While it's been a few years since we last caught up with Matt Paxton, the singer and songwriter has been busy as of late. Paxton got engaged on Christmas 2019 and spent the resultant few weeks on a sojourn across Europe but musically speaking he's reintroducing himself, his music and a new spotlight on alt-country music in Hamilton with a new concert series dubbed Country Factory.
"A few friends of ours got together and we all flew out on Boxing Day to celebrate a wedding of our friend Ashley to an Irish fella - and an Irish wedding is like an Irish wake in that it lasts almost a week - so we drank lots of Guinness and that bled into New Year's," recalls Paxton. "Ireland was fun but a bit of a blur and then I swapped the Guinness for wine when we went to Italy, which was cool to connect with some people that have been playing my music on radios and blogs - people that I've never had the chance to meet or connect with in person. I did a little bit of work, if the work is there and maybe that's a Hamilton state of mind."
We last spoke with Paxton for an album that betrayed his Hamilton state of mind dubbed "Hunter Street Station Blues" after the song written about his feelings after moving to Vancouver for three years. Paxton will be someone that never loses that mindset but the last year was spent exploring new musical directions that painted outside his normal aural palette and under a new adopted pseudonym. Paxton became "The Rumblings of Spring", working with producer Michael Keire (Ellevator, The Dirty Nil), on new tracks featuring members of Feist, Apostle of Hustle, Cuff the Duke, and more.
"I had some songs kicking around that I had recorded at Threshold Recording Studio with different players and the side project was meant to get the songs off my chest and get them out there as well as to maybe step outside of the roots, folk, alt-country zone," says Paxton on The Rumblings of Spring. "It was more of an upbeat sounding record with no pedal steel or even electric guitar on it. It was all piano, synth, drum and bass with a little of my acoustic finger picking. The project allowed me to have an alter ego, to take my time on the solo material and to settle my nerves a bit. After a while of not putting anything out - it's a weird feeling. I've been releasing new music, almost yearly, since 2006 so to not do anything for a couple of years is kind of weird for me.
"But in the meantime, I've been working on a new solo record, eventually with Aaron Goldstein," adds Paxton. "I've been in the writing process and just taking things a little bit slower this time. Usually Aaron likes to get all the songs, hear them and kind of give the green light to what songs we're going to move forward with. There's been no rush, no pressure to write new songs or to put out new material but with that said, I'm popping in here and there, playing some shows, testing out some of the new material and kind of getting into promoting a bit."
His new penchant for promotions coupled passion for a roots presentation makes Paxton an obvious choice to curate a regular folk, roots, country concert series that has Hamilton as its base but programming based to cast a wider net revolving around Paxton's connections.
"I dreamed up this concert series when I was in Nashville with my brother Ethan," says Paxton. "I thought there are so many good Americana, roots, folk, alt-country acts that either are in Hamilton or come through Hamilton that I've played with, so why not through a regular event five or six times over this year and host them at an amazing spot like the Mule Spinner. Emma Elena Grace lives and works in Hamilton - she's currently working on some new tunes for a new record. I've seen her play and loved her cover of a Kathleen Edwards song - I had just seen Kathleen open up for Josh Ritter at the Ryman Auditorium and it was funny, I was listening to these songs and heard Emma play one of them and asked her if she wanted to open up this upcoming concert series that I had and she was stoked and in the same boat that I'm in. She was happy to go out and play a show and reconnect with her audience while in the middle of the writing process and recording sessions.
"I'm on this bill this time - I won't always be on the bill but I thought it'd be good to help kick off the series in the middle of the set with myself and a pedal steel player, Dan Gurman," adds Paxton. "I'll be playing some of my new songs and then Zachary Lucky, who is not from Hamilton but who has played with me quite a bit within the city and beyond. Zack is from Saskatchewan - he's moved to Ontario but I've played with him across the country. It's great timing because I think Zack has had the number one folk or country album on the national college and campus radio charts for a while with his record "Midwestern". Zachary Lucky is a perfect fit for this bill."
Country Factory is an event that offers a one time more rural music presentation in a more urban renewal setting. With a half dozen planned this year, it'll be interesting to see what Paxton will offer with more shows and no one is more intrigued by that fact than Paxton himself.
"If you're a fan of singer songwriters, folk music, if you like alternative country - this is definitely not any top 40 pop country - this is a working, singer/songwriter crowd who will mainly appreciate this type of event," says Paxton. "I see the event evolving over the year - it's different seeing a singer songwriter versus an alt-country band like Elliot Brood or Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, but we'll see how it evolves and how people adopt to a new type of event, a new concert series in Hamilton."
Matt Paxton presents Country Factory Volume 1 happens this Friday February 21 at The Mule Spinner with Zachary Lucky, Matt Paxton and Emma Elena Grace. Doors open at 7 pm and $20 gets you in. Click on https://www.ticketscene.ca/events/27894/