Award-winning Matt Andersen is set to make his long-awaited return to the north of Scotland with a new album – Honest Man – in tow. Ahead of dates at the Fochabers Institute on Friday and the Tooth and Claw in Inverness on Saturday, he talks to Kyle Walker about the family connection that keeps him coming back, what the new album is all about, and how he’s seen music change over his 15 years in the business
Hi Matt! You’re coming to Fochabers on Friday, May 19 and Inverness on Saturday, May 20. Have you ever been to the north of Scotland before? If not, are you looking forward to it? If so, how did you find it – any good stories?
I’ve played a few times in Elgin and Fochabers. Looking forward to getting back. It’s become one of my favourite stops when I tour this way. I have a cousin who lives in Fochabers and it’s always a treat to be able get in a family visit while I’m on tour.
You’ll be performing solo throughout the tour. Which do you prefer when you’re out on the road – flying solo or playing with a band? And what challenges/advantages are there for you and your music when performing solo?
I’ve toured solo for the bulk of my career. I’m quite comfortable doing the solo shows. It’s always a treat to have the band with me, to have other people on stage to bounce ideas off. At the same time, I love the solo shows for their intimacy. For me, it’s how I love to see shows as well. The songs stripped down to their most raw from. Just the guitar and voice.
The new album Honest Man was recorded towards the end of 2015 and deals with quite a lot of political themes – what was it exactly that you were looking to explore? And how has your views of politics shifted since its recording? And how do you think north of Scotland audiences will be able to relate?
Anytime I’ve written songs, I’ve written what’s been on my mind. At the time I was preparing for Honest Man, there was a lot going on politically around home in Canada and in the United States. I wouldn’t say my views of politics have shifted any since recording, I could easily have written those songs yesterday. I’m sure the folks in northern Scotland will be able to find the songs relatable. The topics I think are something people all over the world are feeling in some way.
What can audiences in Inverness and Fochabers expect from your live shows? Which songs in particular are you looking forward to showcase here?
I always aim to keep my shows relaxed, almost like a gathering in a living room. I tell the stories of the songs and of my time on the road. I’ll be playing songs from my entire catalogue. The set list often changes from night to night, depends on my mood and how the crowd is feeling. One of the advantages of performing solo is I can change things on the fly.
You’ve been active in music since 2002 – over that time, how would you say that the industry has changed? Over your career, what would you say has been the absolute highlight so far?
The biggest change I would say is how much the internet is playing a role now. You can hear bands on YouTube before they ever reach your town. Word of mouth has taken on a whole new magnitude. Just by sharing links, people can spread the word of their favourite bands. Also, music is so much more accessible. You no longer need to wait for your local store to bring in an album you’ve ordered. You can think of it and have it all in the same minute.
A highlight? Last year I had a show in Melbourne, Australia. After the show, I jumped on a plane and flew to Berlin where I left the airport and went straight to another gig. I love moments like that.
How would you describe your music and live performances to an audience who haven’t heard you before?
Roots and soul. I’ve never tried to fit into a specific genre of music. Everything I’ve listened to over the years has made its way into my music. It’ll just be me and my guitar on these shows. I try to keep things relaxed and fun. I’m not trying to change the world, I just like folks to leave the show feeling full. The same feeling you have when you leave a friend’s house after a good visit.
What’s been the nicest thing anybody’s said about your music? And what’s been the most horrible thing?
I’ve had people on different occasions tell me how my music helped them through a difficult time. In one instance, even kept a fella from hurting himself. That’s definitely the most positive thing I’ve had some out of my music. Horrible things? I never really pay much attention to any of that.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
I’m writing right now. Looking to record again in the fall. Around that time, I’m going to be on the road pretty steady. Once I land back home from this tour it will be summer festival time, that will keep me busy until I get into the studio again.
Matt Andersen comes to the Fochabers Institute on Friday and the Tooth and Claw in Inverness on Saturday.