Q&A with Canadian roots musician and storyteller Matt Patershuk - he loves words as much as he does music

"I think all of us who make music these days are so self aware. It’s hard to just make a song without thinking about what it means or what people might think of it. I think we might better music without so much of our ego tied up in it."

Matt Patershuk: An Honest Effort

Matt’s Grandad used to say: “God loves a trier”. He didn’t mean it in the way televangelist preachers do; who often say in not so many words: “If you pray the right way (and tithe appropriately), God will open limitless financial, health and career benefits before you.” He meant that there is worth, and value in the trying. The act of making an effort is redemptive, despite the outcome. In his album “An Honest Effort” (Coming November 19, 2021), you’ll find stories on this album about folks trying. In the face of unfavourable odds, with seemingly certain unfavourable outcomes, they give it a good go. Results vary, but all of them are better off for the attempt. Matt is a singer and songwriter first. He values simplicity, but also loves to incorporate the small details that bring a story to life, and make it relatable. Though his songs aren’t devoid of metaphor, you’ll not be left guessing about what the song is about when you’re done listening. Steve Dawson plays the guitar, pedal steel and Weissenborn, painting musical pictures that are a great counterpoint to the lyrics. Jeremy Holmes adds such fantastic groove, touch and taste on the bass and mandolin.                (Photo: Matt Patershuk)

Rock solid Gary Craig lends wonderfully inventive percussion. Keri Latimer’s tuneful and airy voice is a great foil to Matt’s earthy one. Fats Kaplin contributes wizardry on fiddle, ukelele, banjo and harmonica. With the musical talent that surrounds the songs on this record, heartfelt vocals, and inventive yet relatable subject matter, this is Matt’s best record to date. Matt lives near the hamlet of La Glace, Alberta, Canada with his wife, 2 daughters, several dogs, cats horses and sheep. While not blessed with an abundance of natural ability in his endeavours, he’s always willing to give things a good try, and never lets a lack of experience or formal training get in his way. He applies the same ethic to his self-taught song writing and music as he does to fixing a furnace, installing a stock waterer, building a jewelry box, or taking a picture. He loves words as much as he does music.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Roots music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I’ve loved music since I was small. I think it might have been the thin edge of the wedge that opened me to being interested in other forms of art, history and philosophy. Hearing, and really listening, to other folks’ stories in lyrics has helped me to put myself in others shoes. That has been good for me. I’m an introvert by nature. I loved music so much that I got over my disinclination to make a spectacle of myself in order to play it. That decision has led to some really wonderful moments in my life.

How do you describe your music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I love lyrics as much as I love music. I’m constantly striving to tell different stories in a better way. I’m not where I want to be yet. I have no training in music or writing; I try to embrace that, and plunge headlong into creating even though I have little formal understanding of how that should work. That being said, I also spend a lot of time trying to understand what makes a good lyric, a good story and good song.  I try to tell unusual stories from a different angle. I embrace all styles of roots music in doing so. I’m not sure where my creative drive comes from. Certainly, curiosity is one place. No matter how good the product, or how many people listen to it, I think there is innate value in making something. I like to make songs.

"I’ve known and loved a lot of really wonderful people in my life. Without going into excruciating detail, that has certainly been the highlight. Tom Waits (and probably some other folks) said, “Life is a path lit only by the light of those we’ve loved.” I’d say that’s true. I’ve sincerely enjoyed the communion of making music with friends and learning from them." (Photo: Matt Patershuk)

What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?

My music doesn’t have an explicit message. I tell stories and hope people draw their own conclusions from them. I think stories can lose their power when we hit people over the head with the lessons, we think they deliver.

What moment changed your life the most? What's been the highlights in your life and career so far?

I’ve known and loved a lot of really wonderful people in my life. Without going into excruciating detail, that has certainly been the highlight. Tom Waits (and probably some other folks) said, “Life is a path lit only by the light of those we’ve loved.” I’d say that’s true. I’ve sincerely enjoyed the communion of making music with friends and learning from them.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I think all of us who make music these days are so self aware. It’s hard to just make a song without thinking about what it means or what people might think of it. I think we might better music without so much of our ego tied up in it.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I’d like to see streaming platforms pay musicians fairly.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

1) Don’t say whoa in a mudhole. 2) God hates a coward. 3) Don’t eat the yellow snow.

"My music doesn’t have an explicit message. I tell stories and hope people draw their own conclusions from them. I think stories can lose their power when we hit people over the head with the lessons, we think they deliver." (Photo: Matt Patershuk)

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

I’ll defer to my favourite poet here. He describes what is probably the best case for a song. Substitute “music” for “poetry”

“I can't think of a case where poems changed the world, but what they do is they change people's understanding of what's going on in the world.”

  ~ Seamus Heaney

I wouldn’t presume to want music (writ large) to affect people one way or the other. I would simply like them to listen hard, take it in, and let it tell them what it tells them.

Matt Patershuk - Home

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