Five years ago, one contestant on NBC’s The Voice received the fastest “chair turn” in the history of the singing competition. The 20-year-old on stage was hardly through the first verse of Young the Giant’s “Cough Syrup” when the four celebrity coaches — Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, CeeLo Green and Christina Aguilera — slammed their red buttons, chairs spinning in unison, to lay eyes on the fresh talent before them.
Commanding the crowd with a smile that lit up the room was Matthew Schuler, a Levittown native and Pennsbury High School graduate who looked right at home in the spotlight.
“To see the joy and the passion with which you sing dude, that’s the best part,” Levine told him.
Schuler chose a coveted spot on Team Christina, advancing through each round with flying colors. But right before the semifinals, he was eliminated and forced to return home. Anyone else would’ve given up. They would’ve thrown in the towel and considered a normal 9–5 desk job. For Schuler, having his dream snatched away at the last second didn’t deter him, it propelled him.
Now, with five years of wisdom and experience under his belt, not to mention a debut EP and new booking agent, Schuler is ready to finish what he started. It’s time for him to be the professional musician he always envisioned.
On Sunday, Oct. 21, Schuler is performing his first local headline show since 2014 at MilkBoy in Philadelphia. Not only will the concert be a long-awaited reunion with friends and family, it will kick-start the slew of projects Schuler has up his sleeve for the remainder of the year and 2019.
Ahead of the performance, The Times caught up with Schuler, who reminisced on his early days in Bucks County, his whirlwind journey on The Voice, and the serendipitous chain of events that is allowing him to tour with his own original music.
Despite a recent move to Northeast Philadelphia, Schuler is a Bucks boy to his core. Born at St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne, he spent the first 10 years of his life in the Goldenridge section of Levittown before his family moved to Yardley.
After graduating from Pennsbury High School, Schuler studied at Bucks County Community College for one year before transferring to West Chester University. It was during this time that Schuler started to take a career in the music industry seriously, writing his own songs and drawing inspiration from his biggest influence, singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran.
According to Shuler, it was Sheeran’s music that ultimately inspired him to audition for The Voice during his sophomore year. In February 2013, Schuler joined 10,000 people in New York for open auditions. To his amazement, he received a call back several days later, followed by an executive call back. Schuler was then flown to Los Angeles to perform for producers, who put him in the running for a blind audition in front of the coaches.
“No one really knows the amount of preliminary auditions you have to do before you get to the TV audition,” he said.
At this point, Schuler was among 120 aspiring artists hoping to snag one of 48 spots on the coaches’ teams. Needless to say, he did just that. Schuler experienced once-in-a-lifetime moments on the show, including his rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” reaching №40 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the chance to be mentored by none other than Sheeran.
While Schuler was on The Voice and when he returned home, he received overwhelming support from his community. His social media pages were flooded with messages of praise, and Schuler was invited to perform at his alma mater’s award-winning prom.
Schuler quickly set to work figuring out how to advance in the industry, but he realized success wasn’t about to come overnight. The next five years saw many ups and downs, but instead of dwelling on those low points, Schuler used them as the basis of his new music.
“Of course, I wish things had gone a little faster coming off the show. But I’ve learned just how long it can take to create something that you’re really proud of, just how to make your mark in the industry,” he said. “It’s been really cool to understand things a little bit better.”
His EP Baby Steps, released in January 2018, is a collection of songs written by Schuler that come straight from his heart and chronicle his not-so-easy journey. Each is meant to inspire others to chase their dreams, even if it takes time.
“It’s called Baby Steps because it’s about going through different things that will cause us to grow. It can take a while. We’re just taking baby steps through life, but every single step is so important. Finding out who we are and what we’re called to do in this life,” he said.
At the MilkBoy show next month, attendees can expect Schuler’s set to include several songs from Baby Steps, in addition to favorite covers heard on The Voice. Schuler’s wish is that old friends from all aspects of his life — high school, college, church — come together for the evening.
“I would love for this to just be like a reunion,” he said.
This performance is the first of many Schuler and his new agent, M&B Booking, are in the process of scheduling. Right after MilkBoy, he’ll be heading to North Carolina for two dates. Having the chance to tour with his original music, his art, is something Schuler never saw being a reality. After his elimination from The Voice, he was slated to move to Las Vegas for a live show NBC was putting together with all past contestants. That is, until it was canceled.
“It’s kind of wild. That door closing just forced this door open. It was unexpected but I try to always look at the glass half full,” he said.
In the midst of booking upcoming tour dates, Schuler is working tirelessly in the studio on new music, which he plans to release in 2019.
“Now we’re gonna take over the world,” he said. ••
If you go…
Matthew Schuler will perform at MilkBoy, 1100 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, on Sunday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m. Ticket information can be found at facebook.com/MatthewSchulerMusic.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com