Finding Some Gold in Loss. Interview with Kalle Mattson
It’s Valentine’s Day, a day for romance for some, grief for others. Romance can be giant red hearts full of tooth-achingly sweet chocolates and pink blossoms in Paris lining the Seine. But, romance’s shadow side is about longing, intolerable waiting, and ruminating over details of a single moment. The loss of love is rife with sorrow, but also a range of emotions spanning from despair to liberation.
The loss of love is what comes to mind when I listen to Someday the Moon Will be Gold, Onatrian singer-songwriter Kalle Mattson’s new album. However, while Mattson’s source is the act of sifting through the pain left after loss, his loss is not romantic love. Rather, it is the loss of his mother who died when he was only 16. According to an essay on his website, the album was created after revisiting that time and place of his life. Mattson’s sentiments about grief and grieving are universal, applicable to all profound losses.
Despite his album’s sad origin, Mattson is cheery about the state of his music career and the new album. “I’ve been writing songs for about four years and this is technically my third full length album in four years,” he says. “I’ve been working on this record for a really long time on and I’m excited for it to come out”
Mattson is especially pleased how this album is a natural evolution from what comes before. “I think I’ve gotten better,” he says. “With each release, you can see a shift in the songwriting and making records and performing. With this record, you’ll hear differences in the orchestration and the different sounds on it. But it feels like a debut, because it feels like the first time I got something right.”
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Then he adds, “It’s just personal opinion, but It’s been done eight months and I’ve been sitting on it and I still like it.”
Mattson’s career in particular has gotten a boost from Trickster Recordings, a European record label from Berlin. “It’s a pretty cool story,” Mattson explains. “They’re awesome guys. I just got back from touring there and I finally met all these guys. We had a weird email relationship before that.”
Apparently, in 2012, Mattson released a five song EP in 2012. “A leftover grabbag of songs,” he says. Mattson made a music video of one of the songs and it went viral on the internet. An agent in Europe who saw the video emailed Mattson out of the blue, asking if he wanted to tour Europe. Mattson, flattered, of course said yes, but needed an infrastructure – a publicist, an agent, all that stuff. The mysterious agent said he would find Mattson a record label.
“I didn’t hear anything for 6-8 months,” Mattson says. “Then I got an email from [Trickster] that said ‘We like what you’re doing. We want to put out this album.’” Apparently, the first agent (who is not Mattson’s agent, by the way) showed Mattson’s videos to Trickster and they were hooked.
“He literally did it all out of liking this stuff. He wanted to help out and he did,” says Mattson.
It might seem odd for a Canadian to have a big fan base in Europe, but Mattson thinks it’s because of his foreignness. “It’s harder for a Canadian band to make it in Canada. We’re not exotic here,” says Mattson. In Europe, 6 out of the 11 headlining shows were sold out. “It happened without any sort of publicity from the record either,” Mattson says. “It won’t be out there until March 7.”
Mattson is glad to share the record in part because of the story behind it. “If you go to my website, there’s a long essay about context for the record,” he says. “This record is about me dealing with my mom who passed away when I was 16. I went to Sault Ste. Marie, which is where I am from and moved back home for first time in four years since my mom passed away. I was there to work a carnie job in order to make money to record this record.”
“I wrote all the lyrics during that period of time,” he says. “I dealt with what I didn’t deal with when I was 16. The death of a parent doesn’t happen to many people when they’re that young.”
Even with such a highly individual context for the lyrics, Mattson explains that the lyrics are still accessible to anyone. “It’s personal, but I don’t feel that it’s so personal that you can’t listen to it and get your own meaning from it,” he says. “The lyrics are oblique enough. It’s not just about me and my experience.”
Mattson is excited about what’s to come. He’s headed back to Europe three more times this year with his full band. Touring Canada, although different, has also gotten better for him in terms of audience members and general enthusiasm for his work.
“It’s all good,” he says, like a Canadian.
Kalle Mattson plays with Caltour Bateau and the Wind and the Wild at Quai des Brumes (4481 ST. Denis) on Feb 14. 9:30 p.m. $8.