This winter, life for Smyrna High School sophomore Matthew McGuigan has somewhat mirrored that of Peter Parker's from "The Amazing Spider-Man" comic books.
Like Parker, McGuigan is a bright kid possessing special abilities: he's a talented singer-songwriter who can pierce hearts with his catchy riffs and earnest lyrics. The other commonality McGuigan shares with Spider-Man is lately he's found himself more interested in developing his gifts and talents than focusing on school; he's been struggling to find a peer group he fits in with; and on top of that, he's mourning the recent loss of a family member.
'I named the album appropriately'
The marriage of these problems have become the foundation for 16-year-old McGuigan's new EP "Moving Forward," which dropped in February and is available for free download at Soundcloud. "Moving Forward" is an episodic project told through three tales: "Catch Me (When I Fall)," "Outcomes" and the final song, "Mellow."
"Catch Me (When I Fall)"is a somber tune featuring McGuigan's singer-songwriter schoolmates Autumn Birney and Grant Greenwood. In the song, life is personified as a woman, and McGuigan sings that she's the culprit for his descent into the valley of despair — through poetic lines like: "She took me to the edge of the earth and dropped me off/I took on the armies of Hell and I lost."
The track "Outcomes," featuring Greenwood, has a similar motif as "Catch Me" and was directly inspired by the death of McGuigan's grandfather in November. While you couldn't tell from listening to his coded lyrics, McGuigan says the title was born out of guilt he feels for his late grandfather, who died from an illness.
Page 2 of 2 - "I felt my failure to gain relationships and become a good student was my overall punishment for my grandfather being taken away from me," said McGuigan, of Smyrna. When asked how he arrived at that unfair conclusion, the teen responded, "I have absolutely no idea."
"Mellow," which also features Greenwood, contrasts the other two tunes through its peaceful vibe and optimistic lyrics with lines such as: "Moving to greener pastures now/so filled with bliss/I'm on the ninth cloud/So ecstatic, I could be spazzing out."
"I like to think I named the EP appropriately with the songs because you move forward from the past, and there is a positive future," he said.
Light at the end of the tunnel
McGuigan, who has performed numerous times at Odd Fellows Café, is in a better place emotionally and is "entirely focused at the moment on school," he said. He plans to release a full-length album slated for summer or fall, which will likely include collaboration with Greenwood. The mood for his full-length album will pick up from where he left off on the tranquil song "Mellow," he added.
But with "Moving Forward" still fresh in his mind, McGuigan is proud he was able to persevere and churn out an EP during such a pivotal time in his life. He's also pleased the project has received good reviews, he said. In hindsight, the hardships he faced during the creation of the project makes him feel like he's a more effective songwriter. And similar to Spider-Man, the adversity has also shaped him into a mightier person.
"If I hadn't gone through what I did, I wouldn't be as [strong] emotionally and psychologically as I would've been if I didn't go through that stuff," McGuigan said. "I wouldn't be writing songs that have the meanings that they do behind them, and people wouldn't be enjoying them as much."