The Set List

S1 E8 | FULL EPISODE

Matthew Stevens at BRIC JazzFest

Come to the foot of the stage with live performances, exclusive back-stage access and in-depth artist interviews with The Set List. In this episode we’ll hear one of the leading guitarists in his generation, Matthew Stevens, explore sounds from his new album in an honest, raw, and soulful set. You have the best seat in the house with ALL ARTS.

AIRED: April 10, 2019 | 0:26:52
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TRANSCRIPT

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[ Indistinct conversations, instruments tuning ]

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My name is Matthew Stevens, and I play guitar.

The guys in my band -- Our drummer,

his name is Eric Doob,

and he produced this album with me,

and the bass player in the band now

is a guy named Zach Brown.

[ Jazz music plays ]

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We had a new record come out called "Preverbal,"

and the idea, in short, is that our need,

as people, to make art has long been around --

far longer than our need or ability to talk about it

or explain it any way.

[ Jazz music plays ]

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My intention with this album

was just to sort of create a vivid musical world,

with all of the colors and emotions

that our own living and breathing world has,

but just in music.

[ Music continues ]

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I grew up in Toronto,

and there was a really great and rich jazz scene there,

and also there were musicians like Ed Bickert

that I could go and see, growing up,

which was really an incredible experience

because, you know, they are truly world-class musicians,

and I was able to kind of be around that from a young age,

which was great.

You know, growing up in the '90s,

I listened to lots of alternative rock

and grunge music and my dad's classic rock collection

and blues collection and things like that,

and so I've always been interested in just good music,

regardless of the genre.

And so I've kind of just followed my nose

from thing to thing over the years.

[ Music continues ]

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Because I make instrumental music,

it really becomes about just living in that world,

and I don't really think about themes or sentences

or even words.

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To inspire the music that I'm writing

is really just based on the sonics.

It's really that. It's just something.

It's a melody or a rhythm or something like that

that's grabbing me because I'm really --

I mean, instrumental music is incredibly abstract by nature,

and so I just kind of want to live in that world

and let that wash over me.

And so I just started writing,

and I was realizing that, like, it was just such electric music.

It just felt natural.

I mean, it felt really clear to me from the get-go

that that was what we were trying to do.

It was just going to be that.

I started writing it on electric guitar,

and I immediately felt like this

was going to be a loud, electric record.

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[ Song ends, cheers and applause ]

I think that, you know, if you can collaborate

with the music that you've made and sort of treat it

as a living and breathing thing

and try to listen to what it's suggesting to you,

there's a lot that I'm able to get from that, you know?

And so, when I write a piece of music,

you know, I try it out lots of different ways.

I perform it lots of different times,

in different instrumentations, and with different arrangements

and things like that, and then I learn things from doing that.

And one of them is often "What sound is this asking for?"

you know?

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Stevens: But there's also a lot of moments within the songs

and within the show itself that are open to interpretation

and to moments of improvisation and things like that.

So, there's the opportunity to kind of stretch

and to channel inspiration that sort of strikes in the moment.

But just the overall thrust of a concert

is really different night to night,

depending on what you're getting back from the crowd, too.

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Stevens: Jazz, to me, is a feeling and a spirit

and an approach to making art or music

that's about change and challenge and discovery.

I'm not purposely setting out to challenge listeners.

I'm -- When I say challenging,

I mean I'm challenging myself to be in the moment

and to make the best music I can.

That's what I mean when I say challenge.

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I see the necessity for labels and genre distinctions.

If there were no delineations at all,

I mean, it would just be -- It would be chaos.

So, I understand the reason for it.

But I think that, artistically, for me, it has little bearing.

In my own musical practice,

I never consciously try to bring things together

in a way where I'm like, "Okay, I want to take --

You know, I love 'X,'

and I want to put it together, where I also love 'Y.'

I want to kind of get that together."

I never approach it that way, and when I've attempted to,

the results have left something to be desired.

So, for me, it's really been about just trying to find

that stuff that's in the cracks, and that's always been the music

that's really excited me the most, too.

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Jazz, to me, it's been a thing in my life

that has constantly given back to me,

as I've tried to, like,

get deeper and deeper into it, you know?

It's such an incredibly deep well of musical joy,

and just, like, there's so much to know,

and there's just so much to explore

that I'm never at a loss, and it's, like, so --

In that way, it's kind of endlessly rewarding, you know?

And it's given me a lot of confidence in ways, too.

Like, I remember feeling like, "Man, I'm never going

to be able to do this," or something like that,

"or even anything that sounds remotely like this," you know?

So, to be doing it at all feels great.

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We're really trying to create something that feels 3-D,

and I wanted that album to be something

that you would put headphones on,

and it would feel like you were stepping into a room

and be completely enveloped and surrounded by the music,

and so we're trying to recreate that onstage.

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[ Song ends, cheers and applause ]

Thank you very much.

[ Cheers and applause ]

We're happy to be here. This is Zach Brown on the bass.

[ Cheers and applause ]

This is Eric Doob on the drums.

[ Cheers and applause ]

We're going to continue with something called,

"Sparkle and Fade." Thank you.

[ Matthew Stevens' "Sparkle and Fade" playing ]

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[ Song ends, cheers and applause ]

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