Heading to Toronto to record his new album meant more than just leaving the province of Alberta for Matt Master — it also took him out of his comfort zone.
Masters is a western country musician who has been performing for more than 20 years in Calgary, Alta. His latest album, which has not yet been named, is composed entirely of original songs.
“It’s a bunch of songs I’ve written over the last little while,” said Masters. “There’s one song in there that I wrote about, I’m gonna say six years ago — that’s probably the oldest song in the collection. And the newest song is like a week-and-a-half or so.”
The new album saw Masters go in a different creative direction than he’s used to.
“It does have an unintentional overarching theme, which is sad, about death and dying […] which is interesting, because it’s not really my track record,” he said.
Masters’ previous album, Everybody Loves a Winner, consisted of covers of classic western hits and was released in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I do a lot of other things and music, so I don’t maybe dedicate the time to writing that some of my contemporaries might,” he said about his musical process. “In the last little while, I was like, I want to focus on it a bit more. I think I’ve done a good job of kind of capturing where I’m at right now.”
The album is being produced by Masters’ longtime friend, D’arc Yates, who plays in his own band, Bahamas.
“Having people who you jive with musically is super important,” said Masters. “And if they happen to be your old friends, that’s just like icing on the cake.”
During the pandemic, he took on new responsibility by founding Curbside Concerts with his wife, Amanda Burgener, to help keep musicians employed and able to share their talents with the public.
The business has flourished over the last two years and is continuing to be a front-runner in Calgary to bring music to an event or function without jumping through the hoops of contacting an artist yourself.
Masters is also a mental health advocate and has been open about his own journey through navigating bipolar disorder while being a working musician and family man.
“There isn’t really any music without my mental journey because it’s a part of me,” he said. “And so, I don’t mind talking about those things.”
As a western musician, discussing mental health difficulties breaks the stereotypes of a traditional cowboy and can allow people to feel connected to the music and accepted in this western world.
Matt Masters can be found every Friday at the King Eddy pub in Calgary’s East Village and connected to the National Music Centre, playing with his band the Ladies and Gentlemen of the Rodeo during happy hour from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.