By opening for Doyle Bramhall, John Mayall, Buddy Guy and Los Lobos, among others, Canadian Matt Andersen is building his own audience in the States (though back home Andersen’s played Toronto’s historic Massey Hall, a big goal for many Canadians). “They sell out the rooms, I have to show up,” Andersen told Elmore. The strategy is working for this dynamic singer/songwriter/guitarist, who already sees familiar faces when he revisits a town; Elmore’s own Arnie Goodman caught Andersen at the City Winery opening for John Mayall last September, and will return to catch Andersen again at the Iridium on Monday.
Les Paul would be proud to host Andersen, whose lightning-fast acoustic guitars licks beg the question, “How did he do that?” and whose vocals stand up to anyone’s standards. With a deep bench of his own well-crafted, intelligent songs and interesting covers ranging from “People Get Ready” to “Wagon Wheel,” Andersen typically opens with a predetermined couple of songs to gauge the vibe of the room, then heads off where he sees the crowd wants to go. “If they want the guitar wank stuff, I go in that direction, or they want the songwriter stuff I’ll pull that out, or mix it,” he said. “I’ve got a pretty heavy blues influence but also some roots and soul, so it really depends on the crowd.” At the other extreme, his latest album, Weightless, has cuts with a 10-piece backing band—horns and all.
Andersen isn’t pandering; it’s part of his philosophy. “I try to make as much a relaxed vibe as possible. I don’t like the whole pretension of stepping off stage for encores and coming back; I just like to the show to be about music and people having fun.”
His shows are a blast, great music sprinkled with short, funny stories and insights into the songs and the man, who clearly comes from Canada’s storytelling tradition. “If you just go song to song, it gets pretty impersonal after a while,” Andersen said. “It’s more about sharing music. I’ve always thought of a show more like a living room than an audience and a performer.”
When we asked Andersen about where he hoped to play in the US, he responded tellingly: “I just like playing for people. I don’t worry about the venue so much. The crowd makes the room.”
– Suzanne Cadgène