Folk music hasn’t always been at the forefront of music industry honchos. However, with indie folk musicians pushing their mojo into the spotlight, there’s increased interest in the genre.
Folk alternative musician Travis Matthews, 27, has worked his craft for more than a decade and is set to debut his first album at the Arden Theatre on Sunday, Oct. 23. And it all started in St. Albert where he grew up.
The hometown boy, who recently moved to Vancouver six weeks ago, just released Dreamer’s Son, an 11-track recording boasting mainly original material as well as two covers. Written prior to the pandemic, his versatile songs cover the gamut of romance and loss, dreams and reality, humour and sadness, and to a degree, nostalgia.
The album unearths the people, places and events important in his life. But it’s done in such a casual way, it’s easy to imagine him sitting around a campfire with family and friends strumming a guitar and crooning tunes.
Raised in the city, Matthews graduated from St. Albert Catholic High School. Some of his fondest memories are entwined around the Red Willow Trail System.
“I remember being a kid and biking as long and as far as I could. And when I got older, I was into longboarding on the paths. The paths were always smooth. And if you wanted to stop and buy something, you could step away and there was pretty much anything off the trail,” said Matthews.
He also played hockey for several years until he threw his back out and took up rock climbing with a ferocious passion. Attempting to find a niche in life, Matthews enrolled in NAIT’s geoscience program.
“But the year I graduated, I played at the Edmonton Folk Festival and realized I didn’t want to do that,” Matthews said.
Music was simply in his DNA. Born the son of Gordie Matthews, a past guitar player to k.d. lang and a much in-demand musician, music always flourished in the home.
When Matthews was seven years old, his father took him to see Ian Tyson perform. A short while later, Matthews received his first instrument, a little red Stratocaster electric guitar.
“I didn’t think much about it at the time. But at a family reunion when my dad went up to play on stage, I went up with him and played my guitar. When he stopped to drink some beer, I stopped to drink from a juice box.”
Although Matthews Senior was an in-demand musician playing clubs, festivals, halls and open mic nights, he also paid the bills teaching music. And he taught his son the basics.
“I’m grateful he let my interest grow naturally. If I didn’t want to practice, he didn’t rag on me. My interest was mostly self-driven. I wanted to be like him.”
Matthews' interest in music developed step-by-step. First came an interest in funk music and then composition. At 23, he released his first single, Sarah, a song he’d composed five years earlier.
“It was the first song people were impressed by. It was super simple. It has a strong melody and a catchy chorus. It was a fantastic, surprising song and it took a few more years to write something as good.”
Rhea March, a radio host, producer and sessional instructor at MacEwan University, saw his Sarah video and shopped it to the Edmonton Folk Festival and local spotlight events.
“It made me believe I could do it. I was always very passionate, but it was the outside response that made me hesitate.”
In between playing gigs at New Moon Folk Club, Calgary Folk Club, Canmore Folk Fest and assorted other concert halls, Matthews wrote songs and had Dreamer's Son largely produced at Bryan Adam’s Warehouse Studio in Vancouver.
His two covers are Sister Golden Hair originally sung by America as well as cover of his father’s song Diamonds.
“Diamonds is upbeat, and I love the rhythm. It’s about reassuring a loved one you will take care of them, and they can trust you.”
Take Me With You focuses on that consuming desire to be on the road while Don’t Worry Little Duckling is a mid-tempo chart written with a close friend.
“At the time I was confident and arrogant about how to treat a girl in a relationship even though I’d never had a girlfriend in my life. My friend, who had a girlfriend, put me in my place."
As for family, he includes a song about his grandmother, Rose Woolger, a seemingly fearless woman who lived past 90.
“I took her to her hometown for her 90th birthday to see her brother. She was getting sick and was told she had four months to live. It was heavy for me. But I loved hearing the stories about her. She was always independent and even nailed shingles on a roof in her 70s. She was nurse, a caretaker. Nothing could stop her. She was a big role model in my life.”
Backing Matthews vocals is a who’s who of regional musicians – Jamie Cooper (drums), Dana Wylie (keyboard/vocals), Aaron Lestrand (bass), Manny Valencia (percussion), Jeremiah McDade (sax), Bob Tildsley (trumpet), Branden Gates (violin), and of course Gordie Matthews on guitar.
“This is going to be a family-friendly show. But it’s also going to be a whopping good time.”
The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. at Arden Theatre, 5 St. Anne Street. Tickets start at $26. Call 780-459-1542 or online at tickets.stalbert.ca.