By Will McGuirk
Mattie Leon is touring a new two song EP, “When Love is Strong / Caught Up” throughout Southern Ontario. Slowcity.ca caught up with the Brampton-born musician prior to his in-store at Kops Records Oshawa. He will be performing Thursday Jun 6 at 5:30 p.m. Matt Gunn will also be on the bill.
These lrecent tracks from Leon invoke the harmonic pop of Paul Simon, Billy Joel and the soulful sounds of Mick Hucknall but Leon says he owes the diversity of his work to John, Paul, George and Ringo; Paul mostly.
“The Beatles are my favourite band without a doubt. The variety. The melodies. The different eras. In 7 years they did so much. . . it’s insane! My favourite changes on an album to album basis . . . , George owns Abbey Road, Paul owns Let It Be, John owns everything before ‘65. If I had to choose one, though, it’s Paul. His exhausting mastery of melody continues to blow me away. . . I love his solo stuff after The Beatles too. . . Ram, Band On The Run.
Leon’s run through the province includes dates in Peterborough, Guelph, Orillia and Ottawa as well as the Second Wedge Brewery in Uxbridge. His 2017 album, ‘Signal Hill’ earned him a nomination for Emerging Artist at the 2018 Canadian Folk Music Awards. It was a departure from the R&B/Soul of his debut, ‘Terrace’ but he says he loves lyrics and folk leaves room for meaningful lyrics.
“I also love the storytelling in Folk music.,” he says. “Over the last few years I’ve been able to write songs about historical events and I love being able to weave those things into songs. . . it’s hard to pull off in other genres. I love R&B/Soul because of that pulse. Nothing feels quite as good as a good soul tune. At the end of the day I appreciate all kinds of music. I appreciate great musicianship and loud guitars. I just hold melody and lyrics above everything else.”
When writing songs Leon says he begins mostly with a riff or chord progression. A vocal melody comes quickly after but then the work starts and the completion of a song can take a lot longer.
“If I have the chord progression and vocal melody. . . that’s when things slow down for me. I’ll try and get an idea of where I want to go with the lyrics. . . and then I’ll write and edit and rewrite and edit. It’s a never ending cycle. Sometimes it takes weeks and months. . . lyrics take me quite a while. The thing with lyrics is that you only get to put out so many songs in a year. . . maybe a handful. I want to make each word count.” he says.
Well if it counts, Slowcity.ca also values craft and quality and Mattie Leon certainly earned that nomination for emerging artist. Should have won it.