by Sheldon Birnie
Winnipeg’s own Matt Epp returns to take the West End Cultural Centre stage after years of hard travelling. This hard core troubadour, a prairie prodigal son, has been tirelessly working the roads across North America and Europe for the past ten years, carving a name for himself as one of the pre-eminent songwriters of his generation. After some much needed downtime in T.O., Epp returns to Winnipeg with a new album, Luma, in tow. Epp took time out of pre-production on yet another new record in the works to talk to Stylus about life on the road, becoming a father, and what’s next.
Stylus: This show is a bit of a homecoming show. How have things changed for you since your last headlining show in Winnipeg?
Matt Epp: Since the last time I put out a record, well there was the Junos visit. Having the song with Serena Ryder win Songwriter of the Year was great. Then, I was back, I opened for Kim Churchill, and again with Serena. I’ve never really done support slots before. So, since playing the last time in wpg, that’s the biggest change concert wise. And meanwhile, I’ve written a couple of albums and had a baby girl. So, I guess lots has happened. I went to Toronto, my wife and I, for me to recuperate for a while. I was burned out from so many years on the road. I needed to rest somewhere that would make it easy for me to travel in Europe & Canada. And it was also nice to nurture some friendships we had there. Now we’ve left Toronto and we’re back on the road. We have our base here [in Winnipeg] and some things in Toronto. But, basically, we’re back on the road. Just like Willie.
Stylus: The first of those new records is Luma. What can you tell us about it? How is it different from your previous work?
ME: I tried to get rid of as much convention as possible. I’ve always been very much a “singer-songwriter” with an acoustic guitar. I decided to try to get rid of that sound and that box that kind of holds me back, sonically. I tried to play my electric guitar a little more, experiment with soundscapes. The material is very closeto me. It features a lot more poetry, and themes of war & peace, hope & salvation, and the earth and environmental themes. It’s heavy, for sure. I think it was brought on now that I have little baby girl, and I’m thinking about her future, what I’ll leave for her. Luma is more of an artistic offering, something for my fans, preparing the way for the new record.
Stylus: You’re currently working with Rusty Matyas on a new album. What can we expect from that?
ME: We’re working out the arrangements right now. Saturday we’re starting in the studio. It’s going to be a full length record, with the band. Rusty Matyas is producing it. We’re recording it now and hoping to have it all finished up by the end of year. Then we’ll release it when it’s nice out. I really like this new record though, Luma, so I really want to give it some time so people have a chance to hear it and digest it.
Stylus: That seems like a bunch of writing, for both albums. What was the writing process like? Did you do them at the same time, or were they separate? How did it work?
ME: I hadn’t finished anything for a year & half up until 2014. So, in February, I decided I was going to change that. I started a practice of writing a song a day. Each day, I’d start fresh, write a song, and demo it. It forced me to open the vault and not judge anything, which had stifled me in the past. After maybe four or five songs in, all of them could have been keepers. Once February was done, I had 25 or so songs, and it was easier for me to work with old ideas. Sonically, they all fit different places. I’ve still got a lot of material that didn’t fit on Luma, or the new record.
Stylus: What does your next year look like?
ME: We have three months of European shows for the spring. Some are just acoustic three piece, some are with the full band. There’s a lot of touring between now and then. I have some cross Canada shows, after this, which are also acoustic. This [Winnipeg show] is kind of a one of a kind show, with the full band. There might be some things happening in Turkey in the spring. But we’ll have to wait on see on that, what with ISIS targetting Canadians right now and that.We’ll see if it’s safe.
Don’t miss this homecoming show for local boy Matt Epp, Thursday Oct 30 at the WECC. Last Ditch on the Left will be opening, giving concert goers a taste of what they have to offer before their own CD release show later in November.