When Matt Paxton released his 2006 debut, Hand Drawn Maps, the young singer–songwriter was on a musical journey to self–discovery. 2009’s Back Home In The Village showcased marked maturation that romanticized growing up in and around Hamilton and documented the songwriter’s own growth in song. With his newest release, How The Land Lies, Paxton spreads his music and geographic wings further and offers a different perspective on the world but perhaps without letting go of his roots entirely.
“Putting out Back Home in the Village allowed me to tour all over Ontario and Quebec, sharing the stage with some of my favourite songwriters, such as Doug Paisley, Chad Vangaalen, Jason Collett and many more,” offers Paxton. “Unlike Hand Drawn Maps, Back Home in the Village was positively featured nationally by media outlets such as CMT, CBC, AUX TV, and Exclaim! Magazine to name a few. Back Home in the Village launched my career and I am still very proud of those recordings.
“But I have spent 25 years living in and around beautiful Hamilton and the time has come for me to put on my flying shoes and expand my career,” he goes on to say. “I wrote this album after a year of
heartbreak, after certain situations were arranged and developed. It is an album of letting go of my sorrow and embracing change and hope. The first song I wrote for the album was ‘Charlotte (My Wild Valley Wind),’ the second track off the album. I believe it is my best–written work to date. All of the other songs on the album are different chapters within this short story of how the land lies.”
“This album does not take influence from just one place,” Paxton adds. “I have been travelling for the past two years playing shows all over while writing and that has become evident within the songs now. While listening to this album, you may imagine yourself in places like King
Station, Hamilton Harbour, the St. Lawrence River, the Aberdeen train yard, the King Edward Hotel, Two Mile or Hazelton out in B.C., and the Hunter St. Station and so on. One of the songs off the album was written on the French River at my friend’s cottage way up north. Now is the perfect time in my life to go everywhere I have yet to be. I just got a place in downtown Vancouver with my beautiful, loving lady and will be announcing western Canadian and U.S. tour dates in the near future.”
While he now makes his home on the other side of the country, Paxton’s heart still resides in the Steel City that he was born and raised and beside the musicians that helped him develop his chops. For his latest effort, Paxton felt compelled to again record in Hamilton enlisting a trio of old friends to help record and produce.
“The last album I made featured some world class and world–renowned studio musicians,” recounts Paxton. “This time around, I wanted the same calibre of musicianship but wanted to call upon friends of mine who knew my music from its very beginning. Billy Holmes (Dark Mean) and Steven McKay (Bruce Peninsula) have been there since the beginning of my musical journey and are well on their way to becoming some of the best [musicians] in the world, in my ears. The two of them have also known each other for a very long time and were able to record everything all in one day live off the floor. Also, because this was a very personal album for me, it was important for me to have friends play on the album who I trusted that knew my song crafting style.
“I decided to record this album with Michael Keire at Threshold Recording Studio because this is a very personal album for me and I trusted that he fully understood where the songs were coming from,” adds the singer. “It was also very important to record in Hamilton for the simple reason of it feeling like home.”
How the Land Lies is perhaps like home – intimate and personal but accentuated to the extreme by the sparse instrumentation and vocals that border on breathy hushed tones for the most part. A low–key presentation puts emphasis on what is being sung and with Paxton’s near drawl like vocal approach sliding up to reach notes, songs take on an ethereal vibe. There are few performers with Paxton’s particular style of words and music, and fewer still that commit to their vision as he does but Paxton seems determined to follow his own path. With a growing legion of supporters, Matt Paxton betrays his strong Steeltown roots and seems happy to simply make his music and attract fans organically without the music industry machinations.
“I was crafting these songs with the notion of less being more, only thinking of four to eight tracks per song, sometime just two; voice and guitar,” notes Paxton on the production of his latest disc. “I’m not trying to contend with anyone else but myself. I’m living on the edge, hoping that good timeless music will then eventually be heard. I’m not trying to be the number one hit on the radio or on the cover of any magazine. Instead, I want to be trusted as a good songwriter that you can go visit when in need of a song, just like trusting your barber.
“I am attracted to music that tells an honest, descriptive story,” Paxton adds. “I’m not trying to write a honey, okie–dokie pop song and make it big. I’m devoted to working hard at crafting a well–written song, supported by top of the line musicianship, and growing a fan base by word of mouth, rather then it being force fed by some media company. I long to be a real folk singer, not some fake pop star.” V
@ the Staircase Theatre.
27 Dundurn St.N, Hamilton.
Friday, May 6. 8pm.