording demos for artists he met at his old job and doing demo vocals for the FOX show “Empire.” But Clanton said his full circle moment was when his backup vocals were included in a Disney Plus movie “Sneakerella,” a modern take on the Disney princess movie, “Cinderella.”
His original job was to record the demo vocals for the movie’s song, “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” which would then be swapped out for the actor’s vocals once the song’s pitch was accepted. This is a job Clanton said he frequently does on Fiverr.
But this time while recording, he went “above and beyond the expectation” and recorded backup vocals. Disney liked the backup vocals and decided it wasn’t worth it to have the actor try to recreate them, according to Clanton, so they kept those vocals.
To Clanton, his Disney feature was a call back to his High School Musical solo his first performance as both projects came from Disney.
Clanton said his immediate arrival to Elon’s all-male a cappella group Rip_Chord helped build his skills in production and arrangement. When looking at colleges, Clanton included collegiate a cappella groups in his decision and knew he wanted to be in Rip_Chord before even submitting his application.
He served as music director and vice president, during his time in the group. As music director, Clanton said he had to analyze and listen to songs “intently” in order to coach the group on singing.
“There’s this piano, there’s this bass, it’s doing this, this moment is happening like this; how can I translate that to voice? Not even just the notes, what vowels are they going to be singing? Will this make more sense as an ‘ooh’ or ‘oh’ or ‘ah?’” Clanton said. “What kind of musical impact will happen if we’re doing either one of those?”
Clanton’s involvement as music director heavily translates into his work on Fiverr, he said.
His transition from North Carolina to Los Angeles was made easier by Clanton’s involvement in the Elon in L.A. program, which he participated in in 2016. While on the west coast and working his soon-to-be full-time job as an intern — a job he spent two summers at — Clanton built connections with people in the music industry and Elon alumni.
“I knew I had a direction or at least I had a landing point when coming here,” Clanton said. “It was kind of quick, but it was at least aided by the fact that I wasn't going completely into the unknown.”
It’s been five years since Clanton took that leap, and one of his goals is to work with more American artists and expand his audience locally.
One piece of advice he offers current Elon musicians is to put the work in and use Elon’s resources, like the studios in Arts West, a location Clanton and his friends pulled many all-nighters in just for fun.
“We would go at 8 p.m. and we would leave when the birds were chirping and the sun was rising the next morning. We would do that at least once a week and in between that we'd be in there for hours and hours and go back and forth, listening to what each other was working on,” Clanton said. “You don't have to do that, it's important to have a good sleep schedule as well, but we were just putting in the time, using the resources that are around you, whether that's the physical resources like the studio or the people that are around you.”