(Photo credit: Colin Robertson)
Matt Andersen’s tour schedule is not for sissies. In the next two weeks the Canadian singer plays 13 shows taking him and his acoustic guitar from London to Stockholm, by way of Hamburg and Amsterdam. And that’s the way he likes it.
“I get more excited about tough schedules than find them daunting,” he reveals. “I like that kind of thing where you’re jetsetting – makes it feel rock ‘n roll, I guess,” he laughs.
“All that tiredness, and all that driving around and flying, that stuff is the worst part of what we do – but we still get to perform. And I think that’s the payoff for a lot of us,” Andersen points out.
“You always find the energy for the two or three hours you’re on stage – if you can’t find it then, you’re in the wrong business, really.”
Apart from the shows themselves, listening to music helps to make the travelling more bearable, as evidenced by his Spotify “On The Road” playlist.
“When you’re on the road for a long time, everybody has their playlist that they like to go to, to make the time go a little easier, especially on those long drives. So that’s what a lot of those songs are – they’re definitely songs that are on my iPod, they’re not just songs I picked because I thought people would like them. It’s all stuff I listen to.”
So the winner of two European Blues Awards has everything on there from Little Feat and Los Lobos to Tedeschi Trucks Band and Bill Withers. It’s a seemingly diverse collection, but the tracks do all have something in common.
“What I really connect to in songs is the delivery,” Andersen says, “where you can tell the performers were really into it. It’s not just made up so they have music to put out there for people to buy, they’re making music because they love making music. That’s the sort of stuff that drives me the most. I can listen to that kind of thing over and over again.”
The first album to have that effect was his brother’s copy of Eric Clapton’s ‘Unplugged’ LP.
“I sat with a guitar in front of the speakers at home and played that as much as I could,” he remembers. “It definitely was something I was really drawn to – again, it was just great delivery on there. It’s such a great recording. It’s all microphones and a guy on an acoustic guitar – there’s nothing fancy, there’s nothing there that those guys couldn’t recreate night after night, and I just fell in love with that.”
And now it’s exactly what Andersen himself does, night after night.
“It’s just me and a guitar and I feel pretty comfortable doing it that way. It’s kind of how I love hearing music too – I love that stripped down sound, just the bare bones of the songs,” the Juno-nominated singer-songwriter reveals.
“When you’re playing with other people, it’s great that you get to share ideas on stage. That is something I do miss when I play solo – you don’t have that call and response, you don’t have that energy from other people, you don’t have somebody pushing a new idea you might not have thought of on your own. But when I do solo shows, I find that’s what the audience is there for.
“Every night could be different, you get different responses from the crowd, and it’s really freeing too: I don’t need a setlist, I just go up and play whatever songs are feeling good at the time.
“It just feels really natural having one person playing and a group of people listening, which is actually how a lot of people experience music for the first time. Certainly where I grew up, hearing music in the kitchen it wasn’t a full rock band with a light show,” he laughs.
“It was my mum playing piano, my grandfather playing fiddle, and my cousin playing guitar. That’s how I first experienced live music. So I think it’s really intimate for people, especially in a room where you can hear absolutely everything. It can be a very special thing, and takes it back to the most raw form of song.”
Matt Andersen at The Borderline, London, Thursday 25 May 2017
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