“I can’t remember where we played last night,” says Matt Andersen, who is traveling by bus to the next date on his tour as we speak. He suddenly remembers, “We played Fall River, Massachusetts. We’re on our way into Boston and then off to Quebec City.”
Canadian singer-songwriter Matt Andersen was born and raised in Perth-Andover, a small village in New Brunswick, but he has performed around the world, often playing 200 shows a year. He has headlined major festivals, clubs and theatres throughout Europe, North America and Australia.
He built his fan-base the old fashioned way: performing live, and Andersen is renowned for his showmanship. He is a skilled guitarist, has a great big soul voice and has been called “a storyteller trapped in a bluesman’s body.”
Andersen is as prolific off-stage as on. In the last nine years, he has released just as many albums. His recently released album Honest Man is filled with artfully written bluesy songs and acoustic jams, with lush instrumentation coupled with Andersen’s acoustic guitar and powerful soul voice.
His previous album, Weightless, was nominated for a JUNO award in 2014. Andersen won the 2013 Euro Blues Award, three Maple Blues Awards in 2012 and was the first Canadian to win the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2010.
The album Honest Man moves fluidly and effortlessly between folk, blues, rock and country music styles. The title Track Honest Man was inspired by an editorial carton of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders at a political debate. A large horn section provides the big band sound that gives this song its edge.
The smooth acoustic jam, Let’s Get Back, also has political affiliations. “We wrote that right around election time, and there was all this stuff going on in the States too,” explains Andersen. “I think as Canadians we can do a little better. I’d like to get back to how Canada used to be when I was a kid.”
There are also quintessential love songs on Honest Man like the emotional piano-led ballad, I’m Giving In, where Andersen shows off his soaring vocals. Andersen confesses his love in the 1950s ballad Last Surrender and explores the promise of new love in the funky acoustic jam All the Way.
Andersen is touring across the country with fellow Canadian singer-songwriter, Donovan Woods. “It’s really great on the road with him. We have a lot fun on the bus, a lot of laughs. His funny, his songs a great and it’s really been a perfect pairing,” says Andersen.
Woods co-wrote two songs with Andersen on Honest Man: One Good Song and Quiet Company. “My manager lined up a writing session and I had some time off around a gig in Toronto. Got together for a couple days, I went to his place. We had a lot of fun hanging out and came up with two songs,” Andersen explains.
“Donovan had the idea for One Good Song for a long time so he brought that one to the table so we finished that off. Quiet Company is one I started before with my producer in the studio. I brought it in and finished it off with Donovan.”
Andersen co-wrote all of the songs on Honest Man with other musicians. “I find if I write by myself too much I start to rip my own ideas off and sound like myself too much. Writing with other people helps keep it fresh.”
Donovan Woods is having a great time with Andersen on the road as well. “Matt is really great. His show is pretty amazing. He’s fearless. His voice and playing are singular and there’s not anyone that’s quite like him in the whole world.” Woods adds, “I really think he’s spectacular. I’ve been watching him for a month and a half and every night he blows everybody away. It’s pretty great to see.”
Andersen says, “I’m more comfortable onstage than in a room full of people. I’m not really sure where that comes from. It’s therapy and communication at the same time. Music is a lot of things for me.”
Matt Andersen performs with Donovan Woods on March 25, 2016, at L’Astral (305 Rue Ste-Catherine O). Doors: 7 pm, show: 8 pm. Tickets: $31.50 – 38.05.
Annie Webb writes the blog Spaced-Out Scientist.