I was lucky enough to get the chance to chat with Matt Andersen to coincide with the review of ‘Honest Man’ a landmark album for this truly amazing artist.
RnL – So Matt, I wanted to start off with a little background information to help understand where your early musical influences came from ?
Matt – I come from a musical family, it’s a big part of the culture here. Locally were are surrounded by French & Celtic influences, Granddad played fiddle and mom played piano, a lot of my cousins sang and played also, so we were always surrounded by family jams when we got together.”
RnL – So when did you start playing yourself ?
Matt – “ I started playing in school, Tuba, Trumpet, Bass, Drums, I picked up the guitar after getting it for Christmas around the age of 14. Music was something you just did, you never really thought about it.”
RnL – When did you seriously consider music as a profession ?
Matt – “After high school I wanted to go work in a recording studio, so I studied for that and soon after the student loans followed, I got a day job to pay for those and played in bars 3 or 4 nights a week, I was working 5 to 6 days a week in the day job and playing 3 to 4 nights a week in the bars, so something had to give. Gave up the day job and I’ve been a full time musician ever since.”
RnL – Growing up in Newbrunswick Canada, which im sure is a beautiful part of the world, would you say that it had a influence on your musical style ?
Matt – “No quite the opposite actually, we live quite close to the states and this leant itself to listening to and leaning towards a mix of influences, like the blues, classic rock and old country and artists such as John Fogarty, Ray Charles and Eric Clapton. I guess locally we have a lot of French and celtic traditional music which I love and play myself, but my own stuff would be a more singer song-writer style.”
RnL – So in your early days cutting your teeth as a musician were you mostly out playing covers etc ?
Matt – “Yeah for sure, all the usual suspects, Brown Eyed girl, Mustang Sally and American Pie etc. “
RnL – Who would you say then inspired you to move forward and write your own music ?
“Definitely the likes of John Fogerty, Eric Clapton at the time had just released ‘Unplugged’, our local radio stations were just pumping out the usual top 40 stuff, so I relied on classic rock stations and old country collections that my parents had for inspiration.”
RnL – So did the gigging get you out and about around Canada, giving you a taste for what could potentially come ?
Matt – “ Well I mostly played initially around NB as I was working the day job, so I was mostly doing the weekend warrior thing. I started playing in a band and we got into a battle of the bands competition at a local festival which we won, so that got us some festival attention out in Nova Scotia and up and down the east coast. I soon realized that we were just going to be a bard band mostly, so I quit and started focusing on my solo stuff and it has really grown from there. That got me playing across the country doing festival stuff and for the most part I’ve been playing 150-200 gigs a year for the last ten years.”
RnL – Sounds like a pretty fierce pace, Over the years you’ve toured a lot as support and also doing your own solo tours, being on the road must suit you ?
Matt – “Yeah I like it, I get stir crazy sitting around too long, I’ve done a little bit of everything from solo tours to support, I’ve opened for a lot of artists in the states for sure, Australia was one of my most successful solo tours.”
RnL – Does the scale of a country like Canada & the US pose its own challenges as a touring artist ?
Matt – “The US is actually a little easier, you can drive for an hour and be in a totally different city with a totally different crowd. The population in Canada is a lot more spread out, similar to Australia actually where you really have to pound the miles.”
RnL – You’re pretty well established in Canada, picking up awards and accolades in your native land but possibly a little less well know further afield, are you hoping to break new ground with this upcoming tour ?
Matt – “Yeah its always great to get back to places you’ve played before, building on that fan-base and spreading the word is always the goal. I’ve got a pretty good thing going on here in Canada. We always enjoy spreading the wings and touring Europe and Australia.”
RnL – You have a pretty extensive tour in the US and Canada even before you reach Europe in May, I’m sure you’re looking forward to the return to Europe ?
Matt – “ Yeah our philosophy is not to sit still for too long, we had a whistle stop tour back in November, but this is close to 3 weeks so more extensive with new countries so we’re really looking forward to it.”
RnL – I’ve had Honest Man on repeat, it’s a beautiful album you must be really proud of the finished product ?
Matt – “ Thank you, I am yes. You always try to make it sound like you have grown, the writings got better and the songs too, so yes I am really happy with that one.”
RnL – Your 1st solo album was release back in 2007, Im sure you can really see the change yourself from the early recordings to Honest Man ?
Matt – “Yeah for sure, I definitely find the newer stuff easier to listen to, with the earlier music I was writing a lot from the 1st person perspective, now I write more from the outside which I feel helps appeal to more people, hard to believe its been close to 10 years since that release.”
RnL – Im sure getting the opportunity to work with Commissioner Gordon helped broaden your horizons on this album ?
Matt – “ Absolutely, working with someone of that caliber and he’s worked with some really cool people ( Santana, Quincy Jones ) every producer brings his own flavour, he pushed me in a direction that I wouldn’t have found on my own. I love that in a producer, otherwise you just keep sounding like yourself, its great to work with someone who recognize when you need to sound like you, and when to help you let go.”
RnL – Do you like to work with the same producers more than once ?
Matt – “ No I don’t tend to usually, I feel that’s a mutual thing with producers as they also like to move on work with new bands. It’s easy to become stale and let the status quo take over. “
RnL – From the album itself are there any tracks you’re enjoying playing live ?
Matt – “ ‘One Good Song’, that whole story of the broken musician pounding the roads really resonates with the crowds, ‘Honest Man’ too. I don’t play ‘I’m Giving In’ as I don’t play piano myself, but I do have a piano player and I’ve always loved that about the likes of Bonnie Raitt, she would always have a stripped back piano number. It’s always a great song to perform live with just the vocals and piano.”
RnL – I was wondering about that tune actually when listening to it, about the studio experience. Did Commissioner Gordon tweak it at all ? or did he just see it for what it is as a stripped back piano number ? What’s your own approach when going to the studio ?
Matt – “ No he liked it where it was, some tracks got the treatment but with ‘Im Giving In’ he just liked it as it was. I don’t tend to have a lot of pre production done, I try to let things happen organically, different players get inspiration from different things, producers and players, I tend to find if I think about it too much it can restrain the creative process. “
RnL – So beyond the tour, what does 2017 have in store for you ?
Matt – When the tour wraps up we’ll start paying the festivals around Canada and the US over the summer, we may possibly get back to Australia before hitting the studio in the fall, trying to find time to write when on the road so much can be a problem, so we try set aside a little time to do that, then a bit of time off before the end of the year and all being well we will aim for a new album for Jan / Feb 2018.”
I want to thank Matt for taking the time to chat to us at Rock n’ Load, you can catch Matt live this coming May In the UK & Ireland, Honest Man is available now.
Matt Andersen – May 2017 UK Tour Book Tickets – www.mattandersen.ca/tour
The Grand Social, Dublin Thursday 18 May
Fochabers Public Institute, Fochabers Village, Scotland
Friday 19 May 15 High St, Fochabers, Inverness, IV32 7EP Box Office – 01343 821 325 www.morayvillagehalls.org.uk/hallhire/fochabers.html
Sunday 21 May Tickets – http://bit.ly/2jmSEo1 Box Office – 01224 641 122 Carnegies Brae, Aberdeen, AB10 1BF www.aberdeenperformingarts.com/partner-venues/the-tunnels
The Mash House, Edinburgh
Night & Day Cafe, Manchester
The Borderline, London