Accolades are nice, but to New Brunswick singer-songwriter guitarist Matt Andersen, playing for audiences big or small is what fulfills him.
At the front end of an extensive North American tour, Andersen’s new album, Honest Man, debuted in the Top 5 on soundscan albums in Canada following Adele, Justin Bieber, Macklemore & Lewis and The 1975.
He is selling out theatres across Canada, and his album has broken through to the top of the sales charts.
Honest Man has hit #1 on the iTunes Singer Songwriter Chart and National Roots Chart, and the video for the first single Let’s Get Back had just more than 80,000 views in the first week.
About to reach 10 million views on YouTube and independent sales of over 50,000 albums, it appears that the entire world is now discovering Matt Andersen.
The 10 songs that make up Honest Man explore both the political and the personal. The title track, co-written with Chris Kirby, was inspired by a US political cartoon while Let’s Get Back, co-penned with Andy Stochansky, has Andersen thinking about how his country as a nation has changed, but not for the better.
On one of two numbers created with Donovan Woods called One Good Song, Andersen sings about exactly that.
“All songwriters desire to have that one good song that just gets everybody,” he says. “Not necessarily a hit, but a song that when it’s heard, you can’t help but listen. This song is about the journey we all take to get there.”
Described as a powerhouse performer with a giant soul-filled voice and commanding stage presence, Andersen has built a formidable following the old-fashioned way – touring worldwide and letting the converted audiences and Andersen devotees spread his reputation through word of mouth, says Peter North, Roots and Blues Festival artistic director, who is delighted Andersen will close the main stage on Sunday.
He filled Massey Hall and got an astoundingly long standing ovation.
“He’s about the hottest thing in blues in Canada right now,” says an enthusiastic North.
I had a chance to see him on a Vinyl Café in Edmonton and for the second half, he sang in the Jubilee auditorium- and he was like the Pavarotti of the blues. His voice filled a 2,500 seat theatre effortlessly.”
North is also pleased to see the positive reception Andersen’s getting in the U.S and the number of dates he’s getting there.
In addition to headlining major festivals, clubs and theatres throughout North America, Europe and Australia, he has shared the stage and toured with Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy, Greg Allman, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Randy Bachman, Little Feat, Jonny Lang, Serena Ryder, and more.
Since the release of Weightless in early 2014, Andersen has received a JUNO nomination for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year, a Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) Road Gold award, and a Maple Blues Award for Male Vocalist of the Year.
In honour of CIMA’s 40th year as the voice of the independent music industry in Canada, they are acknowledging the dedication and drive artists must have to achieve success, broaden their fan base and express their artistry through strong public performances. Certification is based on at least 25,000 tickets sold within a 12-month period.
“It’s good to be recognized,” says Andersen, who has been singing and touring full-time since he was in his early 20s. “I don’t pay much attention to it though; I focus on playing.”
Now 35 years old, Andersen got his first guitar when he was 14. While he learned to play the trumpet and trombone in high school, the amazing guitarist bought himself a chord book, listened to the radio and says he was blessed with a really good ear.
A fan of the likes of Eric Clapton and BB King, Andersen says the blues won favour when he was about 15 or 16.
“The more I dug into it, the more I liked it,” he says, noting music is something to be shared, like good conversation. “I was influenced by the blues and picked it up by osmosis.”
The 2016 Roots and Blues Festival plays out Friday, Aug. 19 to Sunday, Aug. 21. Earlybird tickets for Folk Music Society members are on sale until March 31.
Get them at www.rootsandblues.ca or call 250-833-4096.
In other news, there has been a change in the Folk Music Society executive: Brook Roberts is now chair, Steve Atkins is vice-chair, Brenda M’Clellan, is treasurer and Alan Bates is secretary.