It’s a shame Matt Blais doesn’t listen to the music he creates. He would be a fan.
With admiration for the Rolling Stones, Blais puts out his own brand of classic rock with his raspy voice tying in a blues sound.
“You grow so much and so quickly and change as a person and artist that it is like looking back at your yearbook photo and saying, ‘What was I thinking, man? My hair is terrible.’ It can be a bit awkward sometimes to listen to some of the songs,” chuckled Blais. “But, honestly I am really proud of this record. I might sneak a listen every now and then.”
Stopping in Penticton on Sunday, Feb. 24 at Voodoo’s with his latest album Heartbeat that pulses good old fashioned fiery rock and roll with a vintage blues sound, Blais is re-visiting a stage he has been to once before. Blais knows his way around the country, last year he had 140 gigs and plans on making stops at 40 different cities on this cross-Canada tour.
“I feel if I stop touring I go a bit crazy. After a few weeks my feet will start to feel like they are in cement and I will have to escape,” he said. “Oh, definitely I am a very impulsive person. If I want to go see the Rolling Stones in Portland, bang I am gone. That is how it was with his new record too. I just said I am going to the studio and we will figure it out when we get there and it turned into this great record. That is how I keep life exciting and it is all about the music. Sometimes people ask what do you do outside of music and that just doesn’t compute. I don’t understand. What is there outside of music? I don’t know.”
Tapping into his impulsive tendencies and high energy, Blais decided to produce his latest album himself and capture the essence of his live show for Heartbeat.
“Our stage show has been growing in intensity and I wanted that on record. Everyone was standing and I would sing the vocals for the scratch track ever time just to keep the energy up in the room. I had to use different techniques of pretending I was playing to the audience to really keep that live feel. Sometimes I would sing a song 20 or 30 times and not even with the intention of getting the vocals perfect but more to make sure the drummer was excited as I was or that the guitar player knew where the song rises and falls,” said Blais.
While most of the songs on Heartbeat were penned by Blais, he decided to add a creative spark by co-writing with bass player Sean Peters on Running and with Jay Semko on City on Fire. Semko is an award winning songwriter, composer and is a member of the Canadian band the Northern Pikes.
“Writing with other people makes you think outside of your normal comfort zone. I like to do that on a record, pretty much force myself to do that on one or two songs to keep it fresh,” said Blais. “It’s almost like a game of creative ping pong.”
The concept Blais had for City on Fire was revolution and two sides clashing and what effect that would have on a city. He sat down with Semko talking about the Vancouver Riots, an incident in Portland where he witnessed political demonstrations and Semko talked about when he was in New York one time and there was a garbage strike and things were chaotic.
“We talked like that for over an hour and would just write down what we said and had this idea of people acting like a wave and it was this really cool image. When it came down to writing the song we just had pages and pages of material that we could go back to,” said Blais.
Running, the lead single, sums up the attitude of Blais and his band, he said. Waiting to the hit road and go on tour and being excited to see new places and what life on the road offers is the concept.
“It is very much where our headspace is at, but also it just really encapsulates the sound of what we are doing — that rock and roll, straight-ahead, rhythm and blues kind of sound that we love and have been honing over the past couple of years,” said Blais.
Blais (whose past accomplishments include the 2008 Big Rock Star Talent competition winner, 2008 Juno Fest performer and 2009 Big Rock Untapped artist) will take the stage at Voodoo’s in Penticton on Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door.