An Interview with Matt Zaddy

Introducing Matt Zaddy, a musician whose path in music spans from classical piano to the raw energy of tech death metal. In this Q&A, he shares insights into his diverse journey, from indie scenes to solo performances. Matt Zaddy is playing at the River Run Centre tomorrow (Friday Feb 23rd). Use the promo code MATT2MORO to get 20% off your tickets today! Click here to buy tickets.

You’ve been on an interesting musical journey. Can you tell us about where you started and how both your career and your artistic practice have evolved over the years?

My parents started me in music lessons when I was very young – piano at 6, clarinet at 9, and guitar at 13. My influences were all over the map, based on the music of the time (90s), my teachers and musically-inclined parents (grunge, rock, metal, jazz, classical, and acoustic popular music). The indie scene in Ontario also had a profound impact on me. As a teen, my music started as alt rock, but slowly blended into metal, melodic hardcore, and eventually tech death metal, which lasted about 10 years. At the time that my band ended, I was hosting some open mics and was asked to do some acoustic gigs. With years of touring memories as part of a metal band, I was suddenly rediscovering myself musically, and started writing more in the line of folk and rhythm & blues, which I’d done casually in the past.

These days I focus my time on the craft of songwriting, but still bust out the metal chops from time to time. I have a ton of metal ideas that I will eventually write into something and release, but for now, I’m happy to host a series of grass roots open mic style events in Peel Region which have become a staple of the local music community for emerging artists, and also work with many local artist organizations to further develop music culture in my community.

How has Guelph figured into that journey? Do you have any special memories from past Guelph visits/gigs?

Guelph holds a special place in my heart. In my late teens and early 20s, there was a thriving indie scene in Ontario, with Guelph as one of the focal points. One of my first metal bands was based in Guelph. I also used to frequent the Trasheteria, Jimmy Jazz, the Shadow, and the E-bar for shows. Some of my most memorable shows were there, both as an audience member (for shows like Unearth and Underoath, The Weakerthans, Fembots and Constantines, John K. Samson (solo), The Locust and Dillinger Escape Plan, and Cryptopsy, The End and Maharaj) and as a performer at metal shows between 2005 and 2011, then my first theatre show at the River Run Centre in 2017, and most recently at the Guelph Museum as part of their Fourth Friday concerts. I also made some dear friends in Guelph that I’m glad to say I’m still in touch with.

What can people expect at your upcoming show at the River Run Centre? Is it just you on stage? Is there a band? Any deep cuts from back in your metal days?

I’ll be performing with a 5-piece band playing a mix of my original tunes, plus some handpicked Canadiana. The full band allows me to build fantastic arrangements alongside a 3-part vocal harmony that makes the songs shimmer, and reflects my album’s arrangements. I really go into the story behind the songs and behind my journey as a musician. It’s my own story of life, love, hardship and redemption, with all the good times and bad. It’s been one heck of a journey through the touring, ups and downs, friends I’ve lost and friends I’ve gained. I hope that the music you hear shows that it was all worth it.

Guelph is home to many established as well as emerging artists. Do you have any advice or strategies for those who are finding their way in their artistic careers, whether that’s at the beginning of their careers, or well into them?

The music industry is likely not at all what you think it is. While there will be a handful of us that make it to soaring heights, most of the career musicians I know have done so through a mix of diversification, community work, education, public and private performing, songwriting and session work.

Work on developing the business skills to make a career out of it. There are so many great musicians who have zero idea how to take the skills they’ve learned and turn that into a decent income. I was definitely one of those who had to learn the hard way. Social media is a game changer. Make sure you are consistent and put out quality attention-grabbing posts. 

Remember there will always be players better than you, artists who are more successful, and those who accomplish what you want. Try not to compare yourself to others, but work to be better than you were the day before. We all get further ahead when we work together.

I think there are some obvious reasons, but sometimes it’s worth seeing in black and white in words on a page. Why is it so important to you as an independent artist that people and communities support live performance art, and the venues that host it?

There is no substitute for the live music experience. There is a visceral connection between the music, the performers and audience that no one has been able to recreate digitally. It is special, and it can change the way you see the world.  Live music builds community and strengthens us all. Live music and live music venues are an essential part of culture that is worth preserving and supporting. It changed my life in more ways than I can explain. It can do the same for countless others if we support this worthwhile endeavour.

Name one song/artist that people would be surprised to hear that you love.

Most people who know me know that I have a pretty wide taste in music, from classical to death metal, folk to jazz, and everything in between.  Here goes…..

Charlie Puth – The Way I am

I had a student introduce me to Charlie Puth. I remember putting on the album, and hearing the guitar intro riff to this song and smiling. It’s well written, and a pleasure to listen to. The rhythmic shots just feel right. Also, the bass slide leading into the second verse is perfect.

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