Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor
MOUNT STEWART, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND — Matt Mays calls Dartmouth the New Jersey of Nova Scotia. If that’s the case, you could say he is the Bruce Springsteen of the Maritimes. Songs about life in Mays’ unheralded hometown located on the other side of the big city are reminiscent of how Springsteen so often wrote about the characters on the Jersey Shore during his early career. In “Queen of Portland Street” and “City of Lakes,” Mays celebrates aspects of life on the east coast that might otherwise seem bleak.
His success, which began a decade ago as a member of the Halifax outfit The Guthries, has given Mays the opportunity to journey across Canada and beyond. He has lived in New York for six years and also spent time in Costa Rica. Like Springsteen and other fine songwriters, the influence of travel has impacted Mays’ craft. Several of his songs have to do with life in a car, or, in the case of his hit “On the Hood,” idling away on top of one.
Being a Canadian musician, life on the go can be arduous. The winter weather is notorious for curtailing tours and postponing gigs. Jokingly, Mays said, “It’s what it must be like to kill a man. The first time must be tough but every time after that must be easier — that’s what touring Canada is like.”
Making the journey, though, can be inspiring. Mays has recorded evocative lyrics about the Canadian landscape, including in “Spoonful of Sugar” where he sings about missing home while on the road:
“Lookin’ for answers through the night owl’s window
A million miles an hour through the wind n’ snow
A spoonful of sugar in Montreal city
Nothing can cure this homesick disease
This fall the trees fell before the leaves”
Mays will have the opportunity to come up with more inspirations from his home country when he sets out on a cross-Canada tour this fall for the first time in four years. His latest album, “Coyote,” will be released on September 4 and the first single, “Take It On Faith,” is one of his finest songs. On his tour, he will return to many of his favourite places and do many of his favourite things. “They all sort of seem like home to me now, because I’ve spent a lot of time in each city, so, yeah, I look forward to touring,” he said.
One of his pleasures includes renting a Bugatti “kit car” on the other side of the country from where he was raised. Mays takes the car for spins in Victoria whenever he’s in the British Columbia capital. “I rent it for three days and I just rip around in this awesome Bugatti.”
Bugatti is a European automaker whose Veyron is the world’s fastest street-legal car. Although Mays hasn’t come up with a tune about that experience, to ride along to next time he takes out his preferred sports car. Then again, all experiences — travel, relationships, politics — are fertile ground for songwriting, Mays pointed out.
“I have this realization of death, that I’m not going to be around here forever,” he said introspectively while sipping on an ale from a Charlottetown microbrewery. “I like travelling so much because I get to see places I haven’t been and I feel like I’m here for such a short time, why not see this world that we somehow made it on to? And I think in turn that comes out hopefully in my songwriting.”
More About Matt Mays on Tour
September 4 & 5: “Coyote” album release parties take place at the Dakota Tavern in Toronto (249 Ossington Avenue). Tickets are sold out.
September 6: Mays plays the Ottawa Folk Festival at Hog’s Back Park, with Ben Harper among the performers.
Coyote Tour: The 21-stop fall tour kicks off in Kingston, Ontario on October 10. It will include an October 23 stop in Victoria (if Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger has his Lamborghini ready, Mays says he’s ready for a drag race in the BC capital). Full tour dates are below. To learn more about Mays, visit his website.
9/4 Toronto, ON – Dakota Tavern
9/5 Toronto, ON – Edge Session @ 102.1 The Edge
9/5 Toronto, ON – Dakota Tavern
9/6 Ottawa, ON – Ottawa Folk Fest
10/10 Kingston, ON – The Ale House
10/13 Thunder Bay, ON – The Outpost
10/14 Winnipeg, MB – The Pyramid
10/16 Brandon, MB – The 40/Trail West Inn
10/17 Regina, SK – The Exchange
10/18 Edmonton, AB – The Starlite
10/19 Slave Lake, AB – Sawridge Inn
10/20 Calgary, AB – Republik
10/22 Kamloops, BC – Blue Grotto
10/23 Victoria, BC – Sugar
10/24 Vancouver, BC – The Commodore
10/26 Fernie, BC – The Northern
10/27 Lethbridge, AB – Average Joe’s
10/28 Saskatoon, SK – Louis’ Pub
11/1 Montreal, QC – Cabaret Mile End
11/2 Toronto, ON – The Phoenix
11/3 London, ON – Call The Office
11/13 St. John’s, NL – Club One
11/15 Halifax, NS – Halifax Forum (Multi-Purpose Centre)
11/16 Moncton, NB – The O2
11/17 Fredericton, NB – The Market