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State College Music Spotlight: TJ Cornwall

tjcornwallState College Music Spotlight is a new feature at Onward State where we find local artists in the State College area and share them with the community.

TJ Cornwall is a singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and a recent Penn State grad. You may remember him as a performer in last semester’s Movin’ On Battle of the Bands or the day where we wrote about him three times. But now he has a brand new full-length album entitled Stepping Stones coming out this Wednesday, September 9. We were lucky enough to get an advance copy of the album, and it’s quite impressive!

Compared to the other acts at the Movin’ On Battle of the Bands, Cornwall’s performance, while solid, seemed very scaled back. He was the only solo act to perform, after all. But on Stepping Stones, he holds back no punches, expanding beyond just vocals and a piano or guitar and incorporating bass, percussion, horns, and even strings.TJ Cornwall lists John Mayer as his biggest influence, and it definitely shows.

Not only did Cornwall write all of the music on the album and play every instrument (save for some backing vocals from his sister and a guest guitar solo on the album’s closer “Wonderful”), he also mixed, engineered, and produced the whole thing! We talked to TJ Cornwall via email about his experiences, and he had the following to say.

I’ve always been a singer-songwriter at heart. I played in a band called Cloverleaf all of my years at Penn State and was the singer-songwriter of the band. I learned how a band works and how a band doesn’t work. Live and learn. I have had a ton of experience recording in studios with Cloverleaf, too. I picked up on a lot of the ins and outs of producing/mixing/engineering/etc. and kind of learned it as I moved along. The only other producing work I have had was with my younger sister which I recorded a couple weeks after my album. Her EP isn’t released yet. So, I’m pretty new at the recording stuff.

According to Cornwall, the songwriting process happened over the course of a year, whereas the recording side took almost 3 weeks, with 8-9 hour days. Not everything happened as planned, though. “A couple of songs were written on the spot – ‘Why Worry?’ & ‘Wonderful’,” Cornwall said, “I had a couple other songs that I was planning on putting the album but felt that they didn’t fit compared to those two songs”.

Every track on Stepping Stones is strong, but we were particularly impressed with the second track, “World You Drew”. The bassline on this song is prominent and creative – a refreshing change from a lot of singer-songwriters in the scene today. But you can be the judge. Check out TJ’s MySpace for a preview of some of the tracks from Stepping Stones (unfortunately, “World You Drew” is not on there. Get on that, Mr. Cornwall!).

Overall, Stepping Stones is a great release from TJ Cornwall, who graduated last Spring. Currently, he is paying off his student loans by touring in Pittsburgh and selling CDs. “I think that’s pretty cool to say that I’m paying bills doing something I love,” says Cornwall. Pretty cool indeed. You can pre-order Stepping Stones on TJ Cornwall’s previously-linked MySpace, and it will be available on iTunes as well.

Are you a musician in the State College area who wants to be featured in State College Music Spotlight? Send an email to [email protected] with the subject line “State College Music Spotlight”, some information about yourself/your group, and a link to a sample of your music. You just might be our next featured artist!

About the Author

Evan Kalikow

Evan Kalikow co-founded Onward State in November 2008 with Davis Shaver and Eli Glazier. Having previously served as a Writer, Editor, Standards Editor, and Community Manager, Evan is now a proud alumnus of both Onward State and Penn State. He was also named "Person of the Year" by Time Magazine in 2006.


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