Words by Michael Cranston
Photos by Ben Crocker
Matt Ward isn’t exactly the most talkative individual, so when we arrived at the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto to interview him last week, we weren’t expecting garrulous anecdotes or divulging commentary. Sure, his accomplished career vindicates him from having to be a good interview or even offer some random blogger insight into his creative process. But like all writers, I thought I’d have a chance to dig a bit deeper. Not that I expected to be the Frost to his Nixon, but our Five Questions for M. Ward segment was, well, a flop. Matt Ward isn’t going to open up — not today.
To his credit, M. Ward’s latest album Hold Time certainly speaks for itself in terms of thematic content and musicianship. “Never Had Nobody Like You” is a bona fide love anthem. “Hold Time” is an existential contemplation. “One Hundred Million” ponders time’s effect on the heart and love (or perhaps vice-versa). Either way, Hold Time is a logical continuation of the ideas he explored on 2006’s breakthrough Post-War. M. Ward’s approach is direct and accessible, leaving little room for ambiguity, and this is one of his greatest strengths.
So maybe the problem isn’t as much Matt Ward’s reticence, but rather the clarity of his work. If all’s explained in his music (or all that he wants explained), well then there’s not much left to ask. His voice is gruff. He sings about his wife sometimes. He sings about life other times. He refuses to record digitally. He likes Obama. He doesn’t over-think. His writing process hasn’t changed. His music is a product of natural occurrences rather than concentrated happenings. I guess that’s all she wrote. But if still interested; Five Questions for M. Ward:
[Ed Note: Photography rules were strict. Photography was strictly banned for those without a pass, and those with one were only allowed to take pictures at the side of the stage during the first three songs. His opening three songs (“Chinese Translation”, “Requiem”, “Rave On”) went by in about 10 minutes so time was tight. We were also told M. Ward had private security incognito that would penalize us if we disobeyed the no flash rule.]
If Post War was the aftermath of a particular event, in what era or position did you envision Hold Time occupying?
I wanted it to be as era-less as possible – I wanted to create some healthy confusion where the listener isn’t sure when it was recorded or written.
When did your confidence as a song-writer come into fruition? Could you have released a song like “Never Had Nobody Like You” before then?
I think my confidence ebbs and flows like everyone else’s – its pretty impossible me for me to chart, measure or comment on.
I get the impression you don’t like doing interviews (which is completely fair), is this apart of the job you’d rather do without?
I don’t mind talking to people about music — it’s definitely part of my job…
Does politics affect your song writing?
Yes and no — it depends on where I am with the song.
Discuss an album of an artist that has most influenced you as an artist.
At the moment I’m listening to the Louvin Brothers — and I cant think of anything that hasn’t been said about them that needs to be said. It’s been a great discovery — I found them by first discovering the Beatles in high school and learning that their harmonies were borrowed from the Everly’s and later learned that the Everly’s borrowed from the Louvins.