About a decade ago, a musician from Massachusetts felt inspired to write a huge number of songs about more than half of the municipalities in Connecticut. His real name is Matt Farley, but he releases his massive creative output under a host of different aliases, for instance as “The Guy Who Sings Songs About Cities and Towns.” A perfect example of his oddball style and his sense of humor is “Cornwall Is a Nice Little Connecticut Town, Yes!” To be fair, the song didn’t make the big time, but lived a quiet, unheeded life in the dark corners of the Internet, waiting to be discovered. Which we did this year. This is the story about the song and the man who wrote it.
The Sound of Musings
When it comes to music Cornwall hasn’t had much of a meeting with destiny. Yes, there is a famous summer event on Music Mountain right next door, and Robert Andrew Parker and four of his five sons – each an accomplished drummer – have received some notoriety. But Parker’s reputation as one of the patriarchs of the Litchfield County art world doesn’t, pardon the pun, ensnare his love for jazz.
Most of our creative neighbors gravitate towards visual arts and design. Quite a few are writers and actors. No wonder, nobody ever sat down and composed something like “Cornwall My Home”, the heart-tugging, unofficial anthem of the namesake county in Southwest England that our ancestors thought of when settling here: “And no one will ever move me from this land, until the Lord calls me to sit at his hand.”
Therefore, you would be excused if you never heard of this ditty, “Cornwall Is a Nice Little Connecticut Town, Yes!” We hadn’t either until recently. Maybe because its lyrics don’t rhyme and its poetic punch is a bit anemic: “They got 46 square miles; anybody lives there? They got 46 square miles and most of them are empty. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.”
Hat tip to Matt Farley who lives north of Boston and calls himself “The Guy Who Sings Songs About Cities & Towns.” He clearly knows how to make lemonade out of his creative juices. In a Chronicle interview he talked about how he, in 2012, came across Cornwall while producing an album with the staggering amount of 90 songs about as many different Connecticut municipalities (a little over half of the total of 169).
Since then, he has produced similar collections serenading more than 40 states. And he branched out into many other topics. His most popular material packages prepubescent potty humor with singalongs like “The Poop Song.” Several had millions of plays on a range of music sites. The stage name for that? “The Toilet Bowl Cleaners.”
Farley reached his biggest audience when he was invited to Jimmy Fallon’s late night talk show to perform his all-time classic “Used to Be a Pizza Hut”. A major create-aholic he has produced more than 24,000 pieces, which allowed him to quit his regular job.
While downloading and streaming services like Spotify pay only pennies for individual tracks, his huge volume of titles makes more than up for that. Working extremely fast and feeding on Wikipedia pages as source material he says he “might start on Friday by recording the music tracks.” Followed by “25 vocal tracks on Saturday, 25 on Sunday. On Monday or Tuesday I might make the album cover, enter all the information. And boom, the album is ready for release.”
By the way, Farley doesn’t remember having been to Cornwall. Which explains the last line, where he sings: “I like to go to Cathedral Pines. That’s in Cornwall.” Well, it was, until that terrible day in 1989 when a tornado came through and left only remains of what once was the largest stand of old-growth white pine and hemlock trees in New England.
📷: Matt Farley self-portrait
More about Farley and his work in a video with excerpts from the Zoom interview he gave Chronicle contributor Juergen Kalwa.