It's really easy to call Dallas-based country singer-songwriter Troy Cartwright a "young-gun" or a "promising up-and-comer." Partly that's thanks to the fact he can write and sing the hell out of a song in his early 20s the way most folk vets might once they've been around for a couple of decades. But Cartwright's only beginning and make no mistake, he's beginning to get attention that's also usually reserved for artists who have usually banged-around for a while.
In April, Cartwright joined a fantastically talented class of artists when he took home the 25th B.W. Stevenson Singer-Songwriter Competition Prize at Poor David's Pub. That accomplishment put the Berklee College of Music (Boston) grad in a group with the likes of Colin Boyd, Kristi Kruger, Owen Temple and Zane Williams. The latter two have gone on to forge legitimate careers as respected, touring troubadours in the nebulous realm of "Texas Country."
Even in this current age of reality television, competing with one's music can be an off-putting concept, given that writing is often such a personal pursuit.
"It's inherently strange to be in a competition like that," says Cartwright. "I told myself beforehand that I would just perform my songs as best as I could. Obviously winning the competition was a huge bonus, but I got to meet some really talented songwriters who have since become good friends. I'm especially thankful for guys like Mark David Manders, Max Stalling, and Jay Johnson who've made it a point to make me feel welcome here and show me the ropes."
He's made friends in the Dallas music scene since returning from school in Beantown. His music has been featured by John Pedigo and Taylor Young on their KHYI 95.3 Radio show "Dead Air with The O's" and he's been on some pretty sweeet bills as of late, also, including a house concert where one of the kings of Texas folk music, Slaid Cleaves, headlined.
"He [Cleaves] put on an incredible show," Cartwright says. "And it was a unique experience to get to open for him. It was at this big house off of Strait Lane and we got to wander around for a while after the show discussing how many record's we'd have to sell to afford a place like that. He's a pretty cool guy."
While a singer with grey in his beard such as Cleaves has to dig a bit to remember his High School days, Cartwright only needs to think back a few years. In this case, the lack of distance hasn't hurt the quality of insight in his tunes, especially his most rocking tune "Sixteen," from his stellar EP Bull Run, which looks at love from the rear-view window. In a refreshing twist, Cartwright embraces his age and doesnt try to be a writer he's not quite yet.
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"'Sixteen' is probably my most autobiographical song," he says. "I wrote it right after I graduated college and life seemed pretty complicated all of the sudden. I'm told it only gets worse."
Cartwright, who counts a wide array of artists such as Ryan Adams and Bill Withers as influences, understands his role isn't to write songs that merely entertain, but truly connect.
"As a songwriter it's my job to tell the truth as it relates to me, and hopefully those experiences resonate with other people."
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With a single, the impeccable begging-for-another-chance tune "I'm With You" on the way to radio in January and another EP in the works, Cartwright surely still has some growing to do and some bitterness to endure, which should fuel his fire a great deal. His tune "Coffee in the Morning and Whiskey at Night" begs the question of how many mornings Cartwright has had to mix the two after a late night where things went all wrong. His answer suggests he's getting the hang of things and the honky-tonk life wont slow him down.
"Absolutely, I have. Hair of the Dog, right?"