Five Questions With… Matt Zaddy
The eclectic Toronto singer/songwriter talks about the making of his new album Be, his evolution from progressive death metal to folk-rock, life changes, and a stormy tour.
By Jason Schneider
With a sound that seamlessly blends folk-rock and modern soul, there’s something for every music fan to love about Toronto singer/songwriter Matt Zaddy. But what’s immediately apparent on his new album Be is a sophistication that dramatically builds on the success of his 2015 debut EP, Perfect Moments.
Indeed, Zaddy’s latest collection of stellar material required a top-notch team to do it justice on tape, starting with producer Ross Citrullo (The Sheepdogs, Julian Taylor Band, Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar). From there, a combination of Zaddy’s trusted live band and local session stars created the chemistry that led to the high-energy results that were polished off by Joao Carvalho Mastering.
It’s impossible to ignore the positive vibes that Be radiates upon first listen; from the bluesy opening track Busy, to the poignant jangle of A Dear Friend, and radio-ready Brighter Days, Zaddy’s dynamic vocal performances and tight, funky arrangements perfectly complement Be’s stories of life, love, hardship, and redemption.
As someone who has shared stages with a diverse array of artists including K’Naan, pop star Francesco Yates, CanRock legends Tom Cochrane and Jim Cuddy, and Australian alt-rockers Atlas Genius, Matt Zaddy’s intention is to connect with as many listeners as possible, regardless of any genre restrictions. Be certainly possesses everything to achieve that goal in a big way, and to place Matt Zaddy squarely in the conversation about Canada’s most promising singer/songwriters.
Zaddy officially launches Be on Sunday, Nov. 3 in Toronto at 3030 Dundas West. For more info, go to mattzaddy.com.
What was the process like making Be, and how does it stand apart from your past work?
This album was a real collaboration with my producer Ross Citrullo. Throughout the making of it, I brought as many tunes as I had ready to the table and we picked the seven that best suited the album. He pushed me to make these songs the best they could be. We worked with both my core band and a handful of session musicians where it was needed. Ross and I got into a great groove together, and the songs came together very naturally. It was a great experience.
How would you describe your artistic evolution so far?
I have been all over the map in terms of genres over my musical career, and that’s fuelled my growth. I spent my 20s playing progressive death metal in a band called Starring Janet Leigh, and that pushed me to see what I could pull off musically, to see how far a song could go in any direction. The switch to folk-rock happened naturally and organically. I had always loved this kind of music, but I could only really focus on one project at a time. Musically I took what I had learned playing heavy music and applied the life lessons it taught me to my music now. My first release as a singer-songwriter was very contemplative and hopeful. Be deals with things I've learned, trying to be the best version of myself I can. Lyrically, the evolution has been more about trying to inspire others through my own life experience.
Which one of your songs means the most to you and why?
That often changes. Right now it’s Little River, off the new album. It’s always a reminder that I need to take time away to reflect and get perspective. It also reminds me to be with the people I care about and to slow down every once in a while.
What's been the biggest change in your life over the past year?
That's a tough one. I got married three years ago, and it had a profound effect on my life. My partner Heather Christine and I frequently collaborate on the projects we do, and she's helped to bring out the best in me. The other significant change was going from making music part-time to full-time. When I think back to those days of 40-50 hour weeks at my day job and then putting in 40-50 hours doing music on top of that and I can’t believe how I did that straight for so long.
What's your best touring story?
There are many! When I was in my metal band Starring Janet Leigh, we did a six-week run through the U.S. This was one of the trips where everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. The first 15 days of the tour consisted of a minimum of eight-hour drives through the worst storm to hit the eastern seaboard in years. Two bands dropped off the tour almost immediately, and we had to renegotiate with venues nearly every night. Despite all the adversity we faced, it still ended up being one of the most rewarding and most fun tours I've ever been on. Adversity can be a growth opportunity, and that was most definitely the outcome of that experience.