Five Questions With Matt Steele

Halifax, NS-based singer-songwriter, Matt Steele has unveiled his EP, Apparition Edition, which is a surprisingly vulnerable look at coping with the doubt, anxiety, and heartbreak that comes with navigating relationships, and the mental health of the people you care about.

In July 2020, Matt Steele went into Joel Plaskett’s New Scotland Yard Studio to record and film one-take solo versions of select tracks off his band Matt Steele & The Corvette Sunset’s 4-time Music Nova Scotia Award-nominated LP Half Girl Half Ghost. Some of the arrangements begged for just a little bit more, so a few friends added the necessary spare (and sparse) parts. Apparition Edition showcases the vulnerability and simple songcraft hiding under the hood of the power-pop rave-up Half Girl Half Ghost.

Check out the EP below, and find out more about Matt via our Five Questions With segment.

Care to introduce yourself to our readers?

I’m singer-songwriter Matt Steele, a Kentuckian with PEI roots living in Halifax NS. When I’m not recording & releasing vulnerable songs about doubt, anxiety, heartbreak, and the people you care about or playing tongue-in-cheek power pop rock with my band Matt Steele & The Corvette Sunset, I’m a recreation therapist. What is a recreation therapist? We use leisure and recreation activities to help people with their health and wellbeing. Which, to be honest, sounds pretty close to what I do as a musician too – can you imagine being happy and healthy without music in your life?

Fun fact: I think there are only two other Kentuckians living in Nova Scotia, one runs a great BBQ joint in Truro (Old Road BBQ) and the other runs the radio promo company (SpinCount).

Tell us a bit about your music and writing style.

As a solo artist, I tend to lean towards writing somewhat dark, emotional acoustic tunes that try to maintain enough of a pop sensibility that they don’t bring you too far down. My latest release, Apparition Edition, is an acoustic-oriented, sparse and meditative take on vulnerable situations – unhealthy relationships, caring about your friends’ mental health, getting fooled in matters of the heart. However, once I’m clear of this set of songs, I’ve been working on a lighter sound with more punchlines and less gut punches. I tend to write songs lyric-first, getting a snippet of a lyric idea that piques me and then exploring that idea, while trying to scaffold some chords about it. I grew up playing classical violin, so I allow my chords to violate standard rhythmic placement expectations in service of the melody. At the end of the day though, I’ll write any way that allows me to get a song at the end of the process – I just finished a writing session with Braden Lam where he had extensive notes written about what he wanted the song to say, and that’s just as valid and rewarding as a song that hits you like a lightning strike.

How have you been keeping creative during the pandemic?

I took a course on nature therapy, which forced me to put the phone down and be open to the world outside. It’s not too hard to write a song when you’re outside in nature, you just have to walk around long enough and a melody or a lyric will float down into your life like a snowflake.

IF you were asked to suggest only one of your songs to hear, which would it be?

Borderline. Not only was it the lead track off this live-in-studio EP, but I think it’s the most personal. It took me something like eight years to write, I had to live that much life before I could find the right words, chords, and melody to realize this idea I had in my head. The song is about caring about a friend who’s struggling, and you’re not sure what to do about it or how to do anything but notice it’s happening, but you know you want to help.

Who are your favorite Canadian bands/artists currently?

1. I am super into Dennis Ellsworth’s latest releases. He was always an idol (and mentor) to me, but he’s recently hit on a new sound that’s unlike anything else I’m hearing right now and his songwriting is on another level.

2. I’ve been hearing some advance mixes of the new Andrew Waite record, and that’s going to make some waves too, I think. His last record, Tremors, was great!

3. Bahamas. Sad Hunk is a funny album title, and every song on that record is perfect.

4. Honorable mentions: Tim Baker, Fortunate Ones, Mo Kenney

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