Singer Matt Zarley opted for the “no filler” approach when crafting his new EP, “Change Begins With Me.”
The project, which drops Tuesday and is anchored with debut single “WTF,” is the gay Broadway vet’s third collection, though a slew of remix maxis are also available on iTunes. He says the state of the industry influenced his work with producers Mark Picchiotti and Andy Zulla for the indie release.
“The trend is more with EPs and really having an EP full of singles,” he says on the drive home to West Hollywood from his chiropractor’s office (he threw his back out just before the early August interview). “People can download individual tracks now, so it’s less important to do a whole album of songs. There’s no need for album filler anymore because if you do that now, people just won’t download those songs. Each individual track needs to be single worthy.”
The project, also available in a sleek black gatefold CD digipak, has eight originals and two bonus remixes of “WTF,” one cleaned up for radio.
“It just felt cohesive to me this way,” he says. “We could have done two more songs but it’s kind of a waste of time and money unless you really have single-worthy cuts.”
Zarley, who’s seen a few of his singles garner some attention on Billboard’s dance chart, has earned both raves and rejection. A blog review of his cabaret act last year found one writer praising his “magnificent vocal instrument.” But comments to an interview and link to the playful, tongue-in-cheek “WTF” video (search it on YouTube) called the single “typical cookie cutter, autotuned, dance pop … you hear whenever you walk into any gay bar.”
Zarley, 42, grew up mostly in California’s Orange County and started his career at 12 dancing with Tony the Tiger for a Frosted Flakes commercial. He made his Broadway debut while still a teen in “A Chorus Line” and later did “Cats,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “Chicago.” He eventually graduated to starring roles in stalwarts like “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “The Who’s Tommy,” both on Broadway. He moved to New York at 17 and lived on the Upper West Side and Chelsea, then later in Brooklyn. He’s been back to L.A. for the last six years having tired of the New York stage scene.
“Doing theater in New York is interesting,” he says. “I kind of managed to sustain myself from show to show but it became sort of lateral moves all the time. There are very few who climb up the ladder in theater because the amount of opportunity versus the amount of people vying for the jobs is fierce. It got to a point where I’d done some great stuff in New York and … I wanted to record and explore that direction more so I followed my heart and came back to L.A.”
“There is a part of me that wonders what might have happened if I’d stayed,” he says.
Zarley calls his music “a little Bruno Mars-ish with some Maroon 5 and Babyface” influence. The songs, all of which he co-wrote, trace what he calls “a really tough break up” that’s addressed through tracks like “Forgive Me (For Not Forgiving You),” “Apology” and “I’ll Always Remember.” “Perfect” is the second single and a video is planned. The album closes with the grandiose inspirational title cut that features a gospel choir.
“It was really putting things together and figuring out what happened,” Zarley says. “With the exception of ‘WTF,’ which was a whole other thing, the rest was pretty much that experience and my emotions.”