Matt Minglewood looks back on career with wonder, gratitude

You would be hard pressed to find a Maritimer who is not familiar with Cape Breton’s Matt Minglewood.

Touting a musical mixture of blues, country, and rock, Minglewood has been entertaining audiences for more than 45 years now, earning three gold records and a dedicated legion of fans from coast to coast.

Having recently celebrated his 65th birthday, Minglewood looks back upon his career with a mixture of wonder and gratitude for all that he has experienced over the past four and a half decades.

“In the band’s heyday, it was common for us to play 325 shows,” Minglewood tells The Times & Transcript from his home last week. “It seemed as though we were always on the road somewhere in the country. It is a much different landscape these days though. The number of places to play shows has dwindled and so the opportunity to play dwindles accordingly.”

Though Minglewood is known for his superior guitar skills, it is interesting to note that the musician actually got his start on the violin. Minglewood was inspired to take up the instrument thanks to his grandfather who would sit a young Matt on his knee and play Celtic music.

And while his grandfather was one key influence upon Minglewood’s taste for wide variety of music styles, artists such as Elvis Presley and James Brown proved to be an equal force in setting him on his musical journey.

“The first time I saw Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show, I got turned onto so much in the way of music,” he says. “The radio was so different back then though. You could hear anything and everything on there. It was an eclectic mix of music; country music at one point of the day while the weekends would be dedicated to the hit parade. And at night, in Cape Breton, we could pick up radio stations from New York and got introduced to guys like James Brown and funk music.”

Minglewood credits FM radio for helping his band secure their following throughout the country.

“I am very thankful that we found success in an era where FM radio stations would play album cuts and not depend exclusively on hits. Sadly though, that era is gone now. I wouldn’t want to be starting my career in today’s day and age.”

Although the music business has evolved greatly over the past two decades, Minglewood is not an artist struggling to find his place amidst the turmoil. He continues making new music but for him, playing live is a vital component of his everyday life. Minglewood continues to perform with his namesake band and is fortunate enough to have the flexibility to perform solo shows, as well. His show on Saturday evening will be one of his solo outings, a venture that Minglewood admits initially took a little work to shap into what he wanted it to be for fans.

“By and large, solo tours have kept me in the music business and have given me another outlet as well as another outlook on performing,” Minglewood says. “It took a little while to develop the solo thing; people would come out and wants to hear songs from the band so I had to work to adapt them. Then I did an acoustic style record and I think that really brought the most different perspective to my fans. The acoustic show ended up evolving from that.”

Regardless of where the music industry is at these days, it is evident that Minglewood remains ever grateful for the opportunities that he has been given over the past four-plus decades.

In the past ten years alone, he has performed throughout Canada but has also had the opportunity to play for Canadian troops stationed in Afghanistan in 2005 and 2009. The experiences are ones that he says will stay with him forever.

“I loved my experiences there but it was such a complete culture shock,” he says. “Everybody sleeps in these tents called igloos; planes are coming and going all around you 24 hours a day. But what impressed me the most was the dedication that the soldiers showed towards the mission. I spent a lot of time with them and just watched at how much care they put into what they were doing and how they truly believed in what they were doing. The pride and professionalism that they put into what they were doing was incredibly heart-warming to see. To be there and see what their daily lives were like was very moving. It helps to put a lot in perspective; I was a very proud Canadian to be there. I had always dreamed that my music would take me around the world and it indeed has done just that.”

Article published in February 10, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript