When one door closes, another door opens. Singer Matthew Chaney can attest to that. Dropping out of school to take a hiatus from his studies as an environmental science major, the singer-songwriter dove into the music scene a year ago armed with plenty of folk songs, equally infectious as affecting, and a crew of friends to fill out his rising acoustic ensemble, Tether Horse. “The idea of dropping out of school links in with the name of the band,” Chaney explains. “It’s that whole idea of being tethered to our society’s idea of the right direction to go and that if you want to be successful you have to follow these set of rules. I wanted to do something apart from that.” At a crossroads and confronting new opportunities, the 24-year-old says he had “a bit of a freak out moment” before choosing the right-brained path to close the books and hit the stage. The result of his risk-taking? Tether Horse has been romping through houses and venues with its classic Americana twang peppered with the darker nuances of J.J. McCabe’s cello or violin, at breakneck speed. Songs often kick off with Chaney crooning in simple, soulful form, before the band segues into barroom chorusing and unbridled instrumental revelry; string interplay gets swept up in drummer Layne Lykins’ backbeats, while guitarist Connor Clark summons sturdy backup vox and bassist Christopher Sulots alternates on glockenspiel. Playing this week with the Old Canes on Friday, Nov. 20, at The Crepe Place, Tether Horse is wrapping up a 15-track album. Titled In the House that Took Me, the debut was recorded in Chaney’s childhood home in the Soquel mountains, the place where he wrote most of the songs. It was an appropriate, nostalgic makeshift studio to lay down his nostalgic folk tunes. With the CD set for release about a year after he made the choice to see where music takes him, the frontman looks back on his decision with no regrets. “I went with the way things were pushing,” Chaney begins, “and so far I’ve been happy with that.” | Linda Koffman
INFO: 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20, Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $8. 429-6994.