There's something pure and instantly likable about Kalle Mattson, a young, gutsy, wide-eyed optimist from Ontario, Canada, whose video for Thick As Thieves erupted like wildfire with over 1,000,000 views, gaining him national traction and airtime. And that was after he'd already put out two albums, Whisper Bee, 2009; Anchors, 2011, and his most recent EP, Miles In Between. Not bad for a guy whose been writing music for a paltry three years.
Perhaps it's his sincerity; perhaps it's his blind faith in the simple, yet powerful belief that if you write a few great lyrics based on fundamental themes, and pair them with precise, well-orchestrated instruments in a tightly executed track, you're bound to leave a lasting impression on people. Maybe it's a combination of both. In the short time Mattson's been playing live, he's shored up thousands of adoring fans, titillated critics, and mystified untold numbers of listeners. The reason for that? Talent. Mattson has it in spades.
Mattson has already worked with Howie Beck, and had his second album mastered at Bernie Grudman Studio, which boasts Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, and The Band on its roster. Mattson's newest offering, Miles In Between, sticks with familiar themes and will leave you with a feeling of relatedness. Perhaps that is his most powerful gift of all.
antiMusic caught up with Mattson for a chat.
antiMusic: What music was on in your house growing up?
Mattson: My dad is an avid music fan, and he was the one that really introduced me to a lot of the bands that formed my first real musical memories and some of my favourites still today; Wilco, The Smiths, Neil Young, The Beatles and tons of other stuff, there was a lot of good music.
antiMusic: What was the first record/Cd/digital download you purchased?
Mattson: Led Zeppelin IV I believe? Not really embarrassing choice at all, I definitely remember being really enamored with Jimmy Page around 13.
antiMusic: You've added to your lineup. What was the progression from solo act to full-fledged band? Where did you meet? What's their story?
Mattson: The transition from a solo act to a full band was a completely natural one, I still write all the songs the same way, I just am now able to have all the other parts in my head played live, which is extremely gratifying. I met the guys in high school and university, and it's somewhat of a rotating cast over the past couple of years but Rory (Lewis, guitar and keyboards) met when we were 14 and he has been there since the beginning so I don't think that will ever change.
antiMusic: Talk about your music. What do you want people to take away from their experience listening to you?
Mattson: I'd love for someone to come away from listening to one of my records and have it mean something to them, to allow themselves to put their own lives in the songs, relate to them on some level. I think for any songwriter that is the ultimate goal, for someone to listen to one of your songs and feel like it's about them. I know I've had that experience with a lot of my favourite bands and it's an extremely powerful thing that music can do.
antiMusic: Any stories from the road to share? Best cities to play and why?
Mattson: Haha there are plenty of stories for the road but we'll leave those out of here. I love playing in Ottawa, Ontario and Toronto, Ontario, we have a lot of friends and fans in both cities so every show feels special, they're the best.
antiMusic: Talk about your new EP, Lives In Between. What's your favorite track?
Mattson: It's tough to pick a favourite but I really think on a musical and production level Water Falls came together really, really nicely, so I'm pretty proud of that one.
antiMusic: Can you give us backstory to one of your favorite tracks from the new album?
Mattson: For the last song on the EP, Miles In Between, I actually wrote it as a project for my composition class at university. I played all the instruments on it (except the strings) and we recorded almost all of it in our kitchen, I then wrote the string parts and we finished up the track at a studio, but that one feels like another one where everything came together in a really great way.
antiMusic: What themes do you find yourself going back to?
Mattson: There's definitely a lot of them, God and love seem to be pretty big one's in anybody's songwriting and they definitely are in mine, but I always try to come at them from new angles hopefully.
antiMusic: Who handles the songwriting?
Mattson: I write all the songs.
antiMusic: What are the most important elements to a song and can you point to one of your own where you are particularly happy with the result?
Mattson: I've always sort of thought songwriting is the blending of melody and harmony with storytelling, and if you can get that mix right you hopefully have a good song on your hands. In terms of straight up songwriting I really feel like the first track from Lives In Between, "Someday", got some of those things right, it's a song that really means a lot to me personally but hopefully other people can place themselves in the song as well and it can mean more.
antiMusic: Is there anything you'd have done differently with the recording process?
Mattson: There's always things I wish I would have done after the fact but I try not to get too beat up over it. I think if you're fully satisfied with a song or a record then where else can you go? Songwriting and recording is a process that once you finish a song or you record one you instantly want to do it again because it's so fun, but hopefully you learned something from that song and you can move forward with that.
antiMusic: Where do you see your music headed?
Mattson: I have a million ideas in my head of where it could go but I try to not worry about it and I just let it happen as it happens. Hopefully it's constantly evolving and getting better though, I've only been writing songs for three-and-a-half years now so there seems like there's endless possibilities of where my music could go on any different record in the future.
antiMusic: What risks would you like to take that you haven't creatively?
Mattson: Oh tons! I'm writing all the string and horn parts for my next full-length record right now so that seems like a pretty big risk but also an awesome challenge that I'm really into at the moment.
antiMusic: You've worked with a number of great names in the industry, who would you like to work with next in terms if production and mastering?
Mattson: I'd love to work with Jim O'Rourke, I really think he is amazing and I'd love to see his process in how he does things in the studio, super, super fascinating. On the mastering side I think to have a record mastered by Bob Ludwig would be insane, so, ya' know, hopefully someday!
antiMusic: If you could share the stage with anyone past or present who would it be?
Mattson: Past it would probably be Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band circa 1978 and present it would be Wilco, two of the best live bands ever!
antiMusic: With record sales almost a non-factor, what's your feeling concerning bands touring more to support their albums and make a living?
Mattson: My feeling is that it's the only way to go now for smaller artists. I really just think that (sadly) you have to assume you won't be making any sort of big money from your albums, and I am the perfect example of record sales being a non-factor as I put all my records for free up on my website! At this moment of time in my career I really just feel that fans are more valuable than money, hopefully that will come later down the line but it's a relationship I am trying to build. Countless people come up to me at shows and say they've come out because they downloaded the records, dug them, and then came out to support and buy a copy of the vinyl. It's working for me at this moment of time so we'll see where it goes!
antiMusic: Talk about the animation video for "Thick As Thieves." Did you ever expect such a response? What was your reaction when the video started gaining that kind of national traction?
Mattson: I definitely didn't think it would do as much as it did! Kevin Parry (director and creator) and I made the video as an attempt to make a viral music video, now I don't think that cheapens it any but what the video did was ultimately what we wanted it to do, so that was pretty amazing, I'm still shocked that it happened.
antiMusic: Time, huff post, CBS are only a few of the media outlets that have picked up the video. Would you say you "got what you paid for" in return?
Mattson: Well no not really since the video only cost us $250 and we never emailed anyone about the video, let alone had a publicist pushing it at the time! Everything with that video happened in the most natural way possible, it was literally word of mouth and certain websites picking up on the video and the story and it spreading from there.
antiMusic: What's next?
Mattson: Just finishing up the next full-length record! We're all going into the studio at the end of August and will hopefully have it finished by the end of the year for an early 2013 release date. We've got a lot of shows and some big tours coming up as well so the fall is going to be really, really busy, but a good busy!
Learn more about Kalle and listen to music here!
First Look: Kalle Mattson