Matt Ray

Matt Ray: Western Minnesota Americana

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

This Friday night at Beaner’s Central in Duluth and Saturday night at the Thirsty Pagan in Superior Matt Ray will be unleashing his music upon the northland.

Andrew Olson: So your press kit it says that you are from Western Minnesota, where exactly are you from in that area?

Matt Ray: I grew up on the prairies outside a little town called Barrett. The largest city would be Fergus Falls, which is about 20 miles from Barrett.

AO: What would you say was the most valuable thing your parents taught you musically?

MR: I think it is to keep at it. My father was a musician for many years, and as such, I got to see many successes, and many failures… which I think if one is to be realistic about the music world, you have to accept. I think they also taught me howhard it is to make a living being a musician. It is one thing to play out every now and then and altogether something different if you are expecting to make a living at it.

AO: When did you start to perform at bars/venues?

MR: When I was 14-15 years old… I played drums in a band called "Lost Weekend" and we played quite a few bars in the area. But, I would say I really got serious about performing publicly when I was in the pseudo jug-band called "The Wild Whiskey Boys" in Flagstaff, AZ. We played out often at bars and various other venues.

AO: Have you played Duluth before? Any thoughts?

MR: Yes. I have been playing in several of the Duluth/Superior venues in the last year. Places like Amazing Grace, Beaner's, The Red Mug, Carmody's, etc.

For the most part my experiences in Duluth have been great. But, it is hard for a solo act to really gain momentum as it seems that when people go out they want to see a band. There are several good places that do have this kind of music, and that is a very positive thing.

AO: When you write songs do you try to write them in a certain genre, or do you switch to include modern influences as well?

MR: To be honest, when I write songs, I really don't think about if it fits into any certain category or not. I think on the sub-conscience level though, I am sure that I am trying to grasp onto some sort of sound, while incorporating my own. Songwriting is a wild animal you know… Sometimes, it seems as if it is nice and friendly and easy to approach, while other times, it can really sinks its teeth into you and cause some pain. When I sit down to write, I usually have a thought or theme that I am playing around with in my head, and then I try to put it into coherent words on paper. Sometimes it works, other times, well....

AO: Where do you record at? Are you releasing an album?

MR: Right now I do all of my recording in my home. I also do booking and promotion for an independent music label called Bear Grass Records. I am planning on going out to the Bear Grass Records studio in Montana at the beginning of March, and I hope to get some recording done then.

AO: When did you first learn to play the guitar?

MR: I started when I was probably about 16, but at that time I don't think it was much more than a curiosity. I was really into being a drummer at that time, which in the long run, has helped to develop strong rhythm on the guitar. I would say I got serious in about 1996. I got REAL turned onto Woody Guthrie and from then it was all over. I wanted to play the guitar, and I wanted to play in a style that was LIKE Guthrie while not being copying him.

AO: What are your goals musically for the year?

MR: RECORD AN ALBUM!! That is my number one goal. Furthermore, I really hope to get into some of the Festivals in the area and continue to play out as much as I can. I would also be very interested in doing some collaboration with some other musicians if given the chance.

AO: What kind of music do you listen to in your free time?

MR: ALL of it! Seriously, if it is "good" then I will listen to it. Too often people try to limit themselves, or exclude certain music that does not fall into a certain category. If you were to dig into my CD player on any given day, there would be a good chance you would find something recorded by Alan Lomax, the Memphis Jug Band, The Grateful Dead, and some current local musicians.

AO: What musicians do you look up to? Who do you look down upon?

MR: There are several musicians that I admire and look up to. I really like current songwriters like Todd Snider, Jackie Greene, and others, but I also have a great deal of respect for the founding fathers, and mothers, of American Music. People like Woody, Charley Patton, Gus Cannon, John Hurt, Doc Watson, and Hank Williams are the very people that have invented the music we listen today, and as such, need to be paid respect to. This is something that I hope to do in my music is to expose people to something that perhaps they have never heard (or they have heard, but did not know where it came from)

AO: If your music was a muffin, what type of muffin would it be?

MR: Wow, really? I guess I would have to say a lemon poppy seed muffin. Classic, traditional, yet also has a little of the "fun" stuff in it.

AO: Have you played the Thristy Pagen or Beaner's before? Any thoughts on those venues?

MR: No and Yes.

I've been to the Thirsty Pagan for several shows, but have not really played there. I'm really looking forward to this performance, as I plan on having some good "friends" sit in with me for the evening.

Beaner's is a great place to play. They have great sound, and Jason Wussow, is a class act. The thing I like the most about Beaner’s is people typically go there to listen to music as opposed to other places, where the music is more of a background thing.