MATT EPP at the Media Club


Matt Epp

Photo by Leigh Eldridge

Looking like a denim-clad woodsman, Matt Epp is accompanied by a collection of musicians who boast a variety of peronal styles and musical talents. Despite this diverse assortment of fashion sense, Matt Epp and his touring band have soothing, easy-listening country music with the easy, breezey tropical twang I’ve encountered in The Arbutus Collective. It’s a beautiful touch to have a female back up singer, which is usually something you hear on an album but never on tour. Ben and Tyler of Said The Whale are in attendance, as they met Matt Epp on a beach in Mexico and have been bumping into him on tour ever since. Matt Epp attended a Said The Whale show in Edmonton the night before he was to play the same venue, which is how they fell in love with each other’s music. These snippets of community in the Vancouver music scene are wistfully inspiring.

After the first song, Matt tells us, “We usually make something up for the first song, just to get warmed up.” Their third song, “They Won’t Find The Bodies,” has some local support as well; according to Matt, the music video was filmed in Vancouver (“most of it illegally”) with several of the people in tonight’s audience. The joy of playing a live show in Vancouver is slightly dampened by the knowledge that immediately after their set they must pack up and drive back to Calgary for another performance the next night. Matt asks, “Did anyone hear what the drive back to Calgary is supposed to be like tonight?” Audience members call out different answers, like “Rainy,” “Cold,” and “Dark.” Matt laughs and says, “It’s like being in kindergarten, asking for adjectives. ‘Tell me about winter. Tell me about Winnipeg.'” Matt undergoes a costume change by removing his toque and donning a bandana. He puts down his electric guitar and picks up a worn acoustic, introducing “Cover Me” as “the first song to ever fall out of this guitar.” Accompanying himself on the harmonica only makes things better.

Matt Epp’s fellow musician on electric guitar joins in the discussion: “I have two requests. The first is that I have a little less guitar on my monitor. And the second is that you all don’t start chasing waterfalls, and that you stick to the rivers and lakes that you’re used to.” This gets everyone laughing, and it’s indicative of the easy-going nature of everyone in Matt Epp’s gravitational pull. As Matt introduces a song called “Working Holiday,” he says, “This song I started writing in St. John’s NFLD, but I finished it in San Francisco, and now I’m playing it in Vancouver. I think I wrote a bit of it here.” It starts a bit melancholy, but the beat picks up and this is probably a classic trait of Matt’s music. It slows down the way a Coldplay song would, if Coldplay ever added a slide guitar. There is a great guitar solo as the beat picks up again, and this is the start of a steady stream of my favourite Matt Epp songs.

Kathleen Allen sang with Matt Epp at his last concert in St. John’s NFLD, and she’s here tonight. He wrote “Travel By Ground” in San Diego “after a run-in with the Navy, and you’d think I’d win. They didn’t like the T-shirt I was wearing.” It’s a beautiful acoustic song, which slowly brings in electric guitar and a cymbal. Matt and Kathleen’s harmony is exquisite. After the song, Matt pauses to tune his guitar. Ever vocal about his relationship with his audience, he says, “I’m making sure I respect you by being in tune. I wouldn’t want to disrespect you.” His current back-up singer returns to the stage to join Kathleen in the next song. Sharing a mic proves interesting, but they figure out a decent height. Matt laughs, “They have to compromise. They’re both tall in character.” After the cutesy love song “Met Someone,” Kathleen returns to her seat and Jody King from Winnipeg replaces her. As she takes the stage, the man on electric guitar asks, “Jody, do you know ‘Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls’?” Jody gets her own microphone for this particular song, called “This Old House.” The lyrics, again, are gorgeous: This old house has a porch that wraps around, like my love for you.

“Orphan” is the song that is the wow factor of Matt Epp. It renders me speechless, floating in the wake of beautiful music. Incredible electric and acoustic guitar, good harmonica, what more can a girl ask from folk music? Matt changes costume again by donning a short, white fedora. After the song, nearing the end of the set, Matt is upset as he tells us that it’s “almost time to go to Calgary. I hope no one here is from Calgary because I don’t like Calgary. Honesty is the best policy.” Quips an audience member, “Not in Calgary.” Matt laughs and replies, “I tell them too, but I pronounce it Cal-GARY and they don’t recognize it.” The mood changes as he tells us the story of his next song: “I wrote this song in San Diego, where I had a dream that I got a kiss from a beautiful girl, and that girl’s great-grandmother had a heart attack and had to be taken away by an ambulance, and I was staying at this girl’s great-grandmother’s house. I woke up with this line, an emergency kiss in an ambulance, running through my head, so I picked up her brother’s guitar and started to play this line. Later that day she kissed me, and when we got home there was an ambulance waiting outside. She was taken away, but she didn’t die. It took me nine or ten months to get the guts to finish this song.” It’s as depressingly beautiful as Dan Mangan’s “Basket,” and Matt Epp takes the cake when it comes to love songs.The magic must end, and Matt tells us that he’s got one more as his final costume change results in a yellow bandana. “Give a big hand to James Lamb and Cory Woodward,” who opened for him. He picks up his fedora from the stage and says, “My hat’s off to them.” They end with a new song called “Supply and Demand,” which they’ve only played once before. “This is a call and response. If I say ‘I am a miner,’ you say, ‘Then what are you doing in a bar?'” After some awkward laughter from everyone in the room, he admits, “That’s bad, I’ll never tell that again. This song is so new, I haven’t ironed out all of the bad jokes yet.”

Matt Epp will reappear in Vancouver in December to play an intimate showcase with Coco Love Alcorn, show details under the set list. He still has a few stops left in Eastern Canada as he ends his tour. I caught up with Matt as he made his way to the merch table after his show, and you can read our brief conversation about this evening’s special show and other great Canadian musicians.

1. Dream
2. Too Cool
3. Follow Me
4. They Won’t Find The Bodies
5. Cover Me
6. Water
7. Working Holiday
8. Travel By Ground (with Kathleen Allen)
9. Met Someone (with Kathleen Allen)
10. This Old House (with Jody King)
11. Orphan
12. Life For Life
13. Emergency Kiss
14. Supply and Demand

NEXT VANCOUVER SHOW: “Matt & Coco Fall in Love”
Matt Epp & Coco Love Alcorn perform an evening of songs and duets
12 December 2009 | Rio Theatre (1660 East Broadway)
Doors @ 8pm | Show @ 9pm – Advance $12 | Door $15
Tickets available at Highlife, Red Cat, Zulu, The Rio or online

BACKSTAGE VANCOUVER: What I find interesting is that you have a back-up singer that you take with you on tour. How long have you been doing that?
MATT EPP: This is actually the first time that I’ve toured with a band at all. Some songs really require another singer.
It does seem pretty integral. I think it’s great because no one does that, in my opinion.
I think I’ll do it every time I tour with a group, because it is integral, and I have so many female singers singing with me on the album.
How special is it that friends from across Canada are here for you tonight? How random?
It’s amazing! Jody’s here from Winnipeg. I met Kathleen in NFLD, she’s going to school here now. I met random family here I’ve never met, older relatives. “Here’s your third or fourth cousin you’ve never seen before.” There are a lot of connections in Vancouver.
From your talking in between songs, it sounds like you’ve been all over the map; on tour, in your song writing, where you get your inspiration for those songs. In your travels, who would you say is your biggest inspiration in the Canadian music scene right now?
Musically? As a female, Amelia Curran. As a male, I also like rock and roll, so Matt Mays. They’re both friends of mine, but they’re great.
If you could tour with anybody, who would you tour with?
Amelia Curran. I’d like to tour with a writer, because I really admire good song writing.

Comments (4)


  1. Travis Toul says:

    Matt Epp Rocks! You are THE most wholesome performer out there today. I thought that before but this review just confirmed it. I don’t know how you put these amazing shows together so effortlessly and with so many different musicians from across the continent, not to mention how charismatic and humorous you are on stage. Matt Epp is today’s equivalent of yesterday’s Neil Young.

  2. Dylan Fries says:

    Matt is such an interesting character. His onstage charisma begins to take on gravitational proportions, and I’ve never heard anyone, ever sing such a threatening love song with such tenderness ( as “They Won’t Find The Bodies)”, especially while still making it feel, well, like a love song. He’s just such a genuinely nice guy too. Keep on rollin man.

  3. Dylan Fries says:

    Oh, and his beard is epic.

  4. […] December 2009 : Matt Epp with Coco Love Alcorn : 8pm : Rio […]