The Wonderfool continues the journey he found on his own
Matt Vinson, who also plays in CAAMP, spent much of the pandemic working on the fourth record for his solo project, which performs at Ace of Cups on Friday
Growing up in Cleveland, Matt Vinson didn’t have many musical friends. He worked alone on his singer-songwriter tunes, without much of a sounding board, much less a group of likeminded peers with whom to jam and flesh out ideas. But, in the end, Vinson’s creatively independent endeavor proved to be a blessing.
“It was kind of a lone mission forever, and now I'm super grateful for that,” said Vinson, who records and performs as the Wonderfool. “I found the journey on my own.”
After that formative time, Vinson’s musical world opened up when he went to Athens to attend Ohio University. Toward the latter half of his college days, Vinson’s sound began to change. “For the first time, it was like, ‘Oh, this isn’t singer-songwriter me. This is something else,’” he said.
Vinson met other musicians and began playing house shows as the Wonderfool, and in his senior year he met Taylor Meier and Evan Westfall of CAAMP, a Columbus folk-rock act that has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. The Wonderfool put out two records in 2015, and in 2016, after graduating, Vinson moved to Denver, where he worked at a studio and recorded CAAMP’s 2018 Boys album.
Vinson played bass with CAAMP on some tours, then moved to Columbus in January 2018 to officially join the band, fitting in the Wonderfool whenever he could. On Friday, March 26, Vinson will play his first in-person show as the Wonderfool since the pandemic began. Alongside Little Miami (who’s also Vinson’s roommate), the Wonderfool will perform to a tabled, socially distant audience at Ace of Cups at 6 and 9 p.m. (the later show is sold out).
In 2018, Vinson released Wonderfool album Fixing the Strings, most of which he recorded in Denver. “I still love that album. I'm really proud of it,” he said. “The first three Wonderfool records I played and recorded and mixed and mastered everything. I didn't really show anybody the music until I put it out.”
Now, living in Columbus while reunited with a lot of his Athens buddies (Vinson played in the original iteration of the Crooked Spines, a band featuring new Ace of Cups owner Conor Stratton), Vinson is opening himself up to more collaboration.
The pandemic also created time and space for Vinson to work on the Wonderfool’s fourth record, which he hopes to release later this year. “I had been working on a bunch of songs for a while, but with the heavy touring schedule that we had with CAAMP, I didn't really have much time to fit it in,” he said. “The pandemic was obviously horrible for the world, but for personal growth and getting a routine back and not being on the road, it definitely lent itself to me doing this record the way that I've always wanted — taking time with it and not just getting it done and putting it out.”
Vinson took time to flesh out the Wonderfool’s sound, adding keys, baritone guitar, mandolin and other instruments. Lyrically, he stayed in his lane (“It’s always personal betterment lyrics and fighting the inner demons that everybody struggles with,” he said), but he became more intentional with his words. “In the past, I definitely had demo-itis, where I would write a song in one sitting and then I can't change it because I'm so used to it,” he said. “But this one I really tried to make sure that I'm super proud of all the lyrics.”
In the meantime, Vinson has also kept busy with work at his home studio, mixing or recording 10 different projects in recent months. “I love writing and playing equally as much as making records,” he said.