Cincinnati musician Eli Mathews, known as his stage name Paw, released his second solo EP Think Really Hard About Your Heart earlier this month. 

“This little spoonful of medicine rock started as a series of demos for my band, Mind At Large,” explained Eli. “The songs began to take on a life that I wanted to capture, a snapshot of them exactly as I hear them before they change, and before they pass through the perspective of four other insanely creative and talented lenses.”

What came out of that was this four-song project. It is Eli’s answer to the growth and turmoil that not only he had experienced, but that many of his loved ones had undergone in 2020. “I want this music to take the listener somewhere within themselves that is kind to them,” says Paw. 

Eli “Paw” Mathews performs during the Traveling Bazaar at Alexandria Brewing Company
Photo: Michael Stegner

The EP starts out soft and quiet with “Reflect“. It opens to the sound of an inhaled breath and the clear and crisp plucking of notes on the acoustic guitar. As it progresses forward, some subtle percussion joins the melodic riffs, which drive forward with ease, comfort, and peace. The song sets a very welcoming tone for what will come next. 

The second track titled “Hope” gave me a sense of just that – hope. I felt hopeful on a small scale about how my morning was going, yet hopeful on a much larger scale. Beyond my immediate relationships and problems. I felt hope for things I didn’t know about and people I’d never met. 

The song stretches beyond the 10-minute mark, landing at an impressive 10 minutes and 20 seconds long. Yet within those ten minutes, Paw takes you through seasons, genres, emotions, and places that flow seamlessly into one another and transform effortlessly into the next musical section. While the acoustic dreaminess of one moment in the song captures your attention and comforts the listener, they are quickly washed down a waterfall of electronic sounds, somehow gracefully, into a new sonic realm, all while remaining consistent with the message of hope that the song conveys. “I close my eyes and I see a new world, where we don’t have to live in fear, and I won’t rest until we’re closer to home.”

Moving into the third track, “Splash”, there is a bouncy electronic feel to the digital noises that I want to compare to a pan flute or one of those handpan percussion instruments. There is also a natural and organic undertone to the obviously electronic sounds, which seems fitting. The reason I say I “want” to compare it to those instruments is that the music is produced in a way that is fluid, evolving, and never static enough for me to latch onto something to compare it to. There is plenty more to say about this track, but I’ll keep it simple – I like it and I can groove to it. And you can too! 

The fourth and final track on Think Really Hard About Your Heart is appropriately titled “Bloom”. All of the intentional energy of the whole EP has been building up within the music and growing to the point that it culminates and blooms into this final song. The lyrics are heavy with emotions and the music gently brings you down from the elevated space that the EP has brought you towards in the previous 2 tracks. 

A Baba Ram Dass monologue spliced halfway through the song was the icing on the cake for me. Afterward, Paw’s electric guitar skills take center stage as he delivers an incredible guitar solo before tastefully winding back down for a final verse. He leaves every bit of himself on this final track for his listeners. 

Listen to the full EP here on YouTube.

“This music is the most raw and authentic expression of self that I have to offer at this point in my life,” he stated. 

Think Really Hard About Your Heart is certainly the type of music you can listen to in the background while you are working, hanging out, or driving. But when you take the time to actively sit and listen to it, there are deeper messages and subtleties that make this an outstanding production. 

“This music belongs to the person listening to it,” Eli said. “It is theirs to have, keep, and do with what they will. I want this to mean whatever the listener needs it to, and I want it to hit them where they need it.”

Check out the full EP on Bandcamp or YouTube, as well as Paw’s debut EP You are part of all of this. You can also check out Eli’s band Mind at Large, who recently released their debut album Spore on Spotify or Bandcamp. Follow both artist pages on social media to keep up with show announcements and other exciting updates.