Matt Andersen Talks Road Gold & Life As A Touring Artist
We launched Road Gold - a unique certification program that celebrates and acknowledges Canada's hard-working touring artists and bands - earlier this summer, amidst the celebrations for CIMA's 40th year as the voice of Canada's independent music industry. While there are a ton of metrics available to quantify success, from sales to streams to 'likes', there aren't really any metrics that reward or acknowledge how incredibly difficult it is to be a touring artist, particularly in Canada.
With Road Gold, we want to shine a light on Canada's hard-working artists and their support teams. We couldn't be prouder of a first crop that included USS, Big Wreck, Matt Andersen and Made Them Lions. If you're looking for the Road Gold application form, you can find it here.
To chat about Road Gold, and get some insight into the life of a touring artist, we spoke to Matt Andersen. Currently wrapping up a European tour before returning to Canada for a slew of dates that'll take him through to March 2016, Matt Andersen is the epitome of a road warrior. Having shared stages with some of the biggest names in blues and rock (Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy, Randy Bachman, just to name a few), Matt has toured North America, Europe and Australia extensively. Besides Road Gold, he's also earned a Juno nomination for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year, a Maple Blues Award for Male Vocalist of the Year, a 2013 Euro Blues Award for Best Solo / Acoustic Act, as well as Best Solo Performer at the 2010 Memphis Blues Challenge. You can check out his full bio here.
You can pick up a copy of his last full-length album, Weightless, here, and his next full-length is scheduled to be released sometime in 2016.
What was your initial reaction to finding out you were going to be Road Gold-certified?
I’ve been fortunate enough to win some awards before, but this is the first that recognizes the hours that are put in on the road. That’s part of what touring musicians do that few people are aware of. Music without the miles never gets heard.
What does the possibility of being recognized for the hard work you’re putting in on the road mean to you, personally?
Personally, it feels a little weird to be recognized for working. Everybody has to work. I believe I’m in an industry that you get out of it what you put into it. I feel like this award recognizes effort as much as anything. Really pushing to get out there and get heard is what we all need to do. The “road” can break you, but if you take control of it and own it, it’s what can bring you success. Make it work for you.
That all said, it’s rewarding to see what all the effort can bring. Also great to be recognized not just for the music and album sales, but also all the work that goes on behind the wheel.
What’s the longest you’ve driven on tour without stopping?
With no stops other than gas and a couple roadside naps, I drove from London, ON to Regina, SK… the long way. I wasn’t able to cut though the states with all of my gear and merchandise. Pretty sure I saw two sunrises on that one.
Have you ever experienced a “Road Miracle,” where against all odds you loaded in to a venue as planned?
After playing a show in Thetford Mines, QC in the late fall, my road manager Steve and I jumped into our rental car and headed for Halifax where I had a show coming up with Symphony Nova Scotia. Just a couple of hours into the drive we got hit with a snow storm. The rental had well used all season tires and the snow was coming down hard.
Steve had been driving and we couldn’t stop for fear of not getting moving again. We passed transports that had gone off the road, one even on fire. It was eight hours before we drove out of that storm to a point where we could switch drivers, now well behind schedule.
I took over and drove us to the rest of the way. We stopped at my folks place in New Brunswick for a quick hello, then headed for Halifax. The car almost didn’t start. I dropped Steve off in Fredericton, kept on to the Halifax airport where I dropped off the rental and picked up my own truck. Then drove into Halifax with no time to spare to start rehearsal with the symphony. We definitely had a road angel watching us on that trip.
Any golden rules or advice for young bands who are just getting started in the biz and on the road?
Play as much as you can. The more you play, the more you’ll be heard. Don’t let a long drive or a late night discourage you from taking a show. Always time to sleep after.
What does a typical day on tour look like?
Wake up and drive. Stop for food if you have time, I find the quality of food depends on the amount of time you have to eat.
Get to the venue.
Play the show.
Meet the fans.
Load out and depending on the distance to the next show, we either head to the hotel to get up again the next day or we start driving to knock off some hours of the drive.