World’s Best Mom

That’s a lofty title, I know. And believe it or not, I know her. Even more amazing (to me) is that I’m married to her.

One might think the world’s best mom would be someone with years of motherly experience and a number of kids — someone who has been doing it for a long time. My wife, Katie, doesn’t come close to qualifying under those terms. You see, we’re new parents. Our first son, Randol Thomas, was born on Thursday at 12:56 a.m. at the incredibly young gestational age of 25 weeks and 4 days. That happy moment had a sad ending when our baby boy lost his life later that morning at 5:20 a.m. after struggling for hours to try and breathe with what we knew were severely underdeveloped lungs — something we knew would be an issue after my wife’s water broke at just 18 weeks.

So how could she possibly be crowned ‘world’s best mom’ when she has only had one child, who only lived for a few hours? Allow me to explain…

When Katie’s water ruptured at 18 weeks, she was told that she would likely go into labor within the next three days. Her odds of lasting to viability (24 weeks) and giving birth to a child that would live long term was at best 5% and probably less than 1%. She was told that many women in her situation choose to terminate. Not one to judge, that comment simply went in one ear and out the other. It wasn’t an option for her and never would be. Because when you’re the world’s best mom, you never give up on your child, no matter the odds.

When she went into labor two days later, she spent a frantic few hours at the hospital and prepped for the delivery of a 19-week old baby. As scared and panicked as she was, Katie managed to ask questions about what would happen to her baby after birth, including a baptism and funeral arrangements. Because when you’re the world’s best mom, you want the best for your child.

When her body then shut down labor a few hours later, she was ultimately sent home and told to stay on strict bed rest. It was then that she became incredibly germ conscientious. She knew that if she developed an infection, she would lose the baby. She had me cleaning the house all the time. If friends or family had even a hint of a cold, she asked them not to visit. When I brought her cups of water, if I accidentally touched the lip of the glass, she made me empty, wash and refill it. She even banned me from kissing her. None of this surprised me. Because when you’re the world’s best mom, you do whatever you have to for the health and well-being of your child.

When her body started to deteriorate as the bed rest turned from days into weeks, she constantly told me and those around her that it was worth it. It was worth the back pain and the leg pain and the neck pain and the shoulder pain and the ankle pain. It was worth the muscle atrophy. It was worth night after night of terrible sleep. It was worth being physically uncomfortable 24-7. Because when you’re the world’s best mom, personal comfort takes a back seat to what’s best for your child.

When she reached 23 weeks and was admitted to the hospital for the rest of her pregnancy, Katie did so with a smile. She brought comforts of home with her and planned for a long, long stay. She put a day-by-day countdown on the wall and rejoiced when each evening turned into a new day. Even though each passing day meant another day of bed rest, agonizing muscle atrophy and stir-crazy boredom, it also meant another day that the baby had grown within her. It meant one more day closer to the magic preemie window of 28 weeks. And when you’re the world’s best mom, you cherish all of your child’s accomplishments, even if that’s as simple as one more day in the womb.

When her nurses would come in to check on Katie during her stay in the hospital, she rarely let them leave without engaging them in a 15-minute Q&A on every topic you could imagine relating to her situation. She relished every opportunity she had to absorb information — what to expect, what the nurses had seen in their careers and what she could do to improve her outcomes. Because when you’re the world’s best mom, you want to know all you can when it involves the life of your child.

When Katie went into labor again – this time for good – and the attempt for a vaginal delivery had to be abandoned due to our baby’s crashing heart rate, Katie gave her doctors the go-ahead to proceed with an emergency C-section, a procedure that would mean waiting longer to try for our next kid and one that would potentially limit the number of pregnancies we could have long term. It wasn’t a decision she made lightly, but it also wasn’t a very hard one to make. Because when you’re the world’s best mom, you’re willing to make sacrifices for your child.

When our baby was fighting for his life in the NICU and the neonatologist came up to discuss possible next steps, Katie asked her about nitric oxide. It wasn’t even a treatment option that was presented to us, but Katie knew about it. She had read that it helped other babies in our situation. The doctor said it was an option and they’d be happy to try it. All because Katie knew to ask for it. Because when you’re the world’s best mom, you do your research and become your child’s best advocate.

When the doctors told us that Randol Thomas wasn’t going to make it, Katie asked her nurses what it would take to get her from her delivery room down to the NICU to see her son while he was still alive. When her extraordinary nurses (seriously, they were amazing) understandably questioned whether that was even possible given that she had just undergone a major operation, Katie rephrased her question into a statement that was more like, “I need to see him. Please. Just tell me what I need to do.” From there, the nurses came up with an improvised game plan that included a heavy dose of medication just to get her out of bed and into a wheelchair. During the transport, my determined wife uttered no cries of pain. She was wheeled down to the NICU and was able to hold our son’s living hand while singing to him — just a couple hours after her C-section. Because when you’re the world’s best mom, nothing can stand in the way of you being there for your child.

When she was in the NICU, she realized no one had called a priest to have Randol Thomas baptized. We quickly called the on-call chaplain and asked him to come in. He arrived just in time to baptize our little boy. Our son took his last attempted breath during the baptism and his heart stopped beating just seconds after it had ended. It was the perfect ending to his perfect life, and all because of Katie. Because when you’re the world’s best mom, you remember things that no one else does, even in moments of pure chaos.

And when our precious child passed away and the amazing NICU staff brought him up to our room for Katie and I to hold him for the first and last time, Katie invited all of our family members who were at the hospital to share in that moment with us — to take their own turns holding our little guy. Because when you’re the world’s best mom, you want nothing more than to share the joy of your child with those around you.

I am devastated at having lost my son. And I’m devastated that he won’t enjoy what would have been an amazing life with loving parents, including a particularly incredible mother. Watching Katie over these past several weeks has been an absolute inspiration. Her love for our son during his 25+ weeks in the womb and his few hours after birth is a testament to who she is as a person and, now, as a mom. I share this story with all of you in the hopes that it will inspire current and future moms to be as committed and passionate to their own children as she was to our little boy.

Next month, on May 11, I plan to hold Katie close, smile and say, “Happy Mother’s Day.” Even though our son won’t physically be with us anymore, it doesn’t change the fact that my wife is now a mother. And a mother she’ll always be.

In fact, she’s the world’s best.

katie holding randol

The world’s best mom holding her firstborn son.

What a show

This blog is a tad overdue. Hard to believe it’s already been three weeks since the 13th annual Concert for Life in Gurnee, Ill. I’ve been wanting to write about the concert ever since it ended, but life has been a little busy. What little free time I’ve found myself with has selfishly been used to just sit on a couch and watch TV (most of it college basketball — go Marquette!!).

The good news about the delayed blog is it allows me a chance to share an updated total from the concert. We announced $33,000 at the show and that number has since grown to over $34,000 (and continues to climb as we get last-minute donations in). That puts us at over $350,000 for the Gurnee CFL since it started in 2001 and over $390,000 when you factor in all other CFL locations. As I said at the concert, we can now move from saying “over a quarter-million dollars” to “nearly a half-million dollars” raised for the American Cancer Society. Wow!!

This year’s concert featured quite a bit of new songs from “It’s Time.” I debuted “Wherever You Go,” “Place of Mine,” “Doolin,” “Eternity” and “Prayer of St. Francis.” It was interesting to hear all five come together. Prior to our group rehearsal on the Saturday night before the show, I had never heard the songs performed live with all of the instruments. As I’ve said before, I recorded “It’s Time” in bits and pieces throughout 2012 and I slowly layered in tracks for each song. So while these were new songs to the audience, they were kind of new songs to me, since I had never heard them live before.

We also closed the first half with a cover of “I Will Wait” by Mumford and Sons. It’s a song that Katie and I have grown to love and I thought its message, folksy nature and relative popularity would make for a good fit. People seemed to really enjoy it and I know we had a ton of fun playing it. (I’ll post the audio soon.)

In addition to the new songs, we peppered in the usual favorites that are done almost every year. I also threw in a couple of old school pieces from my first album — “Thirteenth Emerald” and “Everlasting Love.” I actually had to re-teach myself “Thirteenth Emerald” since I haven’t played that in probably over 10 years.

We welcomed three new musicians to the stage this year — my brother-in-law Joe Erato (he’s married to Katie’s sister), my good friend Laura Mays and my younger brother, Ben. Joe is a phenomenal self-taught guitarist with a great voice and it was fun to have him up there with us for a few tunes, especially “I Will Wait.” Joe also played with Chad, my regular guitarist, on “Prayer of St. Francis,” which I sang while standing up. There’s no piano on that song and I thought it would be weird to sit at the piano and sing while not playing, but it was just as weird to be facing the audience while singing. The only other time I did that was a couple of years ago when we did an a cappella version of “Falling In Love.”

Laura has been a friend ever since we met at church about 10 years ago. She’s a terrific flute player and volunteered to fill in for Molly, my regular flautist, who was away on vacation. Thanks to Laura we were able to play “Kate’s Song” with the flute and violin — the way it was meant to be played!

Ben technically wasn’t new this year since he once performed at a CFL years ago and played an instrumental song he wrote. This year he played the keyboard on a number of songs to give us that nice organ feel that my buddy Mike usually provides (Mike had another music commitment in Chicago so he couldn’t be at the show). Ben was the perfect addition to the show and really gave extra ‘oomph’ to the songs. And because of the way the stage was set up, with my piano to the left and his keyboard to the right, I’ve heard from some that it looked like a mirror image at times. Not only do we look somewhat similar, but apparently our playing styles are similar, too.

I couldn’t have been happier with how the music turned out (checkout the playlist here). It was fun, energetic, emotional and — dare I say — easy! For not having played with this group since the last CFL, everything came together beautifully. Sure, part of that comes with years of playing together, but it’s also a testament to how talented of a group I have to work with. I’m very proud of my musicians and consider myself very blessed to have them in my life. So thanks again to Chris, Rob, Chad, Joe, Ben, Laura, Kelly, Emily, Amy and Beth!

The biggest thank you this year from me has to go to Larry, my sound guy. Larry has been providing the sound for the CFL since day one. He’s expanded that role to include all of the other CFLs we do, as well as some of my other non-ACS shows. On top of all that, he’s been the recording engineer for most of my albums. He was particularly helpful during the recording of “It’s Time” not only for in-person sessions, but for overseas counsel (thanks to technology) as I attempted to mix stuff on my own while living in Germany. For this year’s show, he put a ton of time into the prep work to make sure that we’d be able to pull of an earlier start time (3:30 p.m. instead of 4:00 p.m.) given that Masses don’t end at St. Paul’s until 1:30 p.m. Thanks to his hard work (and Brian and Al who help him out), we were set up and ready to go by 2:45 p.m. We almost didn’t know what to do with ourselves — we had so much time! It was fantastic.

Finally, I have to thank the students of Warren FBLA. To Chris, Kelly and Emily (faculty advisers), Ryan, Kimberly, Carolyn and Tom (the student leaders) and the dozens of students who worked on this for months, I want to say thanks for putting together another outstanding show and for dedicating your time and talents to something so meaningful. I hope you never forget how wonderful it feels to hear that dollar amount announced — to know that you were a part of something that changed the world for the better.

Thanks again to all who came out to help us support the mission of the ACS and the lives of those who are affected by cancer. We couldn’t do any of this without the people that fill the pews. Thank you for your generosity year after year.

Check back soon for audio samples. I should have one for sure by the end of the weekend. And I’m hoping to get more audio as the weeks go on. I also plan to post some pictures of this year’s show once I have them in hand. And if you haven’t already, be sure to check out my newest album, “It’s Time.” : )

13th annual Concert for Life this Sunday

Five days until the 13th annual Concert for Life!

I spent tonight putting some final touches on some of the songs for this year’s show. I have a few rehearsals this week and a big group practice on Saturday night. Things are coming together and it promises to be an exciting afternoon. I have several new songs on the playlist and some old tunes that will take you all the way back to 1998!

I’m so grateful to once again have an outstanding cast of musicians to help me entertain those in the audience. Some familiar faces from past year — Chris, Chad, Rob, Amy, Beth, Emily and Kelly — and some new faces — Ben, Joe and Laura. We also have the St. Paul the Apostle choir joining us for two songs. They always do such a great job.

I was with the Warren FBLA students a couple of weeks ago as they busied themselves with all things CFL-related, including ticket sales, raffle and silent auction phone calls, other concert logistics, signage, etc. They’ve spent the past few months working hard to put together another amazing show.

If you are free on Sunday afternoon, please consider joining us. We’ve raised $356,000 for the American Cancer Society since 2001. With your help, we can inch ever closer to $400,000. I hope to see you there!


I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland. So when Katie and I moved to Germany for a year, it was a foregone conclusion that we would make it to the Emerald Isle at some point during our year abroad. As it turns out, my brother, Ben, who visited us for a couple of weeks, really wanted to go to Ireland, too. So the three of us made a weekend visit to the island country.

There are many memories of the trip that will stay with me forever — playing golf along the ocean in Kilkee, staring out at the ocean while standing atop the Cliffs of Moher, a fantastic night of pub hopping in Galway — but our visit to the tiny town of Doolin ranks number one.

Having already written about the entire trip, I won’t go into too much detail in this post. Rather, I’ll just lazily point you to the Milwaukee to Munich blog entry entitled “The Emerald Isle.” I’m pretty sure it will make you want to visit Ireland at some point in your life.

As it turns out, Ireland is as inspiring as it is amazing. In the months that followed our visit to Ireland, I found myself wanting to write an Irish song about the town of Doolin. The chords came simple enough — as I’m sure they do for many Irish songs — and the melody soon followed. At some point I decided that I wanted the song to be broken into three verses with a solo section in between verses two and three (not an uncommon outline for a song). I also wanted the first verse to be a simple octave (doubled) piano that set the tone of the song. That part was easy.

I knew verse two needed a percussion presence to take the song up a notch and make it the fun, knee-slapping, pub-singing song I wanted it to be. The initial concepts that I tried out were more traditional Irish drums that more or less kept time and didn’t do much to move the song along. After sitting on it for a while, I decided that what I really wanted was something similar to the phenomenal drums that make the song “Some Nights” by “Fun.” such a hit. So with that in mind I asked Ryan — the guy from Minnesota who also played drums on “Place of Mine,” “Wherever You Go” and “If We Walk” — to lay down a drum part that would drive the song and give it a non-traditional, but still clearly Irish, beat. He succeeded 100%. The drums are what I love most about this song.

The other part I love are the harmonies. Once the drums were recorded, I was able to really start to hear the three-part harmonies that would define verses two and three. The idea with the harmonies was to make the listener think he or she had been transported to a tiny pub in Doolin where they were listening to a local band make some pretty fun Irish music.

The song’s final additions were the more Irish-sounding instruments including bagpipe, accordion and fiddle. The first two sounded decent enough on my keyboard that I was able to use synthetic sounds. But for the fiddle, which stands out more and needed to be performed by an actual human being, I turned to my friend Mike — who produced and recorded many of the tracks on the album — for some help. I told him what I was looking for and, within 24 hours, he emailed me a track of his friend Teresa playing fiddle over the solo section and final verse. (Once again, I love technology. For more on this, read this post.)  The fiddle part fit the song perfectly, especially when set against the accordion. The song was complete and had the perfect balance of rhythm, fun, lyrics and “Irish.”

Read the lyrics below and compare them against the paragraphs about Doolin from my Milwaukee to Munich blog mentioned above. I think you’ll see the parallels. And if you’re ever able to make it to Ireland, I strongly encourage you to visit Doolin. If you do, be sure to stay at the Lane Lodge (“Where the pudding’s black, the coffee’s hot, The upstairs room gives visions of the sea…”) and have some Guinness stew at O’Connor’s Pub (“Where the music plays in hallowed halls And the cider flows like waterfalls…”).

I mean, it was a town I loved so much I wrote a song about it. That says something!

Audio Sample of “Doolin”

(Visit the album’s CD Baby page for an audio sample of this song.)

Lyrics to “Doolin”

Well I’m coming down to Ireland
To a world that I have never been.
A town from days of yore and days of gold.
Where the rolling hills are the greenest kind
And the cliffs align the waterside.
The path within an old and humble road.
I’m coming down to Ireland
To a world that I have never been
To sing a song remembering days gone by.
And I’ll settle in the Irish way
On a cold and misty windy day
To the greatest land these eyes have ever known.

There’s a narrow lane with a tiny lodge
Where the pudding’s black, the coffee’s hot,
The upstairs room gives visions of the sea.
It’s an Irish home in an Irish land
And I’ll pass the time with cards in hand
Hearing stories of this town I’ve come to see.
In this simple town in Ireland
There’s a feeling all is good again
A common thought where less is always more.
As I walk along the stony side
Of an ancient field, I realize
There’s something here I never want to leave.

As the final light begins retreat
And darkness crawls to Fisher street
The town withdraws to warmth and fire within.
Where the music plays in hallowed halls
And the cider flows like waterfalls
Where the sands of time may never fall again.
In this corner town of Ireland
There’s a phrase for years that’s always said.
With words of hope for brighter days to come.
As I leave this land, I proudly pray
That the sun shines warm upon your face
And may your days be blessed until we meet again.

May your days be blessed until we meet again.

“Doolin” is a song off of Matt’s newest album, “It’s Time,” a collection of 11 original songs released in January, 2013. For more information on how to purchase, please visit

“It’s Time” CDs now available

As I promised two weeks agits_time_albumso, “It’s Time” is now available in CD form.

For those of you who enjoy something to hold onto and the thrill of reading liner notes, this is for you! Read about each song, as well as what inspirations fueled the entire album.

They can be purchased directly from CD Baby. I’ll also have them for sale at the 13th Annual Concert for Life on March 10, 2013.

Thanks as always for your support!

Baseball down under

Apparently Australia has baseball. How do I know? Because I had this email in my inbox this morning:

Hi Matt,

The members of the Baseball Umpires’ Association of South Australia (BUASA) send you their regards. They really love your song.

I mean, really love it.

All the best.

(Signed by one of the umps)

My favorite emails to get about my music are from people I’ve never met. It makes me think that slowly but surely my music is creeping its way into new pockets of the world and earning me new fans. Or if nothing else it’s a comfort to know that thanks to the Internet anyone in any country can stumble upon one of my songs.

I wrote this guy back and told him his email made my day. And that I had no idea they played baseball in Australia. Maybe the Cubs should send some scouts there to find some talent …

And now all this talk about baseball has me excited for spring training. So I’ll leave you with the 2007 Concert for Life version of the Baseball Song.

Place of Mine

Admittedly, this is my favorite among the ‘new songs’ on the album. I love its warm, electric guitar beginning. I love how the piano comes in on the first chorus. I love the drum beat. I love the harmonies. And then there are the words.

“Place of Mine” is a song about living life as a journey and not as a means to an end. It’s important to have goals in life — things that we set our eyes on and pursue with determination until we’ve reached them. But if we pursue those destinations with such blind fervor that we fail to enjoy the journey that gets us there, then we’ve failed to live.

In my case, I’m still not sure what my desired destination even is. There isn’t one job I want above all others or one city I want to live in above all others. Perhaps that will take shape in the next few years, but for now, I’m at a point where I’m pretty clueless as to where I’ll be 10 or 20 years from now. All I could tell you is that I’ll probably still be in Milwaukee and I hope to have a handful of kids and a nice house. I think that would make me the happiest person in the world, actually.

But I still do wonder about my place in life and what it is I’m destined to do and who it is I’m destined to be. “Place of Mine” talks about this point in my life. The song is me wondering aloud about where my life is going and coming to the realization that the path I’m supposed to take has no known ending. This “place of mine” that I’m searching for is still a mystery to me, but I’m now convinced that the path I’m on (going to Marquette University … working for the Milwaukee Bucks … meeting my wife, Katie … getting my MBA … moving to Germany for a year …) is all part of the plan and I’d be a fool if I spent more time worrying about the destination and less time enjoying the journey and all of experiences along the way.

Life is an amazing gift. And so much can happen and change with one year — months, even. “Place of Mine” is a reminder to me and a call to everyone else to take life in those small increments. Enjoy the present. Wonder about the future, but don’t be so consumed about where you want to be that you forget to enjoy where you are.

Lyrics to “Place of Mine”

A summer night.
I’m standing here. A starry night.
And searching for a satellite
To help me find my way.
A path appears in front of me
I know that this was meant to be
And now I’m on my way.
I’ll go and find this place of mine
Even though I cannot see the ending.

Now’s the time
To open our hearts and to see
Our lives are drawn by the places we seek
In this world, the journey defines who we are.

Another day
I might have gone another way
In search of something. Not today.
The path’s in front of me.
Maybe I
Was meant to find a starry night
To help me see with open eyes
This is my destiny.
So I’ll go and find this place of mine
And I hope to see amazing.

Now’s the time
To open our hearts and to see
Our lives are drawn by the places we seek
In this world, the journey defines who we are.

Chances come to greet us every morning.
Chances come to greet us in our sleep.
Chance is all around us.
A chance is all we need to find
The way to the places that we seek.

Now’s the time
To open my hearts and to see
My life is drawn by the places I seek.
In this world, the journey defines who I am.

Now’s the time
To open our hearts and to see
Our lives are drawn by the places we seek
In this world, the journey defines who we are.
Who we are.
Who we are.

“Place of Mine” is a song off of Matt’s newest album, “It’s Time,” a collection of 11 original songs released in January, 2013. For more information on how to purchase, please visit

Ladies and gentlemen: “It’s Time”

its_time_coverIt’s here! Well, in digital terms at least. As of today, “It’s Time” can be purchased and downloaded in its entirety from iTunes and Amazon, with other online retailers soon to follow. If you’re willing to wait a little bit longer so that you can purchase the actual physical CD, those should be available for purchase (through CD Baby) by the end of the month. I will send out another blog post at that point.

But back to the exciting news — “It’s Time” has been released! And before I go into a few details about the album, I’ll pause for a few minutes to give you time to go buy and download a copy.


Okay. Now that that’s out of the way, I want to share a few facts about this album that I find kind of interesting.

  • “It’s Time” includes over 45 minutes of original music — my first such album in seven years (wow)
  • There are 11 tracks in total, including two instrumentals
  • It’s my most secular album ever (I intentionally saved the religious pieces for another album that I want to start on soon), with the exception of “Prayer of St. Francis
  • This album was truly an international project: pieces of it were recorded in three countries (United States, Germany and Poland) and in eight separate cities
  • Never before have I had a piano-less track on an album and “It’s Time” includes three of them: “Eternity,” “Prayer of St. Francis” and “Lorraine’s Song”
  • Six of the 11 tracks (“Place of Mine,” “Wherever You Go,” Eternity,” “Doolin,” “Prayer of St. Francis,” “Lorraine’s Song”) were written in 2012 and five of those were written from Germany (I wrote “Lorraine’s Song” during a visit back to the States in April)
  • The oldest song on the album, “This Could Be,” dates back to the summer of 2006 (“If We Walk” was also written in 2006)
  • Just as “Carry On” had several references to the title throughout the album, “It’s Time” also includes several songs that talk about time. Of course, there’s the song the album is named for. Here are some others:

Now’s the time to open our hearts and to see our lives are drawn by the places we seek. (“Place of Mine”)

No more hesitation. We’ll have the time of our lives. Every indication says it’s time. (“Wherever You Go”)

Everything I have in life always happens on my time. That’s changing. (“Eternity”)

Time goes on. Never slow. Seasons come. Seasons go. (“Eternity”)

It’s an Irish home in an Irish land and I’ll pass the time with cards in hand hearing stories of this town I’ve come to see. (“Doolin”)

I also want to give a quick public ‘thank you’ to Larry Pajakowski and Mike Przygoda. Larry has been the sound guy behind most of my albums. He was the one who knew ‘how to record stuff’ back in 1998 when I wanted to record a piano CD called “Pure Inspirations.” He is a true friend, full of knowledge, patience and enthusiasm. Because I lived in Germany, we spent most of the album sharing files back and forth on Dropbox and trading early-morning and late-night emails. It was a blast. And Mike, a friend of mine from high school and a force behind my recordings and live shows for several years, served as an assistant producer for “It’s Time.” He gave Larry and I a fresh set of ears to help us critically listen to the tracks and offered sound advice whenever we were stuck as to which direction to take. On top of that, he single-handedly played and recorded a vast number of the instruments you hear on the album. He’s a true friend and a great musician. (Side note: If anyone ever needs recording help of their own, he just started his own company with a friend called “Speed-Fi.”)

So there you have it. A little bit of information about an album that I can proudly say is my best ever. I am so excited for people to hear it and even more so to hear which songs they relate to. This was a very real album for me. Every single song was born out of some experience — good or bad — and I know that others are going to identify with them for one reason or another.

Another thing that made this project so fascinating was the way technology has opened doors that were closed back in 2006 when I recorded “Carry On.” I alluded above to using Dropbox with Larry when doing the mixing. Thanks to “the cloud” I could go into a song, make some edits and Larry could instantly see my changes and hear them on his end — even though he was in Illinois and I was across the ocean in Germany. Think of how much time and effort that saved.

Another example is when I saw a viral video on YouTube of a guy, Ryan, playing drums on this summer’s mega-hit “Call Me Maybe” (which a friend had forwarded to me as part of a random conversation we were having via email — unfortunately the video is no longer public). I was so impressed with his drumming that I reached out to him on Twitter, asked for his email address and then asked if he’d be willing to record some tracks for my album. Turns out he and a friend own a studio and he was able to take my audio (thanks to the cloud) and lay down drum tracks from Minneapolis and shoot them over to be in Munich. How awesome is that?! YouTube + Twitter + the cloud = access to musicians anywhere in the world.

And then there’s Daria, the cellist on this album, who is the reason I get goosebumps every time I listen to the song “It’s Time” (just wait until you hear it!). I heard her playing one day in Munich’s Marienplatz. She was the leader of a cello quartet. In between one of their songs I asked for her email and whether or not she’d like to be on my album. She said (in broken English) that she’d love to, but she was going back to Poland later that day. Normally that would have been the end of that, but thanks to technology, I was able to email her the tracks and sheet music and she was able to work with her engineering friend to record and send me pristine tracks of her playing the cello.

Maybe this doesn’t fascinate you as much as it does me. But the fact remains that independent musicians like me who record albums on our own now have access to an infinitely greater number of musicians than ever before. Technology is so amazing.

I could go on and on about the album, but think it’s time I shut-up so you can go and listen to it. I’ll leave you with a portion of the liner notes that explain a little bit about each song.

Place of Mine — Our lives are defined by the people and places we seek out and experience first hand. And while none of us can know with certainty the destination, it’s the journey that makes life worth living.

Wherever You Go — The message of ‘wherever you go I will follow’ has been around since biblical times (Book of Ruth 1:16). For me, I never felt this way more strongly than when my wife and I decided to take a leap of faith and spend 2012 in Europe.

It’s Time — We all have demons in life that we need to face at one time or another — things that drag us down or keep us from being who we were truly meant to be. This song is about rising above those challenges and helping others do the same.

Eternity — Waiting is hard, especially when it’s for something completely out of our control. But there are just some things in life worth waiting an eternity for.

This Could Be — A song about realizing the person you’re dating could be the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with. And in my case, she was.

Eileen’s Song — Dedicated to my wife’s grandmother, Eileen Rickey, whose motherly presence will forever be remembered.

Doolin — I wrote this song after visiting the town of the same name on the western coast of Ireland. As Irish as an Irish town can be.

My Love — The first person to ever hear this song was my wife, Katie, who heard it just minutes before I proposed in April of 2008.

If We Walk — I’ve always said that the American Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life” is the greatest fundraiser idea ever — millions of people raising millions of dollars one step after another. It’s amazing how much hope and change comes from a simple walk.

Prayer of St. Francis — One of my favorite prayers and a reminder that the path to peace, love, forgiveness, faith, hope, light and joy begins within each one of us.

Lorraine’s Song — Dedicated to my grandmother, Lorraine Kitzke, who lived life with unparalleled beauty, grace and enthusiasm.

I hope you enjoy the album as much as I enjoyed making it! I’d love to hear what you think:

This Could Be

The oldest song on the album! This one goes all the way back to the summer of 2006 when I put pen to paper (well, more like melody to head) in order to express my feelings for this blonde college girl I was dating. We were five months in — almost twice as long as any other relationship I had been in at that point — and I was starting to think beyond months or years and more along the lines of a lifetime.

Now, when you’re a song-writer, it’s sort of an endless well you can go to if you want to impress a lady friend. But this song was more than just scoring romance points. I wanted to tell Katie — in the best way I knew how, through song — that I couldn’t shake this feeling that she could be the one for me (hence the title of the song).

I can still vividly remember Katie sitting next to me at the piano in St. Hedwig’s Church in Milwaukee as I played and sang the song for the first time. We were on bike ride and I intentionally pedaled us past the church so that I could surprise her with the tune. What Katie remembers most is when I got to the third verse and sang, “Slowly, I know this might sound crazy, but I’ve begun to see you next to me for years and years to come.” Apparently I had come to that realization before Katie had and, while she wasn’t scared or turned off by it, she was certainly surprised. (Her version of the story has her saying, “Holy sh–” to herself in her head.)

From then on she knew I was in it for the long haul. And not long after that she had her own epiphany when she, too, realized that I was the one. (Long story short, it involved my bringing a low-budget, low-class appetizer to a high-budget, high-class Bucks event. She loved that I didn’t care what anyone thought, but simply that I thought to bring something for others to share. As for me, I genuinely thought I was bringing something fun and cool that might impress my girlfriend. Although I guess it doesn’t matter how it happened, so long that it did!)

I’ve been playing this song on and off at my concerts since that fateful June day, so it’s certainly not a new one. But the arrangement is. Instead of adding vocal harmonies, I went with a cello line in the second verse and added two violins in the bridge. My buddy Mike Przygoda — who helped me out tremendously with the entire album — gave the song a great feel with acoustic guitar, bass, drums, vibraphone, organ and tambourine (he didn’t play them all at once). The end result is a piece I’m incredibly happy with and think you will be, too! You can hear an audio sample and see the lyrics below.

Update on “It’s Time” — The album is back from the mastering studio and will be uploaded to iTunes tomorrow. It will be available for digital download in about a week and physical purchase in about two weeks!

Audio Sample of “This Could Be”

Lyrics to “This Could Be”

Lately I have found I’m thinking
Of you every morning
Long before I open up my eyes.
And now I am wondering if you might be thinking
Of me every morning
Long before the sun begins to rise above.

Tell me everything about you
Tell me of your passions
And everything that makes you who you are.
I can’t remember feeling so inspired
Or such a strong desire
To open up and let somebody in
And this could be.
This could be.
This could be.

‘Cause the person that you are
Is the person that I’ve longed for years to find.
Someone to help me,
To challenge me and raise me to new heights.
And here you stand
Behind me.
Beside me.
You lead me.
Behind me.
Beside me.
You lead me.
You lead me.

Slowly, I know this might sound crazy,
But I’ve begun to see me next to you
For years and years to come.
And those who know me know that it’s unlike me
To think about what could be,
But then again, it’s you I’m thinking of
And this could be.
This could be.
This could be.

“This Could Be” is a song off of Matt’s newest album, “It’s Time,” a collection of 11 original songs released in January, 2013. For more information on how to purchase, please visit

A little cover art

While the mastering studio is wrapping up the audio for “It’s Time,” I’m also working with a friend of mine — and former colleague from Marquette University — Sharon Grace on the design and layout of the album itself. Both should be done by the middle of this week, which means we’re literally only days away from release!

I decided to go with the eco-wallet packaging. For years the music industry used jewel cases for CDs — and many releases still come this way. They’re the hard plastic cases that we’re used to seeing when we buy CDs — and what I used for “Pure Inspirations,” “Come Run With Me,” “One Step Forward” and “Carry On.” But in today’s increasingly sustainable and ‘green’ society, it turns out that those cases are not the greatest for the environment because of the amount of plastic they use and their shipping weight.

Then came “digipaks.” They replaced the plastic of a jewel case with a cardboard-like material that’s usually made with recycled paper. And since the only plastic in this casing is the tray that holds the CD in place, it ends up using 63% less plastic! This is what I used for “Daily Bread,” “Be With Me” and “CFL Live.”

The eco-wallet is a new option that’s even greener than the digipak. It uses no plastic and is made entirely from premium recycled stock. The CD fits into a die-cut sleeve rather than a plastic snap-in tray. And the entire product is much lighter than a jewel case or digipak, making it cheaper (and more environmentally responsible) to ship. Plus, I feel it’s a much more practical CD case given that most of us don’t keep the cases around for very long anymore.

Now that this tutorial is over, I can share with you the real reason for this post — my cover art! Sharon didn’t have too much work to do here since I used a photo instead of actual art. This is one of my favorite pictures from my year in Europe. It was taken in the town of Lindau, Germany, a Bavarian town that sits on the southern tip of Lake Constance, just minutes from Austria and Switzerland. Lindau is a quaint, well-preserved German town with gorgeous views of Lake Constance and the Swiss Alps. The photo is of the Lindau lighthouse which is a commanding site to see when standing on the water’s edge. I remember seeing it for the first time in May – on a stop from Munich to Basel by train – and thinking to myself, “This is exactly where I’m supposed to be right now. We were meant to come to Europe.” I had such an overwhelming feeling of peace and confidence at that point. I think that’s part of the reason why the photo became one of my favorites.

I used a filter to give it an Instagram-like look and Sharon added in two simple fonts for the title and my name. She also took the lighthouse’s clock (which sits on the other side of the lighthouse) and popped it in to this photo to help with the message of “time.”

Original photos:

Lindau Germany lighthouse

Lindau Germany lighthouse

CD cover:

It's Time Matt Wessel album cover

The rest of the CD has additional photos and design elements, but you’ll have to buy the album to see those! : )

You can also find more photos from my trip to Lindau on my Flickr page.