Groovin’ with Daniel Matto

Halifax-based crooner Daniel Matto checks in with Arts East about his sophomore recording, Groovin’ With the DMQ, a satisfyin’ selection of smooth standards and swingin’ singles.

What inspired you to start playing music?
I originally joined the band at school as all my mates were in it and it seemed like fun. I was hoping to play saxophone or bass guitar, but my band teacher, Mr Kelley, handed me a trombone! I thought it was alright…then one night Dad pulled out some of his Chicago LPs and said - “This is what a trombone can do...”. And I’ve loved the trombone ever since. In regards to singing, I again fell into it during my school years. My mates and I had put together a Blues Brothers/Chicago style band and realised we needed a singer – we all took turns singing and it just so happened that I could hold a tune. It turned into a passion when, as a 15 year old, a friend of mine lent me his copy of Frank Sinatra’s Greatest Hits... And I heard SINGING for the first time...

Are they the same reasons you do it today?
Now I sing because I love it. It’s my passion. I look at my life and can’t see myself not singing. I enjoy collaborating with other musicians, learning from them and creating with them. Love it!

What are the challenges of gigs?
One of the biggest challenges for me is ensuring that what I perform and record is what people want to hear—what will affect them emotionally in some way—and at the same time doing something that I enjoy musically/ creatively. By adding new tunes to the repertoire, and more so now, writing and performing my own material, I like to feel out what people are enjoying and work from there. Another thing with being the kind of singer I am and the tunes I sing is occasionally being tarred with that brush of the ‘crooner-wannabe’ that pop up in popular music every now and then. I think you just have to keep doing your own thing and just keep focused, and try to create your own identity.

What are the rewards?
A great show—when as a group we all click on stage and really feel the energy from the room and the crowd—is a great reward.

What have been some career highlights?
I’ve had the opportunity to play some great shows and see a lot of cool places thanks to my music. I’ve also had the opportunity to perform with a lot of amazing players both in Canada and Australia.  In regards to specific highlights, my opportunities to perform with Symphony Nova Scotia and the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra really stick in my mind.

I was back in Australia, sitting on the balcony at my parents house by the beach, watching the sunset hit the water and thought ’What would I like to listen to right now?’.

What went into the recording of 'Groovin'?
The concept of “Groovin’ with The DMQ” came to me just after we’d finished recording my last album, “I’m Old Fashioned”, a couple of years ago. I was back in Australia, sitting on the balcony at my parents house by the beach, watching the sunset hit the water and thought ’What would I like to listen to right now?’. From there I started writing songs and picking tunes with this concept of a good summer night ‘mixed tape’ in mind. Then I brought the tunes and my arrangement ideas to the guys and they had a lot of great ideas, really helping the album come together. I think my favourite part of the recording process this time was there was a real sense of collaboration with the musicians both before and during the recording process. Things like Eric’s amazing horn lines, Silvio’s ideas with additional percussion and keyboard sounds, Brock bringing in and playing some guitar, and Danny bringing in some cool grooves and feels for some the tunes, really made the recording process an enjoyable and rewarding experience. And like last time, being able to record the tunes live gives us an opportunity to create and capture the spontaneity and energy that comes from playing together live.

How does it differ from your first album?
I feel this album is a little more relaxed and listener friendly than “I’m Old Fashioned”. Part of that comes from the concept and the tunes themselves, but I think it also stems from the fact that I was a little more prepared as to what to expect throughout the recording process thanks to the experience and the lessons I learned from the “I’m Old Fashioned” sessions. Additionally, I came in with a less structured idea towards arrangements and as a group we let the tunes come together a little more organically. This also gave more room for the great players to do what they do best - all the players played out of their skins, and it really shows on every track. I feel privileged to be playing with guys as talented as they are. I like to think that the more relaxed feel to the recording comes across when you have a listen as well... But that’s for the listeners to decide!

“This also gave more room for the great players to do what they do best - all the players played out of their skins, and it really shows on every track.”

What are your thoughts on the jazz scene in Halifax, and Atlantic Canada?
One of the first things that struck me when I arrived here was just how much talent there is here, not just in jazz, but in many other genres. In saying that – the jazz scene here is great, so many great players who are also great blokes and a pleasure to play with. In regards to venues, though there aren’t too many places to see/ play live jazz. The ones that do are extremely supportive of the genre and live music in general and I think it’s something we can really build upon. And of course we have a great Jazz Festival here every summer as well as great jazz festivals in PEI, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.

What’s next on your musical agenda?
I have a few ideas for the next album already, but for now I’m looking forward to releasing and sharing ‘Groovin’ with everyone over the coming months, seeing what people like about it, what they don’t like about it and then taking it from there. I like to think that even though a majority of the music I sing was written years ago, we can keep it fresh and keep people entertained.

Daniel Matto launches Groovin’ With the DMQ at The Carleton in Halifax on June 12!

Check out his website for a list of upcoming performances and for a preview of his groovin’ style:

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