Interview with Calgary Musician Matt Blais

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On Wednesday night I had the great privilege and honor of conducting my very first interview with Calgary rock musician Matt Blais outside of Fernando’s pub. Having been born and raised in Alberta myself, and having spent some time living in Calgary, I felt a strong connection to this friendly, outgoing musician. Together we made slight banter and jest of my small hometown which many have never even heard of, and I made connections to names and places he spoke about.

The rest of Matt’s band was equally friendly and open. His back up members for this leg of the tour consisted of: Joel Fraser on guitar, Sean Peters on Bass, and Kyle Kobylka on drums. When I arrived at the venue I nabbed Matt alone for the interview and we went outside to talk about his new album which was just released the day before. Alone on the sidewalk, beside the torn up street, our conversation was accompanied by the cool ambient combination of purring construction and the music coming from Fernando’s outside speakers. I opened up my notebook and the interview began:

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Are the supporting members an ever changing line up?
Depending on the show, the size of the venue, we change it up. For the most part I use a core group of guys. For this part of the tour we don’t have a saxophone player. Sometimes we do. Sometimes we have a keyboard player, sometimes we don’t. Some shows are acoustic and we tell the drummer to stay home. It’s always changing which is good for us and good for the audience because I get to switch up what I want to play and I don’t want to get bored playing the same stuff all the time.

How is your new album different from the other two?
I wanted to capture what we were doing on stage. My last album, “Let it Out”, was more studio orientated. All the parts were created in the studio, it was like a Beatles album where we experimented with which sounds we could create.  With the new album I wanted to capture what we’ve been doing live all across the country in front of an audience. It was about trying to get all that living, breathing entity onto the record, and that’s why we called it “The Heartbeat”, because we wanted it to in every possible way be, and feel alive.

How would you describe your writing process, and what is your favorite setting to write in?
I keep a bunch of guitars out and around my apartment for when that moment of creativity hits. I’ve written songs in my sleep before where I woke up and had to get it down. I write based on emotions, I don’t read the papers and write songs about that, for me it’s more I’m frustrated as hell and I want to get it out. It doesn’t have to be my experiences either, I’ve seen my friends go through some problems and I’ve written about that.

How did you come up with your signature raspy voice?
I never did it on purpose, that’s just how I sing. It is what it is, it’s definitely not a choice. Sometimes it would be nice to not have a little rasp. But it’s definitely suited to the blues, I think.

If you could sound like any other singer who would you want to sound like?
Nat King Cole. I think he has the best voice ever. I got a couple of his records that I love to spin, and not just the Christmas stuff.

What about rock n roll speaks to you over any other genre?
It’s the energy, the spirit and the substance. There’s that pop side that pulls you in. It’s a lifestyle, and an art style, and I find that it’s very inclusive for everybody. Everybody wants to be a rock star. I may be biased, but I find it hard to believe there’s anybody out there who doesn’t love the beatles.

Who were you influenced by?
I was definitely a child of the sixties. I grew up with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, all those classics. I recently really got into blues artists like Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Sam Roberts, Bruce Springsteen, Ben Kweller and the Heavy from England.

I was mainly influenced, especially song writing wise, by early Bob Dylan and Kat Stevens and some of those guys. So the acoustic singer-songwriter in the lone spotlight has always been intriguing to me.

I’ve always been a fan of Roots, whether it be folk, blues, maybe a little bit of country. So that has made it into my music. My slant towards blues has definitely increased lately, I’ve been really focusing on my harmonica playing.

What do you think of BC?
It’s different. It’s a little laid back, people aren’t afraid to get up and dance. They’re  free spirited and don’t care who’s watching. BC is beautiful and we don’t have to dress as warm, if the van breaks down we won’t freeze to death. And Kelowna’s a wonderful town, lots of beautiful people live in this town.

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I had a lot of fun interviewing Matt Blais, very cool guy. The show was a nice change from the shows I’m used to seeing in Kelowna, not a lot of classic/modern rock artists come through here. It was the first time in a while I left a venue with my ears ringing. I’m excited for them to return in the summer when the construction is complete, these guys deserve a full house.

http://mattblaismusic.bandcamp.com/album/the-heartbeat


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