Interview: Matt Dusk

Matt Dusk

Matthew-Aaron “Matt” Dusk is a Canadian jazz vocalist. He has four certified gold albums, two certified platinum albums and three number one radio hits. From the earliest of days singing in St Michael’s Choir, he knew he wanted to be a performer. Later he graduated from York University where he studied jazz and was awarded the Oscar Peterson Scholarship. Before signing his first record deal, he’d released 4 independent albums, but it was his “debut album” Two Shots on Decca Records that caught everyone’s ear and was certified Gold that same year. Six more albums followed, TV appearances in FOX’s The Casino, write the theme song for Call Me Fitz, a PBS special and now after close to twenty years, he shows no signs of letting up. His latest release JetSetJazz was recently certified Gold and he’s more excited than ever to return to his musical roots. I spoke with him by phone and it felt like we’d known each other for years….

Mb: Hey Matt!
Matt: What’s up Michael? You ready for turkey, or what?
Mb: Well, I’m veg, so no.
Matt: That’s alright. You can have lots of butternut squash and sweet potatoes and…
Mb: What about you, ready? You sound like a turkey-dude.
Matt: Well, um, I’m ready… We’re just hosting a big family dinner. There was a couple of years where I was in between homes, so couldn’t really host. So, it’s nice to have the family back together. I actually like my family. It’s kinda weird. (laughs) They’re all crazy, but we get along. It’s nice to have a long weekend and catch-up, right?
Mb: Is your family on both sides of the political spectrum? This is the time to have those conversations with family, about the election, no?
Matt: That, or abortions are usually good ones. (laughs)
Mb: O.K! There’s a segue to someplace else…. So, you’re coming back to Peterborough.
Matt: The last time we played there, I think we did the Festival of Lights a couple of times, with rain dates. Back in the day, I can remember wanting to stay as late as possible, just to watch all the fireworks, which was great. This time, unfortunately not as warm, but glad to be coming back!
Mb: Well, it’s indoors so there’s that…
Matt: There’s no chance of rain, unless the sprinkler system breaks. The people who come out are going to have a fun trip down memory lane. We do a real nice retro look on this great music that has kind of been forgotten, believe it or not.
Mb: And by that you mean, big band, male swing vocalists like Sinatra…
Matt: Dean Martin… there’s contemporary crooners like myself, Michael Buble, Harry Conick, but ever since the streaming world has come out, it’s interesting to see the decline of awareness of this music from the younger generation. So, for us, sometimes when we do shows, we literally have people who are in their twenties who have never heard of Frank Sinatra before. It’s actually quite funny.
Mb: That’s crazy…
Matt: (laughs) Well, you and I are old, that’s why. We can laugh about it.
Mb: And let’s talk about this record. At first glance, I thought you were doing an album of Sinatra covers. But in fact, it’s 10 original times… and I have to tell you, as someone who has sung Sinatra my entire adult life, I was blown away by it. I literally thought a few tunes were songs I was unaware of. You especially captured the spirit of Nelson Riddle’s arrangements and Frank’s phrasing.
Matt: The best thing about being alive now, and having access to… the plus side of the digital streaming is that you literally have access to so much material. Being an arranger, songwriter and after listening to this stuff for so many years, it basically blends in to your style. Although you can sing Fly Me To The Moon, are you singing it exact? That’s almost impossible. You’re going to cheese it up a little, or a little of this, so on this new record we were like “What if Sinatra never recorded these songs?” And it’s funny because sometimes when we play them for people, they’re like “Oh ya, I’ve heard this song.” We’re like “Ok, cool!” (laughs)
Mb: I bet. I was almost one of those people! And you’re band, truly in the spirit of Nelson Riddle’s band…
Matt: Well, they were drinking spirits, if that counts.
Mb: Well, hats off. As you said, these maybe the songs Sinatra didn’t record.
Matt: Well thank you. It’s interesting because, even though we create new recordings and new songs and new arrangements, there’s still those great standards that we love to do because they’re so part of our up-bringing, right? A lot of those songs are rooted in the first time you heard them. Where you were in your life. What you did, simpler times. When we do this show, we’re trying to make people come and relive some of those cool moments that we all romanticize about and try not to think about throwing the laundry in the dryer-cycle when we get home. We try to make it an escapism for people.
Mb: Seems to work?
Matt: I think it does, they usually don’t leave. (laughs) I mean, every audience and every performer and every music has a place. I don’t know if I was performing at an Anthrax reunion party, people would care. (laughs)
Mb: Speaking of gigs, I saw you have a couple of nights in Vegas on this tour and I thought, “I bet you’d love to have played The Sands.”
Matt: It’s funny. We really glorify The Sands because of all the great entertainment that went through there, and of course, Sinatra: Live At The Sands, which in my opinion, as a male crooner, is the Golden Standard. That room could seat maybe the high 300’s? So imagine a big band, in a super small room, with the most exclusive ticket in town, you couldn’t buy a seat… You’ve got one of Hollywood’s most powerful actors, and musicians… Venues kind of exploded after that. You get The Beatles in stadiums and Woodstock and festivals, and that was kind of the end of that small intimate, awesome sound. So ya, I wish The Sands was still there.
Mb: There are some great small rooms still, but then the ticket cost is through the roof. This music is for an intimate setting, sitting with your date, the romance. You can’t get that in an arena.
Matt: I remember when I went to see Justin Timberlake play at the ACC. It was a small venue for him. 18,000 seats? (laughs) I’m sitting closer to the front, second or third row and you just can’t see the back. It’s a different experience. But for this kind of music, you feel like you are being brought back to the past. At the end of the day, our show is a ton of fun and we get the audience singing and clapping along. So think “Tonight’s the night and walk everyday like it’s your last above ground.” Have fun!

Matt Dusk appears at Showplace
Sunday, November 17, 2019 at 8:00pm

Read more: www.mattdusk.com