Matt Blais is a solo artist from Calgary, Canada, whose rock and roll compositions are catching fire here in the States and beyond, His latest album The Heartbeat is sure to make you feel pumped up, filled to the brim with memorable rocking anthems. At a recent showcase in Hollywood, Matt Blais and band presented to an industry crowd a powerhouse set of tunes that would make even the most jaded music critic take note. Here is an interview we conducted with Matt Blais a few weeks later to find out more about this rocker on the rise. Read on…
What was the name of the very first song you wrote, how old were you, and what was the song about?
The first song I remember writing was called “Sidewalk Chalk.” I think I was about 14 or 15 years old and I was obsessed with the idea of the “anti-hero.” So, I wrote a song about this loud-mouthed villain who spelled out his propaganda on the sidewalks of the city. I think I bit off a bit more than I could chew with that one – It never made it on a record or setlist.
Where are you based out of and what is your local music scene like there?
The band and I are based out of Calgary, Canada. It’s a great spot. Close to the mountains, not far from the U.S and it has a budding music scene. There are so many bands here encompassing every genre imaginable. The scene is very competitive. There aren’t as many great venues to play as I feel there should be, so bands can be cut-throat. Lately though, the scene has grown to be a lot more supportive. Bands and artists are realizing more can be done by working together and sharing your fanbase.
Is there any story or concept behind the album title The Heartbeat?
“The Heartbeat” was born out of the desire to reproduce what we were doing live on stage. I didn’t want to make a “studio” record with a whole bunch of stuff we couldn’t reproduce live. I wanted to capture the vibrancy and energy that has made a live success and put it into the recordings. So, I viewed the record as a living, breathing thing, hence, “The Heartbeat.”
Select two songs from The Heartbeat and what inspired the lyrics.
“Running” is a song that was actually written for my first record – but it wasn’t quite ready in time, so I had a few years to perfect it for “The Heartbeat“. The song was born out of feeling trapped. I was learning how to deal with troubles in the music industry, the band and personal troubles and I just wanted to get away. So, “Running” was some advice to myself – ways to see the positive. It hit a bit close to home for me, so I ended up changing some of the lyrics and gave it more of a 3rd person perspective. I think it tells a great story and hopefully inspires people to break out of their comfort zone and go see the world.
“Always” was actually a writing exercise for me. I knew it was time to make a new album, but I just didn’t have the material and I was suffering from major writers block. Then one night I was laying in bed, listening to some music, a song came on from the perspective of someone who was dieing. I thought, “deathbed confessions” are quite a common subject in film and songs etc. but, if someone were to turn into a ghost, what their first thoughts be? Their regrets? Their passions? So, with that subject in mind, I forced myself to write “Always“. I wrote it all within a few hours in the middle of the night and when I was finished I had written, what I sometimes jokingly refer to as “a ghost love song”.
What could one expect from a live Matt Blais show?
On stage is where I feel most at home. I wanted to be a touring, gigging musician before I ever even thought about recording. So definitely you can expect to see that passion. Our job is to excite the mind and body of the people who watch us. Get you ramped up, dance, party and hopefully think a bit too. If you love live, honest, hardworking rock’n’roll, then we are the band for you.
If you could open up for any band or artist either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
My attitude towards music was based off of Bruce Springsteen. That hard-working, shake every hand, pay your dues kind of mentality has always resonated with me. So, I think I be a good fit for a show of his. I’m also a huge fan of “The Heavy“. I love their grit, groove and edge. I think we could turn the audience into a damn sweaty mess together. Sam Roberts and Matt Mays are my Canadian heroes. Both are the purist definition of rock’n’roll that have inspired me for years.
How close are you to writing and recording a third full length album?
We’re in the very early stages of a new record. We’re planning and budgeting and thinking at this point. I have some songs written but there is still a lot of work to be done. I’m really focusing on find a “voice” for this record.
When you look back on your first album Let It Out, what do you think of it now?
I actually try not to listen to myself unless I really need to. I think for most artists there will always be thing you wish you had done differently. That’s not to say I’m not proud of that record. I really am. But, I was young and inexperienced and even if other’s cant hear that, I do. I think it’s a great record but sometimes it feels a bit like looking back at an old photo of yourself and seeing your 90’s haircut and you say “What was I thinking?” I think as artist you have to want to move on. If you think your best is behind you, why keep creating? So, I view every record as a stepping stone.
What was The Matt Blais Connection and how does it compare to what you are doing now?
The Matt Blais Connection wasn’t too different from what I’m doing now. I still wrote the songs and led the band. The name just gave a different feel than just “one guys name” ala “The Jimi Hendrix Experience“. Things got complicated with those members and it just became easier to perform under “Matt Blais“. The approach to the music or live show hasn’t changed.
Any strange or scary stories while on the road or during a live show?
Of course! You do this long enough and you’re bound to risk your life. We’ve had our life threatened by drunks because we didn’t “play anything country”. The tour van broke down in a -40 degree snowstorm in the middle of no-where. We were actually turning blue before help arrived. You meet strange people who have no problem telling you how much they love you or hate you. I think it’s a pretty unique business in that way. You combine people’s penchant for letting loose, some alcohol and a band that doesn’t apologize, it’s bound to get interesting.
Any chance of a Matt Blais tour here in the US?
There is more than a chance. It is in the planning stages. What I’ve learned about a career in music is so much comes down to timing. If we’re going to do it, we want to do it right – so, more planning and budgeting and all that boring stuff, will make for a great tour in late 2014 or early 2015.
Any final words of wisdom?
I’m not old enough to have any wisdom yet. I’ve got a lot more mistakes to make before I figure anything out.
(Interview by Ken Morton – Live Photos by Jack Lue)
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