Matt Mays is leading a double life. "I'm feeling a little schizophrenic for sure," laughs the Dartmouth, Nova Scotia songsmith who, along with his band El Torpedo, brings his roots-rock thunder across the country over the next month.
"I'm trying to do two things at once these days. On the one hand, I'm living in New York, working to promote the first record which was picked up by 00:02:59 Records here in the U.S. On the other hand, I'm rehearsing material from the new recording for the upcoming tour. It's a bit like trying to rub my stomach and the top of my head at the same time."
With one side of the brain feeding the other, Mays says that his latest work, the El Torpedo-less When the Angels Make Contact, was the product of a split-persona.
"It is a dark record that was written and recorded during a very dark time. I'm not going to get into any details, because it's all there in the music, but there was a lot going on in both my personal and professional lives and I think the record reflects that. It comes across as pretty manic at times. Angels has some of the heaviest stuff I've ever done, but it's offset by some really tender stuff too. And, of course, it was supposed to accompany a film of the same name, but that got sidetracked. However, the beauty of doing a soundtrack is that you can get away with experimenting with sound and structure and challenging yourself as an artist. And that is pretty vital to me, y'know. Don't get me wrong; I love doing the older songs and I know a lot of folks want to hear that stuff, but I need to keep moving forward as a writer, player and producer. So far I haven't read any bad reviews, so thankfully people have been pretty accepting of it."
That acceptance has been a welcome mat for Mays, particularly in his new hometown.
"I love New York. It's incredible. It was overwhelming at first coming to live in such a massive city. It's spilling over with humanity and I've learned to walk with my head up at all times because you can't go two feet without bumping into someone. A little different from what I'm used to. And I was pretty cautious about the people here at the beginning, especially with the public perception that they can be cold, cruel and indifferent to anyone but themselves. But that's not true. Another urban myth. Everybody has been warm and really friendly and in the area where I live there is a real sense of community among artists and musicians. Everyone works together to try and help each other out with their careers. There are plenty of possibilities in a place like this."
A recent appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien's was the opportunity of a lifetime, says Mays.
"Now that was messed up. One day we're watching the show and the next day we're on it. And were we ever scared. I think we put away more than a few drinks before hitting the stage. It's weird though, as nervous as we were, I thought we ripped through "Cocaine Cowgirl" like never before.
"And the whole time this is happening I'm thinking to myself - I remember staying up late with my girlfriend a couple of years ago and saying it would be a dream come true to get that spot - and here we are, rocking with the man and his band. Truth is stranger than fiction and it took a couple of weeks for the reality of it to hit home."
Home for now might be the Big Apple, but Mays says his heart is still in Dartmouth.
"I'm a small-town boy and I always will be. I know my roots and I'm always itching to get back and hang out with my family and friends. I get home-sick like hell sometimes for the little things; the view from the bridge, the beach, some of the local radio. And being from [Dartmouth] has really helped me stay grounded and keeps me focused on the one thing I love more than anything else; writing and playing music."
Writer: Stephen Clare