Featured Artist of the Month
August 2021 - Bruce Matthews Band
Bruce Matthews Band
About Bruce Matthews Band
Careful not to limit his music to a specific genre when asked to describe it, Bruce shared, “Gram Parsons once said, ‘I believe in music that can reach anybody, regardless of the labels…’ We seem to want to pigeonhole musical styles, and that just feels limiting to me. You often hear ‘Americana’ used to describe music that derives from folk, and country, and blues with roots in gospel, and mountain music, and old country folk tunes. I think you can hear all of that in my music in different places. I often call what we do ‘front porch music,’ because that's the feel we're looking for - folks sitting around on the front porch, singing songs and telling stories and laughing and crying together, sometimes at the same time.”
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Bruce spent the first ten years of his life in central New York, Virginia and Maryland. “My mom liked to sing, and made me take piano lessons. I was not a good student. My dad liked to listen to jazz, and I loved playing my guitar along with his Pete Fountain blues albums,” he said. “It wasn’t until junior high and a couple of inspirational music teachers that took an interest in me that I started branching out with singing and learning to play guitar.”
Growing up in the 60’s, Bruce had varied musical influences, ranging from Elvis, to Dylan and Ricky Nelson, to Hendrix. He shared that, “As it all evolved, what really began to stick was the stuff that began to incorporate more country, so between Buffalo Springfield and the Gram Parsons Byrds, I began to hear a sound that spoke most closely to my musical heart.”
Bruce formed his first band in 9th grade. He continued to play in bands throughout high school and college. After graduating, he says, “we spent a year touring the hotel circuits in the northeast; we even did 8 weeks at the Ann Arbor Ramada Inn. But that wasn’t really going anywhere, and when my buddy’s marriage broke up, I hung up the guitar and went to grad school in outdoor education. I’d dust off the acoustic occasionally to play for a campfire, but there would be literally years when I never played.”
Bruce’s music has a strong spiritual bend. Following a long career in outdoor education, music again took a strong place in his life. He began playing at church worship services and then out in public again. “Early on, both my music and my life were pretty self-focused, which, at least in my case, doesn't tend to lead anywhere good. And it didn't. You start believing your own hype and you lose touch with the things that really matter. So when I started playing and making music again at church, it began opening more creative doors. I found my heart again. My song ‘Can't Be About Me’ pretty much hits the nail on the head... What's clear to me is my creativity (and everything else!) is a gift of God. I hope that my sharing it is a blessing to others. And, if I'm being honest, it compels me to keep on playing even when it feels like nobody's listening. Because it isn't about me.”
During the time they’ve been playing together the Bruce Matthews Band has been comprised of at least a couple dozen folks who have contributed to the band’s recordings. A couple have been part of the mix for years. Tony Muka who has been with the band for more than twelve years, plays the mandolin and electric guitar “like a wild man. His energy and enthusiasm are electrifying.” Esther Klompmaker who’s been with the band for nine years adds her voice to the background vocals, finding the just right harmonies. Bruce describes her as “very solid musically.”
The Bruce Matthews Band recorded their first album, called So Far in 2014. Their second, Roll Your Windows Down was released in 2018.
The band is looking forward to the release of their third album, What You Leave Behind, on August 15th. The title track of this new album, Bruce comments, “is a song written as a reminder that life is short, that we will pass out of it at some point, and we ought to be mindful and intentional about the differences we make in passing through it. In writing it, it sometimes feels like a final statement, a guy looking back and hoping he’s mattered. I often find, though, that your songs will mean different things to different listeners, and I think that that’s the great beauty of music. I hope the song means something important to others as it does to me.”
The album, What You Leave Behind, immediately beckons to sit back and pay attention. Bruce’s clever arrangement in “Going to the Back of the North Wind” which he describes as being “a little ditty” his then 8 year-old-son, Ben, used to sing, will have you hitting “rewind” and singing along. Traditional tunes such as Stephen Foster’s “Hard Time Come Again No More” and “Won’t You Come and Sing for Me” are treasured friends. While “Nova Scotia” penned by Bruce, offers a moment to stop and think about being a little more present with loved ones. Overall the moody, beautiful instrumentals and rich vocals will have you wanting to make sure you’ll be catching the Bruce Matthews Band live.
Allow yourself to just sit and listen. Enjoy this band as they put together rich, lovely music. Join the Bruce Matthews Band for the official What You Leave Behind album release party on August 15th on the showboat concert stage on Riverwalk Plaza in Lowell.