A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

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Amy Moore, Reporter • February 14, 2024

‘The End Of Act One’ North Bay Native Drops Debut Album

Matt Farren performs at the Peppermint Club in West Hollywood on Nov. 11, 2023 (Nick Vides)

One year after releasing his first ever feature-length film, “The Haunting of Hype House,” Sonoma County native Matt Farren wanted to challenge himself in a different medium: music. Farren didn’t simply write and record one song; he partnered with a producer and dropped a debut pop-rock album that tightropes sing-rapping.

Farren, an actor, writer, director and now singer/songwriter keeps himself busy. 

For the first 18 years of his life,  he lived in Santa Rosa. “I moved to Los Angeles barely a month after [turning 18] with the hope that I might fulfill my childhood dream of working in the movies,” he said. As soon as he arrived in the movie-making capital, however, he branched out into additional mediums and is currently focused on music making. “I have a passion for telling stories that surprise, excite and ignite the same inspiration in others that drove me to L.A. in the first place,” Farren said, “whether it’s through screen, song or lengthy Instagram post.” 

That passion led to his album, “The End Of Act One,” which focuses on the culmination of 25 years of his life, Farren said. 

It’s all about relationships

None of these songs are about one specific person. “Each borrows from a lot of situations and feelings to communicate an emotional truth that I’ve felt,” he said. “I’m the one who chose to write these words, so if a song makes you sad, you have me to blame.” Farren’s slightly raspy, inviting voice takes you on an emotional journey in just over 25 minutes.

Each of the nine tracks tell a different story. “‘The Beginning,’ ‘Middle’ and ‘End’ were one song that [my producer and I later] split into three,” Farren said. All three songs were spoken word pieces turned into separate storytelling songs, with Farren dipping into a soothing croon.

“While ‘How Bad Can This Night Be’ was written front to back, I liked the opening lyrics and decided to keep writing [it],” Farren said. The song takes you through a date that turns into a lust-filled one-night stand, with an early morning realization that the two are in the same bed still, together. 

Farren said the track “A.A.A.” started with a catchy hook, then he built the song around it. The song crafts a message to either a lover or a platonic relationship: “I’ll keep you safe, like Triple A.” 

As for the track “High in Disneyland,” he thought, “That would be a funny title. I was drunk writing it, and was really just trying to have fun with the whole song,” he said. The result is a tasteful play on being high on having the hots for someone, “I am high in Disneyland, and i’m convinced that you’re a princess.”

Though he wrote all the songs, Farren could not have completed his album alone. 

Enter a Prince of Production

Royal Dean’s favorite song on the album is “Time Will Tell”
(Courtesy Royal Dean)

Born and raised in the L.A. area, music producer Royal Dean’s mother taught him piano from a young age. He learned to play Mozart and other classical music through studious practice. What really intrigued him, however, was coming up with his own compositions. As a teen, Dean wrote piano songs and recorded original music on his Yamaha keyboard. Just before high school, Dean’s father let him use his laptop to record original music ideas. He wrote countless tracks and even released a four-track EP mixtape while still in high school. 

Equipped with classical piano skills and the technical know-how to create electronic music, Dean began scoring projects. From movie scores to original compositions, Dean enjoys writing music that lets classical and electronic sounds collide.

Dean earned his bachelor’s degree in commercial screenwriting at Cal State Northridge, where he refined his craft and expanded his portfolio. Since graduating, he has scored a wide range of projects from short and feature films to animation shorts and podcast music. 

“I met Royal at church actually,” Farren said. “I approached him when I was making a short film named ‘Chuck’ and he was up for the task of composing the short.”

The duo worked on and off with each other for numerous years after, mostly on short films. “While we were working on ‘The Haunting of Hype House,’ I floated the idea of working on music separate from film because I enjoyed working so much with him. Thankfully, he was more than down,” Farren said.

Dean and Farren worked hand-in-hand on various harmonies and lines on the album. Farren brought near-complete song ideas to Dean, who then helped him fill out the harmonies and provide constructive criticism.

“I approached the project feeling confident as a songwriter and [feeling that I had] a well-defined creative vision, and Royal approached it as a talented musician and producer,” Farren said. With their intersection of talents, motivations and inspirations, Farren said creating the album didn’t feel like work.

The duo met dozens of times from January to October, whenever they had time in their busy schedules to pull the album together. “We did a lot of notes and fine tuning and that was an intense part [of the process],” Dean said. “It was extremely rewarding to get things dialed in to where we were both happy.”

Farren and Dean sometimes felt tempted to tinker with each song forever, but learned to go with their gut and just be done. “Matt and I talked a lot about how this album is a lightning-in-a-bottle kind of thing,” Dean said. Their intuition paid off; the sound is polished but not too precious, benefitting from them not overthinking it.

An Album is Born

Matt Farren takes a bow after performing “High in Disneyland” at the Peppermint Club in West Hollywood on Nov. 11, 2023.
(Nick Vides)

On Nov. 10, 2023, Farren dropped his album on all streaming platforms. The next day, he performed the whole album at The Peppermint Club in West Hollywood at a gig produced by the organization Breaking Sound. The organization chooses up-and-coming artists to perform at popular small venues to help showcase new music. “I applied to be a featured artist by showing them a few of the songs we’d released, a few live performances I’ve done on Tik Tok and by sharing a little bit about my experience.” Farren said.

Farren was accepted, and he jumped at the chance to perform on Nov. 11 — his 25th birthday. 

“I’m thrilled that [the concert] was there,” Farren said. “It was such a beautifully intimate place to play, and a great place to perform the EP for the first time live.” Farren and Dean were accompanied by drummer Jacob Nightingale, bassist Steven Hadrych III, electric guitarist Michael Blouin and accompanying vocalist Hendri.

“We managed to bring the fine details of the album to life, which made me very happy,” Dean said. “My favorite to perform was ‘How Bad Could This Night Be,’ I loved hearing the harmonies come to life in person.” Reflecting on the title of the album, Farren said, “It’s called ‘The End of Act One’ because that’s how I’ve seen my life the past few years, nearing the end of the beginning of my story.”

Dean and Farren are both relieved that the album release is now behind them. “That is the beauty of art, of expression and of this album. We put raw emotion and passion into it, and I hope as you listen you hear that same emotion and passion.” Dean said. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

 

About the Contributor
Nick Vides, Photo-Editor
Nicholas “Nick” Vides (he/him) Is a seasoned breaking news reporter dedicated to making sure every shutter click of his camera captures a moment worth sharing. Nick's itch for chasing fires has kept him busy over the past seven years, covering every major fire event in Northern California from the Paradise Fire to the Caldor Fire. Nick currently splits his time as a photojournalist with The Oak Leaf and as a Contract Photographer with The Press Democrat. He has more than nine years of experience with photography, has been director of photography for multiple short films with the SRJC Media Arts Center, directed numerous student-led broadcasts with his Media 19 class, and interned for The Sarah and Vinnie Show on Alice 97.3. In the little free time left, he works for Highway 12 Winery in Sonoma, California as a Cellar Hand.