"Think the most important lesson I have learned but this also applies in private life is to understand who is in front of you, always be kind, and smile at anyone, the guys in my management will think about the rest. I've always been used to doing everything on my own, from dealing with gigs, to tour logistics to accounting, now luckily, I have people who are part of my team and who helped me do anything, without them I couldn't make it. We are a good team."
Matt Pascale: The Root Sutra of the Blues
Matt Pascale is an Italian singer guitarist songwriter who loves to play electric, acoustic & slide guitar. His sound grew from the Hard Rock of his early teens into a more robust and sincere love affair with American Rootsy Music, including Southern Rock, swampy Blues & Funky-Neo Soul. His vocal and guitar style might resemble one of the “chitlin circuit” legendary musicians who display their husky voice and finger plucking chops every night of the week, but because of his geographical & big city up-bringing, young age wide interest & a truly “down & dirty”, he definitely sounds like no one else than himself! In spite of his young age, and two years forced “covid confinement”, since March 2019, Matt managed to play more than 400 live shows! He was made to be on stage, & that’s where he shines best. He shined some much doing his thing night over night between Italy, Switzerland and Germany that he captured the attention of the European Blues Union’s President Davide Grandi. (Photo: Matt Pascale)
Grandi made an introduction to the little Steven Blues Academy in Notodden, Norway, which is aUached to the famous Notodden Blues Festival. The deadline to apply for their yearly prized scholarship was way past its limit, but his “bigger than life” stage & soulful delivery not only gained him the late entry invitation but ended up landing him a slam dunk win! He so much captured the Academy team and the Festival’s board on and sympathy, that upon his return to Italy, was offered a permanent transfer of residency and the support of local agents that have been booking him solidly in the Scandinavian territory since September 2022. Matt is currently residing in Oslo. He’s about to start his winter Italian/Swiss Tour and he’s currently working on his first record release alongside producer/bassist Fabrizio “Fab” Grossi (Steve Vai, Billy F Gibbons, Supersonic Blues Machine, Eric Gales etc.) “Jesus is talking to me” (Oct. 2023) is the third single of Italian born & Norway’s resident singer-guitarist Matt Pascale.
Interview by Michael Limnios Special Thanks: Fabrizio Grossi
How has the Blues and Rock music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
Well, rock, blues but I like to say music has totally changed my life. You know, when you I was a kid, I didn’t quite understand what I wanted to do until I was 12 years old. I thought that one day I would become a doctor or a good soccer player. Well, then something happened. My father gave me some of his CDs as a gift. I was struck by them. I started listening to them everyday. At that moment everything seemed more beautiful to me. When you’re 12 you don't really want to wake up early in the morning to take your heavy backpack and go to school, but I couldn't wait to do it because I could listen to music in the headphones while waiting for the bus, on my way to school, during the break and after school. I was the classic little boy a bit introverted with a few more kilos than the others, the music allowed me to live my adolescence always smiling, and dreaming of being able to become a musician one day. A little over 10 years later, I can tell you that this little boy had really understood what to do. Now I'm 23, and I'm traveling all over the world and all this just thanks to the music. Today the world is experiencing a bit of unpleasant situations, the wars, the many economic crises that do nothing but hope for even more but the music for my personal opinion still makes us only one thing. No matter who you are, the color of your skin or your bank account, music will always be the mother of all of us. Music heals the world and covers the scars that we human beings leave behind every day.
"In my opinion and my experience, I think there is a blues audience and I think there are many young people who listen to it and play it. There is only one difference. The world is constantly evolving, so is the human being and consequently the music and the blues." (Photo: Matt Pascale)
How do you describe your sound and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?
How do I describe my sound and songbook? Oh man, I like this question. You see, in my opinion for a musician his playing, the way of understanding timing, the groove is nothing more than the reflection of his personality. My sound is only the result of my life experiences. My playing tends to evolve with my personal growth, of course studying is also important, but I want to give you one more example. Every now and then I go back to Sicily to visit my mom, and when I come back, I like to go and play some small gigs in the places where I grew up. When I was a kid, they were the best for me. Well, what has changed 10 years later? I have traveled, I have suffered, I have intensely experienced emotions such as anxiety, depression, love, happiness. This has changed a lot of things inside me, and in my playing, but my attitude, my attitude is always the same, the same as that 12-year-old boy, with no friend but a guitar from just over 50 dollars. So, that’s what I think: your attitude and your personality are your sound. As far as my songbook is concerned, I could tell you a lot of stories. I was a lucky guy, not for material goods, I always cared little about those. I was lucky because I met people who always taught me to appreciate all the good things in music. For me there are only two types of music: the one made well, and the one made badly. The difference is one, and it's like with the kitchen. Would you be able to feel the difference between a dish cooked with love a few moments before lunch, taking care of its details, and the flavors and a dish cooked 1 week before and frozen and then be heated 10 minutes before lunch? You know, there are too many names in my repertoire that have made a difference. Of all of them I would probably like to tell you: Allman Brothers Band. Although I still think that the most brilliant band, I've ever listened to is the Beatles.
I grew up listening to all the blues imaginable from the United States, to the English blues of Savoy Brown or Dr. Feelgood (to which I also opened a concert) But I have always had a part of my Playlist dedicated to a completely different genre because as I said before in my opinion there are only two types of music: the one done well and the one done badly. Well, my creativity? Honestly, I don't know how to answer. When someone asks me why I make music honestly, I never know what to say. I just do it, it's the same thing when I write the songs. I write very often; I plan to publish several records in my life. Many of my songs are experiences of my life. But it's always been like this: Very often I can't find the right balance between my intense emotions and all the commitments in my life. Here, writing is right in the middle, it allows me to find a balance. (Photo: Matt Pascale, Blue Front Cafe, MS)
"Well, I'm Buddhist, I've just started a spiritual journey. Very often I find myself on tour, I am always on the road, and I too am contaminated by the various energies I encounter on my way. Very often I found myself sick before the concerts, and I didn't understand why, well some readings of for example 'Alexandra David- Neel' or for example of 'Aśvaghosa gave me the answers I was looking for."
What moment changed your music life the most?
Wow, this question is very important to me. Okay... I want to be completely honest. So many moments have changed my musical life but two in particular. You know I come from a very humble family... I started doing concerts when I was 13 years old with my first band, and with the money I earned I helped my family pay the expenses. I would have liked to study, but I couldn't afford it, but one day I met a man, a great Italian guitarist and promoter: Mr. 'Vincenzo Tropepe'. I was just over 14 years old and he along with my father who was the first to believe in me decided to support me, trying to bring Matt Pascale shows to small local festivals and small clubs in southern Italy. It's been 4 beautiful years; I learned a lot from him. Vincenzo helped me become what I'm musically becoming, he made me listen to I don't know how many thousands of records of different music. He will always be a special person to me. Well, the second moment is recent and perhaps the most significant for my current career. You know, my father was everything to me, he always gave everything, I remember this experience. Once a blues band called me for a tour of southern Italy. The band's rehearsal would have been just one night in a village about a 40-minute drive from my hometown. My father only had $5, and I use that money to buy gasoline and take me to rehearsals. I was what he wanted to be, I was what made them happy every day, even if he didn't have a penny in his pocket. Unfortunately, when I was 21 my father died, and I went through a long period of depression, I abused alcohol, and for me nothing made more sense to exist. I was left alone, I had no friends, I only had acquaintances to go for a beer with every now and then. I had sold the guitars to help my mother with the expenses that were now very high. I was almost going to sink into that tunnel of horrors that never leads to good things in life. But God, or who for him decided to send an angel to save my ass. So, I met Mr. Pablo Bonelli or rather it would be Mr. Pablo Hat. I didn't know who he was, but I trusted him, I knew he would help me. That man gave me food, clothes, money and a warm place to sleep. He immediately proposes to give me one of his hats, which is why I like to say that a hat saved my life. Immediately after Mr. Pablo decides to organize some gigs maybe to put me to the test. After a few weeks he calls me saying, “Yo, you know Super Sonic Blues machine, I worked with them, the bass player is a great producer and I think you could work with him.” In this way I met Mr. 'Fabrizio Grossi’. Fab, and also Pablo, have made me a professional, they are teaching me the rules of Business and the ethics of a musician. At Fab I am learning a lot as a man and as a musician. Fab is my mentor, my musical godfather, and also an example of life, a person who pulled me out of negative thoughts to give me a smile. (Photo: Matt Pascale)
"Today the world is experiencing a bit of unpleasant situations, the wars, the many economic crises that do nothing but hope for even more but the music for my personal opinion still makes us only one thing. No matter who you are, the color of your skin or your bank account, music will always be the mother of all of us. Music heals the world and covers the scars that we human beings leave behind every day."
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
Well, if I have to be honest, I don't know what to answer. I was born in these twenty years; I don't know what the past was and how those who were young at that time lived it. I could tell you that maybe I miss the idea of music that had been created more. Basically, in the past music has been as important as politics, religions and all these things here. The music had a considerable social and political influence, just think of Elvis, Beatles, all the soul of Memphis, the history of the Stax etc. Today perhaps there is a tendency to exclude this thing. My biggest concern for the future? Good question? It's always one: How can a musician afford to live with music? Everything is becoming more and more difficult and expensive, which is why there is little music research, there are few bands that release whistles, and there are more and more tribute bands around the world. I respect them, I respect everybody who makes music, but could you tell yourself if and in which city there is still a scene like maybe some time ago? We will talk about it even better in the next questions.
What's the balance in music between technique and soul? Why is it important to we preserve and spread the blues?
Well, this question is interesting. You know for a while I taught guitar to kids and they wanted to play like shredding and many could do it too, but at the same time they couldn't do a bending Albert king style. Now, if you want my opinion as a guitarist, I tell you that everything is technical and everything is soul. There are few guitarists who can pull bending like Mr. Albert King, well that's also technical, and there are few guitarists who can shredding like Mr. Eric Gales, that's what I can guarantee you is soul. The problem I notice more in Europe than in the United States is another and perhaps I will answer your question altogether. It's not about the amount and speed of the notes, but a musician should be smart and understand what and how to play depending on the song. Let me explain in Europe I have seen incredible musicians, from blues to jazz, for example, play a shuffle and play suns while the singer sang the verse. Here this is something in my opinion you don't do, learning to respect the other and knowing how to stay in your place is the first rule to be in a band. Well preserving the blues is important because it's history and because as someone else used to say... people need the blues. Now we could talk about what the blues is or what it is not today. But I can tell you that when I see happy people at a concert, and I see that through this music, they dance, kiss, then I have found the answer. Music makes people happy; music allows you to forget your problems, that's why we have to preserve it.
"My sound is only the result of my life experiences. My playing tends to evolve with my personal growth, of course studying is also important, but I want to give you one more example." (Photo: Matt Pascale & Bob Margolin on stage at the Ground Zero Blues Club, Memphis TN)
What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?
Well. I have so many good memories, I'm still 23 years old, I hope to do a lot of things still, but looking back perhaps the most salient moments were: Well, in Europe to perform at the Notodden Blues festival, and I must necessarily mention European Blues Union that supports me every day and tries to do my best for me. And in the States well, playing at the Ground Zero Blues Club with Bob Margolin, and performing in historic venues like the blues city Cafè in Memphis.
How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
Oh maaan! Such a cool question! Well, I'm Buddhist, I've just started a spiritual journey. Very often I find myself on tour, I am always on the road, and I too am contaminated by the various energies I encounter on my way. Very often I found myself sick before the concerts, and I didn't understand why, well some readings of for example 'Alexandra David- Neel' or for example of 'Aśvaghosa gave me the answers I was looking for. When I was a kid before the concerts, I used to eat a lot of meat, now that I'm a vegetarian my life has completely improved, however I don't want to dwell much on this even if I would talk about it for hours. I tend to take a few moments between myself and myself before my recordings, I meditate a little and I remember the words of my producer who gave me a great lesson: 'It can't go wrong, we just make music, we don't save children from war'. You know when the responsibility for what you do goes in a way to diminish, the quality of your work will improve a lot, after all it's true, we just make music.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?
Think the most important lesson I have learned but this also applies in private life is to understand who is in front of you, always be kind, and smile at anyone, the guys in my management will think about the rest. I've always been used to doing everything on my own, from dealing with gigs, to tour logistics to accounting, now luckily, I have people who are part of my team and who helped me do anything, without them I couldn't make it. We are a good team.
"The music had a considerable social and political influence, just think of Elvis, Beatles, all the soul of Memphis, the history of the Stax etc. Today perhaps there is a tendency to exclude this thing." (Photo: Matt Pascale)
Do you think there is an audience for blues/rock music in its current state? or at least a potential for young people to become future audiences and fans?
The last question perhaps for me is the most important. Okay... I'd like to make a little criticism if I can. These words are not said with arrogance, but with hope and confidence. In my opinion and my experience, I think there is a blues audience and I think there are many young people who listen to it and play it. There is only one difference. The world is constantly evolving, so is the human being and consequently the music and the blues. I notice more and more that in particular the older generations struggle to accept the new talents of the blues and tend to call them 'Pop' or 'rock'. I am very close to tradition, I have great respect and admiration, I have studied and continue to study history but let me say one thing. I'm 23 years old, I was born in 2000 and I'm Italian, how could I sound like a blues from the early 20s of Mississippi or like Buddy Guy? I would like to give you an example, very often I find myself talking about Fantastic Negrito or Markus King, artists that I love, artists that I listen to almost every day and from whom I learn more and more. Perhaps for Markus king it is a little easier, it takes up a bit that tradition of Allman Brothers band and that concept of Jam Band, but Fantastic Negrito, is hardly accepted and yet in my opinion he represents the “Nu Blues”. In his music there are soul, funky, rock and any colors of the electronic component that I love. I hope that the older generations can give us more confidence, because now it's partly up to us to make this genre live again.
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