With five full-length albums, lots of touring and a Juno nomination under his belt, Toronto’s Matthew Barber is no stranger to the musical stage. Like classic country rock mixed with contemporary pop, Barber’s melodic hooks drive his sound home –he has a delightfully accessible sound. His new self-titled record is nothing but Matthew Barber; it’s literally just him tracking on his tape deck in his basement home studio.
“It’s the first time I’ve made a record by myself at home since the record before my first official record, if that makes sense.”
Rover How do you find being from Toronto influences your music?
Matthew Barber There are a lot of musicians here, especially in my neighbourhood, so you are surrounded by people who have devoted their lives to music all the time. I think this holds people to a reasonably high standard, but it could always be higher.
Rover Did you have any musical idols or influences when
you were a kid?
Barber I loved the Beatles, oldies, Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain, Sloan, Hayden, Neil Young, Stevie Wonder…
Rover Do you have any big musical influences now?
Barber I try not to think of things as overt influences nowadays, but just try to soak up as much world experience as possible.
Rover Tell me about the new record.
Barber It’s a humble record recorded on a shoestring budget over a few months in my basement on a tape machine, and I played all the parts and engineered it. It’s a complete solo project but I tried to make it sound like a band at times, even though it’s me jamming with myself.
Rover Have you ever performed in any facet other than music, or performed other kinds of music?
Barber I play drums a lot. I’m doing a big tour coming up, drumming, with my friend Doug Paisley. I’ve been involved in theatre in Montreal, in a show called The Haunted Hillbilly [at the Centaur this coming May].
Rover Do you have any crazy stories about being on tour?
Barber I inevitably get pulled over in northern Ontario for one thing or another. Also saw an accident happen in northern Ontario. It’s a bit of a Bermuda Triangle.
Rover When you were growing up, did you always know you wanted to be a musician?
Barber Not really, although I think I knew I had a passion for it from about 16 onward. I didn’t put all of my focus on it until I was 25.
Rover What do you find people get from your music?
Barber I’m not sure if there’s one thing – people tell me many different things. I think some people find it comforting. Some people like the rock and the hooks.
Rover What was the last book you read?
Barber Dave Bidini’s new book, Writing Gordon Lightfoot.
Rover If zombies were roaming the streets and you had a chance to get away from the cities and into the countryside, what would you put in your backpack?
Barber Food and scotch.
Rover If you could describe your music as an animal combined with a band combined with a food, what would it be?
Barber Elk Sabbath Stew
Rover What is your most memorable movie moment that was strongly combined with a song? What song?
Barber I remember the Elliott Smith song, Needle in the Hay, being pretty great in The Royal Tenenbaums.
Matthew Barber with East Coast sensation Jenn Grant at Club Lambi (4465 St-Laurent Blvd.), Nov. 26, at 8:30 pm
Tickets are $12 in advance at IndieMontreal.ca, or $15 at the door
Photo by Corey Goodyear