Have you ever tried the experience to be completely involved in a music album? Have you ever felt the truth hidden behind a voice? Have you ever experienced the Magic in listening to Matt Stern? Well, I have.
For those who don’t know him, Matt Stern is a 31 years old songwriter from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I personally discovered him just yesterday thanks to his last single “You’re Magic”, while I was surfing the internet looking for something interesting to talk about. I completely fall in love with this artist.
His music, his lyrics, his style is something able to catch you, as very few can nowadays. This is probably due to the fact that he has always been in contact with music since he was in his childhood. In fact, I have discovered, while I was talking to him, that he “remember(s) having a little walkman with three buttons on it and listening to casette tapes probably while still in diapers“.
However, the most wonderful thing of this author is his truth. As the best singers and songwriters we have around the world, he states that he “had to get past a lot of shyness to eventually start singing in public. Now I love singing and feel that I am still discovering my voice and exploring further with it”.
Although he seems to be a confirmed songwriter in his album “Magic”, with a proper style and intent, we can see in his “Soundcloud” account how he explored lots of musical genres while he was inspired by famous artist.
For all those reasons but especially for his music, I invite you all to have a look at the interview which follows.
How’s been the journey which brought you to your album “Magic”?
Last summer, I was still living in Montreal and had gone through some very intense emotional experiences. I needed a fresh perspective and some breathing room. I had some family members living here in Victoria and knew that it was a beautiful, natural environment to be in, so I decided to pack up and spend the entire summer here. I had a list of songs ready to be fleshed out and recorded, but I didn’t know for sure that I would end up producing an album here. I did a bit of research and heard about a very highly recommended and intuitive producer named Joby Baker. I got in touch with him to book some studio time. We booked two intensive weeks at his studio on Prospect Lake, surrounded by forest and wildlife (hummingbirds, deer, snakes…even bears!). I still didn’t know how much we’d end up recording, but I brought 12 songs with to show him and we wound up recording them all, with the help of some fantastic, world-class musicians.
The title had multiple meanings for me. I chose the song You’re Magic to be the single and therefore title track. I had also just finished reading a thought-provoking book about creativity that a friend lent me called Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Finally, one of my brothers is a world competitor in the card game Magic: The Gathering and I thought it would be cute to honour him in that subtle way. My “vision” for the album was about how contagious creativity and love are – how if one person gives themselves permission to feel and express fully, they inspire others around them to do the same.
Let’s talk about the album now, with whom I personally discovered you. Starting from the cover art: every time I have a look at it, it reminds me to “The little prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupèri. Is there a connection between them?
I’m so glad you said that! The album art was done by my very good friend Laura Horrocks-Denis, who is a multifaceted artist with a passion for whimsical children’s literature and illustration. She really tapped into that sense of childlike wonderment and curiosity that I felt creating the album in the middle of the forest! I’m not sure if she was intentionally linking it with The Little Prince, but she also has that keen sense of seeing magic everywhere when looking at the beauty of the world, just like the little boy in the book.
In almost all the album, there’s a big presence of two elements: voice and guitar. This give to the listener a sense of intimacy. Why have you decided to leave the other instruments in a “background” position?
I think that intimacy is one of the core characteristics of my music and personality. I think that my songs are often about shedding barriers and being naked and authentically vulnerable. That comes through most naturally when the voice is prominent and you can hear the nuances in it. The guitar can be a lovely accompaniment, adding rhythmic flourishes but hopefully never overshadowing the power and honesty in the voice. That being said, I am not opposed to other instruments at all! One of my absolute favourite parts of creating music lies in the collaboration with a variety of musicians who each bring a fresh and distinct flavour to the sound, adding new possibilities at every turn.
The rhythm in your songs is sometime given by a trumpet, but the use of instruments which can evoke the “sense of fantastic” is high. For example, in “Like a Wave”: where would you like to bring the person who listens to your songs?
I love engulfing the listener in a world of sound, kind of bathing them in it, because that is how I myself listen to music. I want to be completely in the world of the song, perhaps because I find that soothing and comforting – if it’s a softer song – or otherwise invigorating me and filling me with life. “Like a Wave” is a kind of lullaby that was dually inspired by a friend in Japan who asked me to write a lullaby for her newborn baby and by a lover whom I was soothing when he was feeling sick. I wanted to bring the listener into a dreamlike state where they feel completely safe and at home.
[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlJEIqG-kns” width=”360″ height=”260″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mx0xCI1jaUM[/su_youtube]
The lyrics of your songs are as important as the music itself. Some of your songs are more poetic words with a music accompaniment than “genuine songs”. Let’s talk about “Precious and Sacred”; this track seems to talk to everyone who listen to it as a motivational speech. But are you talking to someone in particular or just to yourself?
“Precious and Sacred” has a particular story of inspiration to it. Another one of my brothers (I have three altogether) works for a network of community centres that caters to First Nations people, i.e. Indigenous Canadians. Once when I was visiting him at his office, I came across a little children’s book on a shelf. It was called Precious and Sacred and was written for children who had been through traumatic experiences to remind them of their essential value as human beings. It resonated with me right away because I have a background in and passion for working with children and that is my wish for every child and adult as well – that we all know our deep worth in a way that can’t be threatened or tainted by anything.
A couple of weeks later, I was at a book reading by Indigenous Women and I came across a table where the author of Precious and Sacred, Debora Abood, was selling her books. I bought it and that same night went home and got inspired to set the words to an a cappella melody. I didn’t have a way to contact Debora directly, so I just wrote to the publisher, Peppermint Toast Publishing, and shared a copy of the tune with them. They forwarded it to her and she loved it, so I eventually decided to include it on the album. This was an example of the contagiousness of inspiration/love/magic/creativity that I was describing above. So, to answer your question, I am talking to myself, yes, as well as to you and to every single other being!
In conclusion, your music changes from the beginning till the end of the album. It begins with lots of rhythm and it almost ends as a lullaby. How do you expect your life will be? An up-tempo travel or a peaceful walk?
I wanted to start the album with a bang, to invite people in with an energetic pulse of life that makes them want to move and dance, and then I wanted to invite people to breathe and be more still. I feel that this sort of interplay between active and peaceful states is key to all of life. I expect my life to be a continuous cycle between those “yin” and “yang” states, always balancing between a sense of ecstatic, exuberant adventure and a sense of more grounded calm.
What are your next projects?
I just finished performing at a few festivals here in Victoria and now I am back to the drawing board to see what comes next. I was thinking of doing some touring in the east coast of Canada and/or in Japan, and I would love to collaborate with more wonderful dancers like I did in the music video for “You’re Magic”. Another passion of mine has always been singing in French, Spanish, Japanese or other languages, so I would very much like to explore that more. I also have a number of songs for children, which may come to life as well in the near future.