By Ryan King
Community News Reporter
Randy Matthews is a local up and coming country artist. Originally from Port aux Basques, he now resides in Flat Rock. He has played his fair share of venues throughout the island, including Marble Mountain, the Woody Point Heritage Theatre, The Gathering in Burlington, and the Norris Point Town Hall. Besides his other live performances, he has also engaged his growing fanbase through online performances. He has also released a new single, ‘Don’t Give a Damn,’ and will be releasing an album in 2022.
Matthews has fond memories growing up in Port aux Basques. He left town when he was eighteen, but still returns to visit family.
“We had a lot of things when I was a young kid in Port aux Basques. We had a theatre, sports, a stadium, a mall, teenage dances and community events with local bands. We always made the best of everything. (I) Spent a lot of time outdoors and in the MacDougall’s area during summers, did a lot of swimming at Dennis’ Pond, Lilly Pond and MacDougall’s Brook as a kid.”
Once he reached Junior High, Matthews found himself not fitting in and became somewhat of a loner. That is when he found music.
“You could say I became addicted to it. It’s all I did. I’d fall asleep with a guitar in my hands. I began watching local players a lot more and managed to befriend some of them,” recalls Matthews. “I was in a couple of singing competitions where I did well. One being at the Port Club, and it was actually my first time singing in public. I was terrified but I won, and it helped stack up some confidence. Shortly after I started working on recording at the Port Club. Johnny Sheaves would basically renovate the place upstairs and set it up to record. He worked hard. My parents were very supportive.”
At age 15 he started writing music, with some help from his uncle.
“My Uncle Jim Bragg was the first person I knew that wrote songs. He used to let me sing his and would encourage me to write my own. I found myself writing during class a lot. I can still vividly remember finishing my first song while I was supposed to be listening to the teacher. It wasn’t long after that I wrote my second song.”
Soon, Matthews had enough songs written to make an album. He recorded two as a teenager.
“The first had covers and some songs that my uncle had written. The second album was a mix of six of my songs, four of his and three covers. By this time I was just finishing school and was an expecting father. I moved to Grande Prairie, Alberta, where I lived for six years. I didn’t pursue music because I really didn’t think it was feasible.”
Matthews didn’t believe he could support his new family as a musician, but kept playing as a hobby. Once he moved back home in 2013 his passion for music reignited.
“I rediscovered my love for singing, playing, and writing music,” says Matthews. “Me and my buddies would jam, and I was increasingly more interested in playing in public. I was asked to play a gig at Fionn MacCool’s by my friend Jordan Goudie. I had very little experience with playing before people, just family and friends. Well that gig turned out good, so I did another. After a while I really started to grow a fan base and was getting a lot of encouragement to sing and play around town. It set a fire in me to keep at it and to push myself as an artist. From the time I wake up to the time I go to bed, music is on my mind. It doesn’t stop. I write daily.”
His wife, Jane, also played a large role his return to music and re-discovering his passion.
“My wife is a lot of the reason why I got back into music. We met in Grande Prairie and she was always so supportive of my writing and playing. She made me feel like it was okay to wake up and want to play guitar at 7 in the morning. When we’d go out in town and listen to music she would always say, ‘You could do that you know. You’re good enough to.’”
His creative process can change when writing a song.
“It’s different all of the time. Sometimes it will come to me all at once and I can get most of a song written in a short session. Other times it’s just constant building. I write notes every day, from phrases I overhear to just random words or thoughts that come to mind. Each time I play an instrument I try and play something I hadn’t before. Every now and then you strike a chord or a note or something that makes a spark of interest. You have to follow it through.”
Matthews is willing to make mistakes during the creative process.
“You’ve got to be willing to throw it all on the table, sometimes quite literally. There are times when my table is just surrounded by pages of random notes. You have to piece it together at times like that. Even songs that come from nowhere come from somewhere. It’s every experience we had up until that moment that helped create it. I had some great advice from a writer friend. He said, ‘Don’t think about what to write, write what you are thinking,'” said Matthews. “It works for me.”
Among his inspirations are other musicians he met growing up.
“When I was young, those around me inspired me – Barry Musseau, my uncle Jim, and Adam Cross to name a few. Slash from Guns N’ Roses was always the guy I looked up to most as far as abroad went. As years went on I became inspired artistically by artists like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. This last few years I’ve been into Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Colter Wall and William Prince.”
Matthews mostly plays country, but does not limit himself to that one genre.
“I play all genres of music, but I have found myself to be more of a country artist these last few years. I love Blues, Rock and Folk.”
His favourite performance happened just last year in Woody Point – the Sonic Harvest Sessions at the Heritage Theatre.
“It was a full set of my own songs and the first time I ever got to do it in front of an audience with a band,” he says. “The crowd went wild and it was very thrilling. It was hard to unwind myself after that one.”
Matthews’ newest single, ‘Don’t Give a Damn’, started as a guitar riff.
“For a while, it was all I played every time I picked up a guitar. A chat with my mom led to me making a note in my phone saying ‘Don’t Give a Damn’. I took a voice memo playing my riff one day and I randomly renamed it as, ‘Don’t Give a Damn’. This one line bounced in my head daily.”
In 2019 he brought the idea of the song to Stephen Green of the band Fairgale, with whom he had just starting writing songs.
“I asked him what he thought.
I played the riff and said I think it’s called ‘Don’t Give a Damn.’ He was into it right away and we just started storming ideas.”
When he started to work on his new album he still felt a bit apprehensive about the song, so he sent it to Dave Fitzpatrick of the Fables.
“He understood the song from the first time he heard it. I said, ‘Isn’t it a bit too aggressive?’ He said ‘Well if you are singing about how you don’t give a damn then maybe it should be’. He sent me some rhythm tracks and also had harmonica with it. It blew me away how he nailed the feel I was going for. I did the vocals and sent it over to him and we got a mix going.”
Some laughter can be heard as the song kicks in. This came from collaborating with Jordan Goudie who worked on the intro.
“While I had him there I said that I needed to get the intro to the song nailed because that intro was important to me. We set up my amp and recorded it. Right after I did the recording we literally bust out laughing. It could have just been excitement from just having a good time working together. But we instantly thought, ‘Hey, did we get our reaction on the mic?’ Sure enough we did. So we made sure to add it into the song. Everyone could use a laugh now and then, and we hope it’ll make listeners chuckle.”
The album will be a collection of songs Matthews has written over the course of the last decade.
“I’d like to think there is a song for everyone on it. They were all written at different places in my life. Some are personal and others fictional. I put every bit of energy I have into it. There is a lot of experience within the making of this album. There are a couple of songs I will be releasing with it that are written by other Newfoundlanders. One song called, ‘Old Hank Always Makes Me Cry’ by Roy Payne and another called, ‘Sometimes’ by Colin Mahoney.”
Matthews will also be releasing some singles before the album is released in the spring.
“I plan to follow up with more singles as we lead up to the full physical album release. Keep an eye out for ‘Silhouettes.’ That’s the fan favourite so far.”