By Moira Billington
CALGARY – Authenticity serves as the most important vessel for any musician. Listeners can smell a fake from miles away, particularly in the world of folk and roots music; connecting with your audience and creating an intimate atmosphere is essential. Enter Matt Patershuk, who’s skillfully managed to do both.
The low rumble of Patershuk’s husky, pitch-perfect voice matched with his heartfelt and smartly penned songs has charmed listeners across Canada and beyond. His appeal is unmistakable. The written material ranges in emotional focus and message. Albums will contain endearing messages to those closest to him and heartbreaking ballads; elsewhere lyrics will contain a strong focus on history and storytelling. Later, upbeat numbers perfect for two-stepping and whiskey-drinkin’ will appear.
His Western Canadian Music Award nominated debut album Outside The Lights Of Town pays homage to traditional country and roots music with a distinct small-town charm. I Was So Fond of You (2016) opens with a raunchy fiddle and guitar combo with a do-or-die narrative about working tirelessly for those you love. It ends with the somber title track, a heartbreakingly beautiful waltz penned for his late sister Claire, who was killed by a drunk driver.
Stripped down and intimate, the first two albums were recorded almost completely live off the floor by super producer Steve Dawson, whose history includes working with Old Man Luedecke, The Deep Dark Woods, and numerous others. This raw approach perfectly exemplifies Matt’s affinity for stark honesty and subdued irony, bringing to light an old soul with a sharp eye for detail. His sound is not unlike Willie Nelson and John Prine’s early works.
Just under a year has passed since his most recent release, and with the help of Dawson’s label Black Hen Music, Patershuk is hard at work on his third studio album, to be released in the fall.
“It’s definitely different,” Patershuk tells BeatRoute. “We tracked some things separately in isolation booths as opposed to live off the floor. There are some hints of early rock and roll and blues, a bit of a bigger sound.”
There’s an impressive roster of musicians rounding out the sound, including Dawson himself, Jay Bellerose, and the alt-country singer-songwriter Anna Egge.
“I’m very inspired by her music and her singing, and so glad she’s all over this one,” says Patershuk with aplomb.
The endless cycle of touring and marketing is no easy task. Even with label and management support, it remains daunting at the best of times. Somehow, with a demanding full-time job and a family, Patershuk finds peace residing in Grand Prairie. The fervor of everyday life serves as a great reminder and disciplinary tool for Matt to find time for practice and his songwriting. When teased of this reality where musicians all need full-time work to support their other very full-time job of music, Patershuk becomes introspective.
“I think it’s important to have songwriting as an outlet. Writing songs is the definition of navel gazing, and I think it can be dangerous to always be in that frame of mind. I think it’s good for me to have that work-life balance.”
Matt Patershuk will perform on March 31 at Geomatic Attic (Lethbridge), April 1 at The Ironwood Stage and Grill (Calgary), and April 7 at The Almanac (Edmonton).Geomatic Attic, Matt Patershuk, The Almanac, The Ironwood Stage and Grill