Behind the Band: Alexandria musician living in Boston releases first single
Matt Roers released his first single, "Friend of Mine," under the moniker Shiloh Forever on July, 20.
Editor's note: The following story is part of an occasional series, Behind the Band, which spotlights musical acts that perform in the Douglas County area.
ALEXANDRIA — Matt Roers, of Alexandria was in his first year of college at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities when he was faced with a tough decision. Continue seeing a girl he cared a lot about and who cared for him back or move across the country to chase his dreams.
A year later he enrolled in the Berklee College of Music in Boston but his decision haunted him. So he did what any musician would. He wrote a song about it. Although the melody came years before, his decision to leave behind the girl inspired the lyrics. On July 15 of this year, Roers, under the moniker of Shiloh Forever, released “Friend of Mine" across various streaming platforms.
“I lied to myself for a long time and just said like, ‘It's the right thing to do’ and ‘You're not allowed to feel any different way about it.’ But it's not always that simple,” Roers confessed. “For me, just working on the song, it was me battling kind of that, that inner conflict — the difference between what goes on in your heart and your head I think is the big theme of it.”
Roers' dreams of becoming a musician did not develop in one night. At the age of 5, he was put into piano lessons at Carlson’s Music on Broadway (he even held a job there in high school), in second grade he joined a boys' choir at St. Johns University and stayed in it until eighth grade. In fifth grade, he took up the cello and joined his school’s orchestra. In high school, he took drum lessons and also sang with the carolers. But none of that compared to guitar.
"As an instrument, it's so much more," said Roers. "If you learn two chords, three chords, you can play so many different songs...With drums, like, you normally need to play with other musicians and stuff to really have that complete song or performance or whatever. Versus guitar, you know, there's like plenty of songs that are just vocals and guitar. So I kind of felt like, I could just take it and run with it on my own."
At 16, Roers received his first guitar and within a year he began writing songs of his own.
"It's like a natural next step — embracing that craft and putting that together with the playing aspect of guitar," he said. "It was like the cheesiest entry-level stuff. I don't even want to say."
After high school, Roers enrolled at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities as a marketing major. Within a week of starting, however, he began looking into music programs.
"I think I knew my fall semester that I'm going to drop out and just try to figure out this music thing," Roers recalls.
He spoke with his advisor who told him about the various music schools in Minnesota, but it was a Wikipedia article on John Mayer — a guitar-playing role model to Roers — that inspired him to move out of state. Mayer is an alumni of Berklee and with the Boston-based school being ranked one of the best in the country, his mind was made up.
He knew being accepted into the prestigious music school was going to be no easy task. He had to pass an audition just to get in. So, Roers moved home, sold distractions like his Playstation, bought a Fender Stratocaster and began putting all of his efforts into practice.
"I had everything organized down to like five minutes," Roers said. "At 9 a.m., I would start and I would work through this music theory book I had. I had a whole bunch of theory books lined up. So when I was done with one, I would move to the next one. And I would set a timer for 30 minutes, do as much as you can. And then the timer would go off and I moved to the next thing like learning new chords or practicing scales. I don't know how to describe it. Passion, I guess. Looking back, it's kind of crazy."
All the hard work paid off. He passed his audition and moved to Boston in the fall of 2018.
He only studied for two semesters, however, before deciding the work he was putting in outside of school was efficient enough to help him evolve as a musician. So he dropped out in the spring of 2019.
"It kind of felt like mission failed, but I knew there was a lot left for me to do in the city. There were a lot of really good opportunities that I had and avenues for me to keep growing," Roers said.
After dropping out, Roers was set to start booking gigs but then the pandemic happened and everything shut down. Literally, the week he booked his first open mic.
"I was like, 'That's OK, I'll just keep writing and I can keep practicing on my own and get better as a player in my bedroom,' stuff like that," Roers said.
It was during this time that he was at a crossroads about his decisions. He still had the girl he left behind in Minnesota on his mind. His thoughts and convictions ate at him. So he began writing it down.
Eventually, the restrictions from the pandemic started loosening up. And last January he quit his job as a waiter he took on after school, started seriously working on producing his first single, "Friend of Mine," and adopted the musical persona of Shiloh Forever. A name slightly referenced from his favorite childhood book, "Shiloh." It represents a reminder to keep pursuing the dreams he formed as a young child. To write music and perform for audiences.
When asked why music his so important to him, he said self expression.
"There's nothing really like it," said Roers. "I think with that self-expression comes fulfillment. Being able to find out who you really are and what you're made of, especially with something so abstract, it's really all in your hands."
Roers is set to release his second single sometime this September and has plans to eventually produce an album.
You can follow Roers' musical journey and listen to his songs on Soundcloud , Spotify , Apple Music and Youtube by searching Shiloh Forever, or by visiting his website, https://shilohforevermusic.wixsite.com/shilohforever