Composer and multi-instrumentalist Matt Cartsonis first picked up guitar and mandolin at the age of fourteen, strumming his way into what has become a lifelong exploration of American roots, popular and world music. These days, his compositions can be heard in a growing number of features, documentaries, TV shows and commercials.
By sixteen Matt was a confirmed traditional music enthusiast, and went “pro” for the first time, playing weekends with country/jazz iconoclast and former New Christie Minstrel Dan “Igor” Glenn at North Phoenix’s legendary Crazy Ed’s Place, touring the southwest in bluegrass and country bands; before long he’d won numerous awards at statewide bluegrass and old-time music contests. At the expense of a normal social life, he developed strong working relationships with the guitar, mandolin, banjo, harmonica, piano, bass, fiddle, dulcimer and a formidable list of other American folk and traditional instruments.
As an undergrad at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (A.B., Biopsychology), Cartsonis met folk legend Pete Seeger and was soon playing with him at countless benefits and fundraisers for Seeger’s environmental organization, the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.
Returning to Arizona in 1985, Matt was elected Roster Artist by the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and conducted public school residencies on traditional music with a wide range of regional artists, from Native American flutists and “chicken scratch” bands to cowboy poets.
Inspired by Ry Cooder’s use of rootsy instrumentation in the movie scoring and the sudden availability of a rent-controlled apartment, Matt relocated to Santa Monica and has never looked back.
A small sampling of Cartsonis’ feature film work includes his score for the Miramax comedy, “Chump Change” directed by Stephen Burrows, winner Audience Award, Best Feature at the HBO/U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, 2001 and Best Comedy, Slamdunk! At Sundance as well as several other film festival prizes. Cartsonis composed the score for director Bob Nixon’s feature documentaries “The Last Rivermen” and “Endangered Species”, both winners of National Geographic Earthwatch Awards, and produced music for the 20th Century Fox feature, “Where the Heart Is.”
In television, Cartsonis was the composer for the highly rated CBS special “The Women of Country Music”. In collaboration with Van Dyke Parks he produced and performed on the soundtrack for AMC’s groundbreaking original miniseries, “Broken Trail”, directed by Walter Hill. Cartsonis contributed original music to Parks’ score for the Tony Bill-directed “Harlan County War” for Showtime Networks. He composed (and wrote) for Hanna-Barbera’s animated series, “New Adventures of Jonny Quest”, and VH-1’s “Behind the Music”, as well as ABC’s “Judging Amy” and Showtime’s “Going to California”. The Food Network and HGTV are among his many other credits. And that’s not even counting all the stuff he’s ghosted and can’t tell you about!
Cartsonis’ commercial work includes Kovel/Fuller’s AdWeek BestSpot, “Spyro, Enter the Dragonfly” which he co-composed and sang, Backyard Productions’ multiple “Addy” and AIC award winner “Paper Tray” (Shoot Magazine’s “Best Spot You’ll Never See”), Cannes Lion Bronze winner”Mr. Smiley” and “Fannie Mae: Craftsman”, narrated by Maya Angelou with Matt’s music. He’s created original music for numerous other commercials, political spots (Gore 2000, Democratic National Convention, Kerry Campaign 2004, Obama ’08), and film trailers.
In 2008 Matt was honored to participate as a Composer Fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Summer Labs.
Matt Cartsonis has played, and whenever possible continues to perform locally and internationally with Warren Zevon, Jennifer Warnes, Van Dyke Parks, Glen Campbell, John McEuen, Steve Martin, The Austin Lounge Lizards, Bryndle, The Kingston Trio, Bob Haworth, Phil Cody and Peter Himmelman. He’s an in-demand producer and session musician, and performs solo as well, as represented by his CD “Live at Boulevard Music” on Major Label Records.