Matt Epp
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Matt Epp

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2005 | INDIE | AFM

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada | INDIE | AFM
Established on Jan, 2005
Solo Folk Singer/Songwriter

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"He Won't Be Alone For Long"

Aug 31, 2006 By: JEN ZORATTI

Matt Epp has come a long way from living out of his car and hawking double-doubles at Tim Hortons.

In four short years the Winnipeg-based singer/songwriter has learned how to play music — and he’s already on his second album.

Unveiled to the masses on Sept. 3, Love in Such Strong Words, the follow-up to Epp’s 2005 acoustic debut You’ll Find Me Alone, is a bluesy, folksy ode to the Prairies and some of its finest players.

Epp wanted to make a disc that shows what an acoustic album can achieve sonically — but that can be a bit of a lofty goal when you’re just one guy with one guitar. To remedy the problem Epp solicited the help of some friends — people such as folk visionary Dan Frechette, The Duhks’ honey-voiced singer Jessee Havey, Waking Eyes Matt Peters and Rusty Matyas, Rene Campbell and Rob Mitchell of The Attics, Kristjanna Oleson, Daniel Roy, Gilles Fournier, and Ron Halldorson, to name a few.

The result is a beautifully realized folk album with a voice that’s as gritty as a gravel farm road but also soars like the sky above it. The songs are brilliantly textured with a Dylan-esque folk sensibility, and Epp lets his influences shine through while maintaining his own sound.

Bored with the board

Though the local cites Ron Sexsmith and Neil Young as influences, the prolific Frechette probably had the greatest effect on Epp. It was Frechette, after all, who made the one-time skater want to trade in his board for a Gibson.

“Dan was the first guy I saw in Winnipeg that really blew my mind,” Epp says over coffee and cigarettes on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. “He really opened my mind.

“Seeing Dan also coincided with when I became a Christian, and it was so new in my life and I was so passionate about it. It was kind of the same with music — and I was blown away by how much better you can describe and express yourself with it.”

The slightly scruffy Epp looks every part the folksinger, but his black skate shoes give away his past. In October 2003 he released Love Life, a pro-skateboarding DVD, but after the success of that project Epp decided to call it quits.

“My skateboarding swan song was the DVD I made,” he says. “After that, it just wasn’t fulfilling anymore.”

I have to know how to play a guitar?

Skateboarder to folksinger doesn’t really seem like a natural progression, but the change wasn’t totally random. Although Epp launched his professional music career four years ago, it turns out he wasn’t exempt from the experience of being in a shitty garage band with a brutal name.

“Actually, I started my first band with (Waking Eyes drummer) Steve Senkiw in Steinbach,”Epp laughs. “We were called Order to Go. Steve would drum and my job was ‘guitar player,’ even though I didn’t know how to play.”

Epp, now 25, eventually did learn how to play the guitar and write songs, but he says he’s still a work in progress.

“I really look up to the storytelling musicians,” Epp says, “but I don’t feel that I’m very good at it. I just usually want to get a feeling across. If you look at the songs on the album, this one may have been written in two parts over a year, this one might have been written in 15 minutes, this one was for my grandpa. They don’t really come that easy — but when they do, it’s fast.

“I started playing music less than four years ago,” Epp adds. “That’s why some of my stuff seems like the formats are all over the place. I’m totally learning and I don’t think I’ve written my best songs yet. But I also think that my naiveté about the business kind of adds to the purity of it.”

Our conversation takes a tangent that’s usually only reserved for intense, glasses-wearing music snobs: second albums and why people seem to always like ‘the old stuff.’

“You know, you hear so many people’s debut records, and that’s when I think they really mean it, when it’s really pure,” Epp says. “Steve Bell and I were having breakfast one day and we were talking about second records. He was talking about his and how he was proud of its artistic elements, but then he had all these fans who hated it.

“My second record is getting closer to the music that I want to make. But it will always be honest to me.”

Maybe it is naiveté that makes for Epp’s starry-eyed idealism about making music, but that’s not such a bad thing.

Give his stuff a listen and you’ll get it. He’s a pretty truthful guy.

“I’m pretty naked in my songs, I think,” Epp says. “I’m so much exposing what’s in my heart that I need to mask it in poetry because it starts to get pretty spooky.”

Balloons are hot

Love in Such Strong Words isn’t exactly the bleeding-heart show Epp makes it out to be. He’s a funny guy, and personal music tends to reflect all sides of a personality.

“I just wrote a song about balloon fetishes,” he says. “In the song I own it and say, ‘Yeah, I get off on balloons,’ but it really came from reading about them. It’s going to be the last song of the night and it’s going to be so good.”

OK, penning a song about a creepy sexual fetish is one thing, but the idea reflects something bigger. Although writing songs isn’t what you’d call a new art form, Epp marvels at how each songwriter manages to find his or her place — and voice — in a world that really exists on 12 notes.

“It’s still new and different for everyone even though there’s really nothing new about it,” Epp says. “I mean, we probably have enough songs. I don’t need to be here. But music was kind of put on me and I feel like it was something I was supposed to do. And the best thing to do is be obedient and do it.” - UPTOWN mag (weekly)


"A+ review of Orphan Horse"

Matt Epp
Orphan Horse
(Indpendent)

A+

Website: http://www.mattepp.com

According to its liner notes, Orphan Horse was recorded live off the floor during a "frigid winter storm." Methinks the weather rubbed off a little on Matt Epp that day. While songs such as Love is a Camel and You Should Know are anything but pessimistic, one can't help but feel a little reflective listening to Orphan Horse, just as one gets when they're cooped in on a cold night. It's not so much the lyrics that cause this bittersweet reaction - and Epp's are excellent, by the way - but more so the tone. Not unlike Ryan Adams, Epp has this weighty pitch that travels right to the core, and can either make your heart feel incredibly heavy or lift you right to your feet. If you like music, you'll like this.
— Jared Story - UPTOWN Magazine


"Safe or Free review Feb / 2010"

EXCLAIM! Review Feb/2010
Matt Epp
Safe or Free
By Nereida Fernandes

Matt Epp is the quintessential itinerant troubadour. Committed to his musical craft, he gave up his Winnipeg, MB apartment two years ago for the privilege of performing and connecting with people around the world. From his choice of lifestyle to his tousled mane it's obvious he'd rather be free than safe, but songs like "Cover Me," "They Won't Find The Bodies" or "This Old House" contradict such posturing, at least when it comes to matters of the heart. The silhouette of a hobo's careless ease grows faint with every listen, and what emerges from his poetry are fierce loyalty and romantic idealism. Safe or Free isn't the kind of album that will instantly hook you. Rather, with Epp's soothing voice, its gentle ballads will linger in your mind, coaxing you into lending your ear. This is where Matt Epp carves out his home. In return for your hospitality, he'll whisper reassuringly that, with some faith and an open heart, you too can be both safe and free. (Independent)
- EXCLAIM! Magazine


"Musician gained inspiration from a fellow artist"

July 12, 2006

Until he was in his early 20s, Matt Epp’s weapon of choice was a skateboard, not a guitar. The Winnipeg singer/songwriter spent his days filming skateboard movies until his father bestowed a guitar upon Epp one Christmas.

He doesn’t even remember expressing an interest in learning the instrument, but slowly picked up a few chords from his friends. His career may have been short-lived had he not witnessed Dan Frechette, another Winnipeg Folk artist, in concert during that time.

“I was like ‘Oh, my, that’s a totally different world,’” says Epp, now 25.

“I’m sure some people use drugs to get into that kind of mindset, but not me, I just saw Dan Frechette and everything opened up in my brain and I knew what it was I needed to do.”

With that, Epp not only set upon the task of learning to play guitar, but writing and recording an album; it was a feat that seems not to have daunted him in the least.

“I’m tenacious,” he points out somewhat needlessly. “When I have a vision for something, it gives me all this drive.”

Epp released his solo debut You’ll Find Me Alone just one year ago. Recorded in 10 hours, the acoustic album combines Epp’s influences of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Ron Sexsmith.

“It was just me and acoustic accompaniment. I hired them and we just stood in a circle and learned the song and then played it,” Epp recalls.

“That was a lot more what I’d like to do all the time – kind of the Dylan approach.”

Epp is now getting ready to release his second album Love In Such Strong Words, which retains the “up close and intimate vocals” of the first record, but also opens up the sound with a full band.

In part, the new direction was dictated by the nature of his live shows.

“I realized when I was on tour a couple times that I need some songs that have some more soul in them, not just the understated soul that comes with the territory of the stuff I write about, but the kind of sound that comes with rock and roll, like Sam Cooke.”

Epp is coy about some of the new album’s content, likely because of it’s autobiographical stories; he won’t divulge any of the secrets behind vague titles like “Untitled Dream”. The album’s title sounds romantic, but it’s more of a disclaimer.

“I figured a good pretense for people to know going into listening to this thing is that anything I say in here is coming out of love; it’s not revenge or anger,” he says with a laugh. “But it’s still not anything that would hurt the ears to listen to.”

Epp freely discloses the tales of more imaginative tracks; one song places him in purgatory as a guest at the devil’s party. “The Family Farm”, however, isn’t so far fetched; it describes the unhappy scenario of a farmer forced to choose between seeling his farm or losing his family.

Epp’s dizzying range of topics is matched by the long list of featured artists who play on the album including Dan Frechette, The Waking Eyes, and The Attics, all friends and mentors to Epp. Completely undaunted by celebrity and talent, Epp is now pursuing Emmylou Harris, whom he wants to sing with next. Given his track record so far, it might not just be a pipe dream.

“I don’t chase fantasies,” he says. “Instead of just respecting people like crazy, (I want) to talk to them and learn from them.”

Epp’s respect for contemporary music, however, is waning.

“I don’t get that interested in music these days. I can count the people I’d even want to talk to on two hands as far as musicians. There are bands that are super catchy but maybe I’m just missing it.”

He hopes his own music will open young people’s minds to a different style of music, just as Frechette’s music did for Epp. “I would love for kids to hear it and say ‘that’s totally different than what we’re getting fed.’”

“As if this indie wave, lo-fi (music) is something to strive for,” he adds.

Onstage, Epp feels no responsibility to replicate his albums and is puzzled by the notion that audiences would even want that kind of performance.

He usually performs solo and all the songs and stories happen off the cuff.

“I make up everything as I go, but most of the time, I play my tunes with more passion than I do on record.”
- Regina Leader-Post


Discography

-'Never Have I Loved Like This' - released Sept 7, 2012 in Germany on Acoustic Music Records

-'Valentine' single released 02/12 (Digital only, iTunes)

-'At Dawn' - released on April 12, 2011

-'Safe or Free' Matt Epp's fourth full-length - 11/2009

-'Orphan Horse' Matt Epp's third album, a stripped-down performance-based record - 09/04 2008

-'Love In Such Strong Words' Matt Epp sophomore album - 09/03 2006

-'You'll Find Me Alone' Matt Epp solo debut - 09/01 2005

Photos

Bio

For Epp, the past year has marked the beginning of a new era on the precipice of his artistic rejuvenation. From a WCMA nominated new album (Luma) to a world tour covering ground from the Philippines to the coastal fringes of Europe, he has entered new territory sonically, geographically, and professionally. Luma has been described as an atmospheric and adventurous piece of art with some of Matt's best storytelling to date.

SHORT BIO
Matt Epp is the quintessential troubadour of the Canadian Prairies who has won the admiration of an audience that spans the globe. A stark confessional songwriter, he sings with a tenderness that belies an honesty rarely seen in a genre known for an almost embarrassing amount of honesty.

LONG BIO
Relentlessly touring with an ambitious catalogue and an admiring global audience, Matt Epp has carved a name for himself as one of the pre-eminent Canadian songwriters of his generation.

Matt’s existence has been in constant flux since he was a teenager, living everywhere from the desolate Prairies to the bustle of big cities, and hitchhiking all over Canada in between. This wealth of experience has turned him into one of the country’s best live acts and most valuable artistic exports, a rare performer with the ability to take you into his world and make you feel like, in an instant, a true friend. His knack for transforming theatres into living rooms is almost un-paralleled, and has translated to major touring success overseas.

But after seven records of world-class songwriting, constant national and international touring, a loving and dedicated fan base, and building himself into a well-oiled music machine, Matt knew it was time to explore a new path. And that path has been providing the inspiration for his most electrifying and heart-wrenching music to date.

Matt is a stark confessional songwriter who sings with a tenderness that belies an honesty rarely seen in a genre known for its almost embarrassing amount of honesty.

A crystal voice. And music that feels as natural as the earth that shakes, spins, and cradles us.