Indie403 is thrilled to present Matt Blais as our Featured Artist of the Month for February!
The best songwriters can find inspiration anywhere, from relationships to politics to pop culture. They think of the people and things which have influenced their lives and are thankful for all who have paved their way. What they don’t think of, though, is how much they will inspire those who follow. The very best songwriters are brilliant, artistic, and above all, inspiring. Matt Blais has all these qualities. His music, personality and creativity are enlightening, and with a new album coming out this February he is finding an important place in the Canadian music world. He’s an inspiration to all, and that is why he deserves to be Indie403’s Featured Artist of the Month!
The Artist, Influences & Style
Matt Blais’ passion comes through clearly as he talks about his foray into music and the path that has led him here. His life as a musician seems destined and unavoidable, with nothing standing in his way on the path to greatness.
His first window to music came early, with the gift of a harmonica at the age of seven. Like all kids, though, Matt didn’t think of a career in music, seeing the impact of music in other ways. “I’d seen the movie ‘Free Willy’ and the kid uses the thing to talk to the whale. I thought that was pretty cool.”
While Matt never led a whale to freedom, music eventually found other ways to enter his life, almost by accident. “I’d been reading a lot of Ginsberg and Bukowski and thought I would try my hand at putting some words on the page, but when I looked at them, they seemed more like songs. So, I brought a used guitar and got to work.”
Naturally, the first music influence came from the greats of 60’s rock music. Citing The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and The Doors as his initial influences, Matt also lists a huge variety of writers as the people who continue to influence him today. He names everything from the traditional clichés to the more obscure modern greats, showing a wide range of inspirations that contribute to his unique roots-rock sound. “Bob Dylan as a writer has been huge for me. I like the misdirection of his songs,” says Matt, also acknowledging the influence of Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin and blues greats like Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter. He adds: “Obviously I’m not just into the classics. Ben Kweller’s ‘forever young’ approach I always try to keep in the back of [my] mind. Of course, Sam Roberts is probably the biggest one for me. He’s Canadian, he’s hardworking and he is the definition of rock ‘n roll: raw songs performed with riveting intensity.”
These styles have all helped Matt develop his own unique sound. “I try to bring a modern flare to roots rock,” he explains. “I blend blues and soul with alternative rock.” It’s a special flavour of rock music, and one that has received a lot of attention in Calgary and beyond. Matt’s fans love his music, and it’s easy to hear why. What’s difficult, though, is trying to describe his sound, a fact Matt himself agrees to. “I find it hard to describe it with words,” he says. “The only way to truly understand music is to listen to it.”
For Matt, even writing is a special experience. While some songwriters see writing as a job, Matt’s experience is more natural and organic. “I rarely sit down with the intention of writing a song. I always have a guitar close by for when that magic spark appears.” This spark is “usually most inspired by emotions and personal experience. Sometimes I will write about events out in the world, but I would describe myself as a topics songwriter. I write about what’s closest to me, the people, the struggles, the frustrations.”
Accomplishments, Successes & Life
Despite all the attention Matt has received for both his music and his writing, he remains humble and grateful for everyone’s support, thanking “my family and friends obviously. They’re the ones who came to the shows in the early days. I’ve also had support from the industry. I appreciate every venue who has ever got me to perform or every radio station that has played me. Most of all, I’ve been privileged to work with some amazing musicians who have supported me and really believed in the music.”
With all these supporters and fans behind him, Matt has already done a lot. He’s released two albums (The Connection EP, 2008 and Let It Out, 2010) and has a few hundred shows under his belt, an amazing accomplishment and the feat he’s most proud of. As he modestly points out, “I didn’t start playing music to sit around at home. I’ve gotten to meet some amazing people and see some amazing places. I’ve built a career on being creative and honest. I know I’m really lucky to be an artist for a living. That is the biggest accomplishment unto itself.”
Along with meeting great people and being able to perform in cool places, Matt is also a fan of live music and the experience he’s been lucky to be a part of. His passion for live performance is obvious, and as he describes the feeling of being at a show, his love is almost tangible: “For me, performing is the culmination of all your creativity and passion,” he explains. “I like being able to share an experience. That’s what I enjoy most about seeing a concert and performing my own. When you listen to a song on your iPod or whatever, you’re only stimulating one sense. When you’re at a concert, you’re hearing the music, feeling the bass, smelling the air – Everything.”
Matt’s future in music is certain. His talent and intelligence, not to mention his passion, will bring him far, and it’s amazing to think he’s really only getting started. 2013 alone is going to be a great year. His new album The Heartbeat will be released February 9 in Calgary, a reward to his loyal and supportive family and friends, ahead of the international release on February 26. The rest of the year will be just as exciting as Matt and the band hit the road for a cross-Canada tour.
The excitement Matt shows at the idea of touring says everything about his passion for performing. He’s not aiming for big stadiums or money; rather, “my goals is to just remain creative and to keep making music.”
It’s this attitude that sets Matt apart from many other musicians. He’s on his way to great things, and like the artists who influenced him, he too will be an inspiration to those who follow. To the aspiring musicians of the future, Matt leaves these words of advice: “Being a musician is only about one thing: playing music. Nothing can really stand in the way of that. If you want to make music, sing. If you break your hands, stomp your feet. Focus forward.”
To learn more about Matt Blais, visit his website, check him out on Facebook and buy his earlier music on iTunes. If you can’t wait, The Heartbeat can be pre-ordered on his website – a great deal at only $10. His album release show will be February 9 at Republik, a show definitely worth going to if you’re in Calgary; if you’re not, check out his cross-Canada tour and prepare to be inspired.
For a little taste of Matt, check out a live version of song “Guilty Heart“, performed at the AMP Radio Rockstar Finals on January 19th.