The UNC Clef Hangers' full-length album, Fixate, and single, "Castle on the Hill," have received seven nominations for the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards.
The nominations include: Best Male Collegiate Album for "Fixate," Best Male Collegiate Arrangement for "Castle On The Hill" (Taylor Euliss, Matt Goldman), Best Male Collegiate Solo for "Castle on the Hill" (Taylor Euliss), Best Male Collegiate Song for "Castle on the Hill," Best Country Song for "Tennessee Whiskey," Best Hip-Hop Song for "Trap Queen" and Best Pop Song for "Levels."
Every two years, the Clef Hangers release an album, and every two years they try to make it better than the last. Music director Matt Goldman said that the goal for "Fixate" was to make it more cohesive than previous albums.
“What we kind of wanted to do was — we assessed that the previous albums were a little unfocused, so we tried to get a definitely clearer focus,” Goldman said.
Although it spans genres, Fixate has a common theme that weaves throughout the songs. Some album cuts such as "Can’t Feel My Face" and "Lookin’ Like That" offered more of a “lustful” vibe, according to business manager Patrick Dow.
“We more went down the — for lack of a better word — the sexy side,” Dow said.
Just because Valentine’s Day has passed doesn’t mean you can’t pour some wine and sing along to "Trap Queen."
It’s no easy task producing an album. Goldman, along with assistant music director Eric Long, work to write the arrangements of the cover songs. They also work at a recording studio called The Workshop, owned by former Clef Pablo Vega. Long ensures everything sounds perfect.
Dow said they strive for perfection — or at least as close to perfection as they think they can get.
“I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, especially for this album and the single to be able to produce what we think is a well-made album,” Dow said. “And sometimes that comes with its own problems, because you want to make sure that you’ve sung the best take possible and keep going until you have what we think is the best that we can do.”
That hard work is what got the Clef Hangers the nominations as well as a chance to perform at the White House. They had 60 seconds to perform James Bay's "Let it Go" in front of former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama in 2016.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for 'Let it Go' — that was like the first arrangement that I really liked, like really felt that I did a good job with it," Goldman said. "And then obviously being able to perform it for the president."
The hard work that goes into the Clef Hangers' music is what offers them opportunities like this. They’re currently working on the next album set to be released next year.
“Now we’re just kind of looking ahead and deciding what we want that album to be like — the theme and the tracks on it, “ said Long.
The Clef Hangers are always moving forward like a crescendo of talent and diligence. The nominations honor their passion for music.
“It definitely validates [the] kind of the work we’ve been putting in,” Goldman said. “It’s a labor of love — it’s a lot of work. But it’s validating when you get recognition and nominations.”
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