Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Artist Behind the Music #1: Matt Stevens

Jamandahalf has come a ways since I first started this back in late September: Moodawg hopped on and became a integral part of this, we've had a lot of guest contributors write about the music they love, and now for the first time we highlight an artist who saw the blog and wanted to get involved. This is the first (hopefully of many) "Artist Behind the Music," a feature I'm really excited about where we talk to musicians about the music they create.

Matt Stevens is a British acoustic guitar player hailing from North London. Listening to his music one would think that he's got a fat crew of people playing with him. But Matt's on an epic solo mission, and using only a guitar and 2 pedals, uses layers of looped chords and riffs that mold Spanish rhythms with flashes of hard rock and punk to create an amazing and unique sound. Matt tours England and recently came out with his debut album "Echo" (which you can find here), but what I found most fascinating is watching his live videos. Seeing him put together the different chords, riffs, and rhythms, lays bare the creative process in a way that us as music lovers don't really get to see normally. Really funky stuff. I asked him how he got started and what inspires him, and he replied:

What Inspires Me

"20 years ago I was a 14 year old kid with terrible hair and a cheap guitar. I was looking for someone to teach me to play. When i was young there was no internet and it was very hard to get hold of guitar teaching books that weren't all how to play Twinkle, Twinkle little star etc, especially living in the middle of nowhere like I did.  Trust me, its better now.

I was lucky that the teacher I got was a guy called Richard Beaumont, in his 30's(which i remember thinking was old but probably around my age now) and playing an incredible twin neck electric guitar.  On my first lesson he taught me "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath and I never looked back.  I was the never the best natural guitar player but I worked crazy hard, 8 hours a day because I wanted it to be good more than anything.  

Over the next few years I learned modes, chords, indian ragas and odd timings. Now you can get a lot of this information off the internet but back then this was rare stuff. Richard taught with a passion and enthusiasm that motivated me to want to be a musician capable of hitting his relentlessly high standards. This was a man who had us playing in ever changing bars of 7/8 and 5/8 when we had only been playing a year!

He introduced me to much of the music I love at a crucial age when music discovery was hard and you couldn't just google artists to hear their music. The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Zappa, Allan Holdsworth, Shostakovich and lots of other amazing stuff.  

He wasn't always easy to please and his standards were really high but he was the person who made me the musician I am today. I studied with him for 10 years and I still review the material we worked on. An inspiration."

Check him out at his website and myspace and support his album (which you can name your own price for). Thanks for getting at us Matt, and we wish you the best of luck...

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