Interview: Matt Mays

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Photo by Mark Bennett

Matt Mays Acoustic – 1pm Black Thorn Stick Cafe – MightyPop No Case

Dana Cooper: You played the Gordon Lightfoot song, “Steel Rail Blues.” Why did you choose that one?

Matt Mays: I really like that song. Gordon Lightfoot was the traveling Canadian musician. I can relate to that.

DC: So you identify with him? He was kind of a lone ranger character, an outsider.

MM: Yeah, I do identify. Being on tour, it’s a complete parallel life. No sleep, you live life in a haze. A lot of musicians drink a lot, party a lot, to get through it. You’re going from town to town, always looking from the outside in, so you get this weird insight into life. We drive through at night and see town lights, community lights go by, maybe people are sleeping, and we just float over it. Those people are inside, looking out. I find, even I spent a little time in Halifax, I started to slip back into being inside, looking out. It’s a completely different life.

DC: When did you start playing?

MM: I started playing seriously when I was 19. I’ve been touring for about ten years.

DC: How much of the year do you spend touring?

MM: Depends. Some years, we’ll do 200 dates. Other years, like last year, we didn’t do so many.

DC: What do you do when you aren’t touring?

MM: I moved to New York about two and a half years ago, I live in Brooklyn now. I’ve got a studio, so I record, play a few shows.

DC: Do you have any side projects?

MM: I put out a solo record a few years ago, and I’m working on another solo record now. I’m not sure what the sound will be yet, it’s gonna be a bit of everything. I’m actually really looking forward to having some time off to work on it.

DC: So when you aren’t touring, you’re still making music. What would you do if it all started to get to you? Like, do you have a backup plan?

MM: I guess.. I’d move to Mexico, be in a cover band, and surf.

DC: A cover band! So you’d still be playing music, even in your backup plan?

MM: It’s not something I choose to do; it’s something that happens with me. I have to.

DC: You had a childhood reminiscing moment on stage just now; your imagery was great. Does being on the east coast make you nostalgic?

MM: Yeah I love being here, in Newfoundland, in Nova Scotia, but it’s just not where I need to be right now.

DC: All week, a theme keeps coming up for me, about people having to go away in order to work, and how it gets harder to leave as time goes on. First it was my pop telling me about going to work in Goose Bay in the ’50s. Then I got a ride down the coast with a young guy from St. Anthony who goes to Fort MacMurray. Last night I spoke to someone I’d always pegged as a loves-the-road musician, who confessed that he wasn’t enjoying the party the same way he used to. What do you think? Do you find it hard, or do you have this ‘parallel life’ that works for you?

MM: Well, I love to play. It’s all a sacrifice either way. You either choose to live a life with sacrifice, or sacrifice the thing you love to do. You choose, either way.