Matt Andersen: An Exclusive Interview for Kettle

Occasionally, a musician comes along whose talent for story telling stops you in your tracks; whose raw emotion and sheer passion take your breath away. Let me introduce you to Matt Andersen.<

Occasionally, a musician comes along whose talent for story telling stops you in your tracks; whose raw emotion and sheer passion take your breath away. Let me introduce you to Matt Andersen.

With almost superhuman dexterity, Matt embodies blues, folk and country as he simultaneously plays bass, melody and harmony on his beloved Lakewood guitars, while his scintillating voice moves through velvet-smooth depths to spine-tingling falsettos.

If Robert Johnson is the grandfather of blues, Matt Andersen is the grandson.

Over the past ten years, Matt has amassed nine albums, including two acoustic sessions, collaborations with renowned harmonica player, Mike Stevens, and even a Christmas collection. To say he is versatile is an understatement. What permeates through all his music is a raw honesty and passion that opens his songs to a much wider audience than solely blues enthusiasts.

“I definitely try to have something a little personal in every song.” says Matt.  “If you’re playing a song 200 nights a year you’ve got to believe what you’re singing. If you don’t it would be brutal.”

Matt certainly isn’t afraid to get personal. One of his biggest songs, One Size Never Fits, is a self-depreciatingly humourous portrayal of being “six foot-two, four hundred pounds.” It features the lyrics: “Now I’ve been accused of letting myself go
but that don’t get me down. I’m warm in the winter, 
cool shade in the summer; I’m easy to be found.” Genius.

In a checkered shirt, with his long curly hair loosely pulled back and an unassuming half smile, it’s hard to believe that this quietly confident man is the same person as the musical powerhouse whose unparalleled guitar skills and smoky vocals make him a modern legend.

“It’s not often you get a comfy chair on the road,” says Matt as he lugs over a squishy armchair with such ease it could be a picnic stool.

Matt has a buzz of nervous excitement about him for this evening’s Scottish gig. He has spent the past few weeks touring Europe and has ended up in Fochabers, a village in the North-East where he will play a gig to only a few hundred lucky people.

“It’s nice to play intimate gigs because you can see people. It’s a really close kinda vibe,” says Matt in his deep Canadian drawl.

“You get a pretty amazing energy off bigger crowds too. I’ve played festivals with six to seven thousand people and I couldn’t choose what I prefer. I’m lucky I get to do both.”

Growing up in small-town Perth-Andover, Matt is no stranger to hard graft. In 2012, he played a mammoth 200 shows worldwide.

Music was always a part of Matt’s life. He was brought up on a mix of country and folk and played the tuba and trumpet in school. It wasn’t until the age of 14 that he picked up a guitar. Instead of becoming a typical teenage rocker, Matt turned to blues.

“Eric Clapton’s Unplugged album was a really big album for me,” he explains.

“I think the groove of blues is one of those things that grabs all people and the lyrics usually come from someone who’s telling a story. It’s like folk music with groove.”

However, despite his passion and talent, it was always going to be a risk making his hobby his trade.

“I was working a job and playing at night,” says Matt. “ I was getting pretty tired and knew I had to quit one of them. I got to the stage in my career where I had to shave my sideburns and I thought, ‘I’ll quit now, see if I can give this music thing a go’.”

“I’ve got no regrets about the decisions I’ve made,” he says with a confident smile. “I think everything brings you to a place to where you’re supposed to be.”

Looking at Matt today, who manages to bring such breath-taking emotion even into his sound check, it is clear he is a man who’s doing what he is meant to do.

Matt’s latest album, Coal Mining Blues, is available here.