INTERVIEW: Matt Epp: “Ryan Adams gave me a song in my dream”

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Door: Maaike van der Linden

Fascinated by the world and it’s inhabitants, Canadian singer-songwriter Matt Epp wanders the planet with his music under his arm. His new album Ready In Time has been out in parts of Europe for a while. We spoke with Matt in Amsterdam about his new music, dreams about Ryan Adams en meeting people from all over the world.

Why did you choose to release your music in the Benelux only just now?

“Well, as an independent artist it’s very expensive to release your music in a new territory. I had to be very specific and have some kind of strategy with the little bit that I can move around, and this time I didn’t want to miss it. I’ve been touring a lot in Germany but I didn’t release there anything either… Well technically I did, a special record for a small company there. I’ve been in the Netherlands a few times for a couple of gigs, but this time I was like: nope, I have to actually release the album and that will give me the reason to talk to you for example.”

Where does your inspiration for Ready In Time come from?

“It comes from so many things, life experience basically. Since Ready In Time is my ninth album it’s like, I’ve been doing this for a while now and I worked really hard to become an artist and this is the time I’m ready. I’m ready to release it in the Benelux and try to get it out there. This might be the album to get out there.”

Which song on the album meant the most for you?

“I think the one that meant most for me is called Hard To Say and it’s about my grandfather immigrating to Canada. It came to me in a dream. Do you know the singer Ryan Adams? I love Ryan Adams. Well he was sitting in my dream like we are sitting. He had a guitar and he was playing these chords. I remember him saying: “It’s hard to say, it frightens me with every moment but here I am every day“. Immediately I was like: this is not actually a Ryan Adams song. This is my dream and he just gave me the song in my dream. I woke up and I grabbed a guitar, put my voice memo on and somehow I knew the chords already. Then I thought about it a few days and tried to write other lyrics but they just weren’t coming. When my father’s birthday came up I realized Hard To Say was about that I couldn’t speak with my grandfather because he only spoke German. It meant a lot to me and it still does.”

Who inspired you to start making music in the first place?

“When I was 23 I had a very profound spiritual experience and before that, I didn’t play music or sing. After I had the experience, the main thing that changed was that I had to sing somehow. I didn’t understand it so for a few months I struggled with it because I didn’t know what to do with it. Then I saw a songwriter playing his own songs and I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. When I started playing, a lot of people in the industry were discouraging me. I wanted to learn about the business, so I played a few songs for them and they said: those are good songs, but you’re already 24 and you’re just starting… Forget it.”

Did you ever thought about giving up?

“No. I mean, I only thought of trying to slow down for a period, but only so I could get back to the music. It’s so busy on the road and so busy with paperwork or e-mails. So I thought of slowing down just to go back to being an artist.”

You’ve travelled a lot in the trough the years. Do you still have time for travelling?

“Sure, I always travel with my music. I have a fan in Japan and he is really trying to bring my music over there. So it would be him who brings me to Japan. In Germany it was an house concert what brought me there. There are a lot of places I don’t go for just travelling because it’s too expensive and I’m always half broke. So I always travel to a place where I can still make a little bit of money to pay for it. I would like to explore South America but it’s not very easy for me to go down there.”

What is the main reason for you to travel?

“The main reason would be the people you meet and their stories, because me and you, someone in Japan or Africa and someone in South America, we have so much in common. The whole human experience is something we have in common but there are so many other things. Everyone has his own story that is different from mine because the environment is different, your first language is probably different. So I see you as a little bit different and you see me as different and that makes us interested. So you’re like: what is this person’s life like? Because even if I’m writing my own songs from my own perspective, my perspective changes the whole time I meet another person. Every time I meet someone you hear something new. If you exchange things with people you see things in a different way because of this filter we all have. We can watch the same movie but both feel differently about it.”

Don’t you ever get tired of touring?

“With almost four weeks of touring, driving and playing twenty shows is a lot to handle for one person. So yes, I get tired but it’s so connected to the base of who I am that it feeds me more than it takes away from me.”

And don’t you get lonely when you’re on tour?

“Yes, I do but I think life is lonely in general. It’s because everybody is different and everybody is always busy. They all have things they care about of their own. For example, I brought my brother with me on tour. If he wasn’t here, with every positive moment there was nobody to share it with and each challenging, negative moment, there would be no one to have your back.”

Read our review of his latest record Ready In Time here.

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