He has been steadily building his name since his 2002 debut and at long last, blues singer-songwriter Matt Andersen is seeing his hard work pay off, breaking out on the national and international stage. While Andersen’s success is undoubtedly deserved, it has come from an often rigourous tour schedule that can include upwards of 200 shows per year. He has supported the likes of Bo Diddley, Randy Bachman and Little Feat and has also been a frequent guest on Stuart Maclean’s Vinyl Café tour.
In 2010, Andersen became the first Canadian to win the renowned International Blues Challenge based out of Memphis. The win helped Andersen score a number of dates throughout France, Italy and the United States, helping to elevate his profile even higher. Earlier this year, Andersen brought home Maple Blues Awards for Entertainer of the Year and Acoustic Act of the Year while also having garnered four East Coast Music Award nominations.
These are rather impressive accomplishments for the Perth-Andover native and frankly, Andersen’s star is only going to rise higher.
Andersen is currently touring behind his latest, critically acclaimed effort Coal Mining Blues. Andersen’s exhilirating guitar-playing and commandeering vocals are front and centre on his newest disc which was recorded at the studio of Band drummer Levon Helm, an experience that still has Andersen buzzing.
“It was a very cool experience,” Andersen tells The Times & Transcript during a rare day off in Toronto last week. “Being there, you can tell it was made by a musician for a musician. It was an easy place to be creative.”
Andersen’s newest record was produced by Colin Linden, a guitarist in his own right who has produced the likes of Bruce Cockburn, Colin James and East Coast favorite Lennie Gallant.
“Working with Colin was very cool; he was a positive influence to have in the studio with me. Going into making the record, I had hoped that he would simply do what he does and that is exactly what I got from him. We really let things happen in a very organic way when it came to making the record. I am not a big fan of pre-production; we hired some of the best players we could to help make the record. Each of them came in not having heard the songs before and in the end, we captured some great performances.”
Andersen’s success in the music business should hardly come as a surprise. Since he was young, he has been surrounded by music, starting with his grandfather who played fiddle and his mother who played piano in church. He started playing guitar at 14 and would end up discovering his love for the blues while attending school in London.
“I had been exposed to blues music when I was growing up but I was probably 17 or 18 years old when I really got into the music,” Andersen says. “What really struck me about the genre was the delivery; there was no formula for it and was incredibly spontaneous. It is hard to fake the kind of stuff that the blues takes on.”
If there is one aspect of being a musician that Andersen has become well acquainted with over the past decade, it is the life of being a travelling musician. As mentioned prior, it is not unusual for Andersen to play in the vicinity of 200 shows per year. In addition to having toured throughout Canada and the United States, he has also experienced the pleasure of touring Europe on many occasions. On a European tour earlier this year, Andersen was given the opportunity to perform at the famed Glastonbury Festival, known as one of Europe’s biggest open-air music festivals. The attendance at the 2011 edition of the festival was estimated at 135,000, giving Andersen massive amounts of exposure with only one show.
“Glastonbury was a massive event, something that was on a scale I had not been a part of before. It was amazing to have taken part in something so big.”
Andersen says that while touring is not always the easiest thing to do, he will also say that it is the best way to organically build your audience. Few “winners” of reality-themed television shows such as American Idol have gone on to have successful careers while artists such as Andersen, who have taken the time to bring their show to towns both small and big have built a loyal, dedicated following. Guys like Andersen tend to be the true winners these days.
“I think a lot of the Idol type of shows end up falling flat because there is often no commitment from the people involved. On top of that, they don’t necessarily have a really solid fan base neither so a lot of that stuff falls flat.
“Touring can be discouraging sometimes as far as being away from home goes but if the worst thing I have to do is to play music for people who have to come see me play, I will happily oblige.”
Article published in November 22, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript