north shore project

Hello, blog readers! I want to introduce you to my summer project, or as you will come to know it, “Matt’s third record”. That’s right, album three is on the way! But there’s a bit more to it than that.

A year and a half ago, I was out at Neys Provincial Park on a weekend family camping trip. Camping has been our default summertime family activity for as long as I can remember. I had my guitar and portable recording gear with me, so I tried writing a short song and recording it, almost on the spot. It actually worked. Turns out you can get a pretty good sound just about anywhere these days, despite what the audiophiles tell you. On the way home, I casually mentioned that, hey, wouldn’t it be cool to actually do a whole album like that? Write and record an album along the northern shoreline of Lake Superior, being inspired by the region I grew up in? And I sort of filed the thought away in the back of my head.

The family and I were down in Grand Marais a few days later. We’re at the Angry Trout for lunch and someone (my sister, probably) says something to the effect of, “So, that album, eh? You going to do it, or what?” and I thought … yes, of course I’m going to do it. I have to do it. It’s probably the first time I’ve had a perfectly clear artistic vision for something and I can’t pass that up.

That is precisely what’s going to happen this summer. With financial support from the Ontario Arts Council and the cooperation of Ontario Parks, I’ll be in various spots along the north shore of Lake Superior this summer, composing and recording. Ambient sounds – nature sounds – are going to play an important role here, and I’m hoping to manipulate them as part of the arrangement, or for unusual effects. The pitch line was “to create an audiovisual exhibition of original music and photography, showcasing the wild natural beauty and soundscapes of Lake Superior’s north shore” and while in retrospect that phrasing reads a bit “dramatic” to me, it tells you exactly what I’m going for. I want to show you how amazing this place is, and I want you to love it as much as I do.

When I ask myself whether this is going to be a “flamenco” album, I answer myself this: what’s important is that I capture the dialogue between myself and the environment I find myself in. This is a beautiful region. The parks in Northern Ontario are also, to me, symbolic of my past, and some of my fondest and most vivid memories were made in these places. I want to take the time to contemplate these things, and give myself a chance to respond by composing whatever suits the mood of the time and place. Perhaps it will be something a little weird. Perhaps it will be an homage to my childhood. Perhaps it will be ambient and moody, or perhaps I’ll surprise myself and write something overall uncharacteristically exuberant*.

(*fun fact: less than a quarter of all songs I’ve ever written are in major modes.)

You can expect the finished product to drop around the end of the year. There will be an audiovisual version, too, in addition to the standard album format (don’t forget that “exhibition of photography” thing from the pitch line). This audiovisual version will be hosted for a presentation by Definitely Superior Art Gallery in Thunder Bay, and I’m really looking forward to working with them on that side of things. It’ll be a new experience for me.

In the meantime, I’m hoping to update the blog during the project this summer. Internet connection permitting, I’m thinking of doing weekly updates through July and August. We’ll see how it goes. If you’d be interested in reading about how the project unfolds, feel free to drop me a message somewhere – it might motivate me to keep the updates consistent.

Until then!