PORT AUX BASQUES — Musician Randy Matthews was born and raised in Grand Bay and spent all of his summers around MacDougall's Gulch. It isn’t difficult to understand where his passion flourished. Music has always held a special significance.
“The playing came later, maybe when I was 12 or 13. I got interested in guitar and I started writing music when I was 14 or 15 years old, and that was due to my uncle’s influence.”
Matthews is a country artist who takes elements from many different genres like folk and blues, but country wasn’t always where his focus had been.
“Growing up I used to listen to country and Newfoundland music, but a lot of Rock 'n Roll. When I was in junior high, I was listening to Metallica and Guns and Roses. That’s what I was really into, and for years that was still what I was listening to, but over time I came back to country. Every time I write music it is country-ish in the genre.”
Matthews, who writes or co-writes all of his music, said his biggest inspirations come from everyday life.
“All of my songs, the process always changes with how I write them. The influences come from everything. I pull it from a lot of different areas. I make a lot of notes day-to-day and sometimes I gather all those thoughts and make it into something. Other times it just comes out. You work on it until it’s a song and find the story sometimes afterwards.”
So far Matthews has released three albums and is currently working on a new EP. His style and techniques are always being adapted.
“It changes all the time. I am always chasing the sound, trying to evolve, and trying to get better. I guess, naturally, through that, the music changes.”
Thanks to the influence of the wide array of genres found within his music, Matthews said his fans are just as diverse.
“I’ve been gaining some fans from all walks of life, all different ages, and I find a lot of them listen to Chris Stapleton, Johnny Cash, a lot of the same stuff I like, and that is probably the reason. It must be its own genre. It’s outlaw I guess.”
Even though he enjoys writing and getting his music down on paper, Matthews said there is nothing to compare with performing.
“The writing is work. I enjoy it and love doing that, but if you get the right audience, that is a really good experience, especially if it’s personal and they are there to listen. Sometimes you get an audience that just works with you so well.”
Matthews said the support he has received has been amazing.
“It’s really nice to see the support. I feel it a lot, around St. John’s especially because it’s where I live. I’ve done the odd thing in restaurants and over this last while I’ve got great opportunities like playing at the Holy Heart as a guest. Everything together really adds up and it takes time.”
Even though his musical career path wasn’t always easy, Matthews stuck with it and is reaping the benefits of his dedication.
“Making a career out of it is new. I spent years doing it for nothing. Those first few albums I did when I was a kid, I never made any money from that. It’s only after the pandemic I’ve been able to make it into a career. It’s strange because one time you would keep calling around, trying to find a place to play, and now every time I pick up my phone there is something there.”
Even when music wasn’t the direction his career was going in, Matthews said it was still always there.
“It’s always been on the side. Thinking back, my days working on a pipeline, I would have a guitar on the back of the truck and I’d be playing every second I could get at it. Even though I was working I was always interested in it and, more than anything, I'm a music enthusiast listening to it. I’m a fan of music. I’m a fan of musicians, everything that goes along with it. Two years ago I built my own instrument and it’s my main guitar I use now. I play it all the time.”
The nomination for Country Artist of the Year is a nod to all the hard work Matthews has put into cultivating his music over the past few years, but it’s not the first time he has been nominated. Last year he was nominated for Event of the Year, which had a lot to do with the shows he was doing online, like Saturday Shed Sessions on Facebook.
“I built a big following with that and that’s why I think I’m working now, busy, and starting to do music sustainably as a career.”
Matthews is thankful for this year's nomination and is looking forward to attending Music NL in Corner Brook in October.
“I’m excited. I was going after the songwriter one this year too, but I didn’t get it. How I look at it is there is always next year. There will always be new songs and I am also applying now for the ECMAs (East Coast Music Awards) coming up, so maybe there will be something with that one day too.”
Matthews is still learning the business side of the industry.
“Right now I am flying by the seat of my pants. A lot of stuff is still small. I'm not going out there and making money like any big artists by no means, but I am just content with the fact that I am able to get a start at it. It's why I’m happy about it."
With each performance, each experience, comes new and exciting adventures and potential.
“The idea is I am building a band here in town that can play all my original music and that requires a lot of work from them because they have to learn all the music,” said Matthews. “We’ve been getting together, and it’s been really good, and I look forward to – when we get it all tightened up – we are going to try and take it on a tour, probably across the island first, back up the album with it.”
Jaymie White, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wreckhouse Weekly News