Singer-songwriter Mattie Leon has a catchy and soulful folk/pop style, and the most amazing singing voice – one that he describes as… a bit like Paul Simon, solo Paul McCartney or James Taylor – but just a little higher! Mattie joins us on Episode 594 of Folk Roots Radio for a fun conversation about his latest album “In Natural Light”, which was recorded with JUNO-award winning producer Gavin Brown (Sarah Harmer, Metric, Barenaked Ladies). As always, we wrap up the rest of the hour with more new music and this time around we hear from Amy Speace with The Orphan Brigade, Aoife O’Donovan, Jesse Terry, Mick McAuley, The Piros, Shawna Caspi, Janet Cull, Bobby Dove and Del Barber. Check out the full playlist below.
Recently signed by boutique record label and management company Inside Pocket Music, Mattie Leon‘s latest album In Natural Light was recorded at Noble St Studios in Toronto with JUNO-award winning producer and label founder, Gavin Brown. Mattie was joined in the studio by his brother and long time collaborator Mike Leon on drums with further musical support from Gavin Brown on guitar.
Mattie Leon usually plays live with brother Mike, however when the situation permits, they are also joined by fellow singer-songwriter Nelson Sobral on bass and backing vocals.
We hope to make the full Mattie Leon video interview available shortly. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, you might enjoy a fun interview and some live songs we recorded with Mattie Leon in the Folk Roots Radio studio in 2019.
You can also check out the three live songs Mattie played in the studio on our YouTube channel.
For more information about the music of Mattie Leon, visit mattieleon.com.
Amy Speace released “There Used To Be Horses Here” earlier this year. She’s never sounded better. The new recording is a collection of songs that reflect on personal experiences from her childhood through coming of age in New York City. It was written while looking back on a twelve-month span between her son’s first birthday and the loss of her father – losing a parent while rapidly learning to become one yourself.
“The best songs I have written have been since my son was born when I thought I was going to lose all creative powers to mothering — and it didn’t happen. It kicked it into high gear and made me think, ‘I may not have much time left on the planet. Maybe I should just get to the point.’”
For this project, Amy worked with Nashville based band The Orphan Brigade (Neilson Hubbard, Ben Glover and Joshua Britt) who collaborated on the project as both songwriters and producers.
“While I was singing over what those guys were playing, it made me feel like I was flying. Every vocal performance on the album is the first or second take. The musicians in the room are finding their way – in the moment. As a producer you need to make sure you press ‘Record’ while musicians are fumbling, because while they’re trying it out is when the magic happens. You should never let anything be perfect.”
Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Aoife O’Donovan, who is also a co-founder of both I’m With Her and Crooked Still, has released a beautiful new single “Transatlantic”, which also features harmony vocals from Scottish folk musician Kris Drever. Part love song, it also speaks to the uncertainty of the current times.
“I started writing “Transatlantic” many years ago – after one of my frequent trips across the pond. The lyric started as a classic love song, but when I dusted it off to complete it for this project with the Irish Art Center, it became something different. I felt strangely moved by the nostalgia and longing for camaraderie, innocently described by my pre-pandemic self. As I finished the tune in January of this year – feeling certain of nothing but the uncertainty of these times – I immediately began to hear the voice of Kris Drever, a friend based in Glasgow. Kris enlisted his trio mates Euan Burton and Louis Abbott to be the rhythm section, and layered the recording with the inimitable strings of Jeremy Kittel. I couldn’t be happier with the final result.”
“If I Were The Moon” comes from Connecticut Singer-songwriter Jesse Terry‘s seventh solo album, “When We Wander”, the first he’s released since becoming a parent. It’s a beautiful song which comes with a lovely video featuring his young son – one that can’t help but give you goosebumps.
This song is now in the process of being turned into a children’s book – by first time authors Jesse Terry and his wife Jessica. The pandemic providing the perfect opportunity to work on the project.
“When I started performing the song, my audience immediately responded and urged me to adapt the song into a children’s book. When the pandemic hit, my wife and I made a vow to fulfill that vision.”
Mick McAuley‘s “The Folly Of Being Comforted” comes from I Am Of Ireland – Yeats In Song , a new project featuring top class Celtic artists on twenty four William Butler Yeats poems set to music by Raymond Driver.
“William Butler Yeats wrote that he wanted his poetry to be spoken on stage or sung. Much of his poetry is inherently musical with its hauntingly beautiful words and simple rhyme schemes. “I am of Ireland/Yeats in Song” is a collection of twenty-four Yeats poems I set to music, a musical celebration of the poet and Ireland. For the past two years a number of legendary and gifted Celtic artists have recorded my settings (or songs) using traditional instruments. It has been a labour of love. Hopefully it will survive as a fitting homage to W. B. Yeats, the man who inspired it.”
The instrumental on this episode “Half Irish” comes from “Brandywine Ridge”, the latest release from old-time band The Piros who hail from Chester County PA. Brandywine Ridge brings together a mix of traditional and original fiddle tunes while also taking you on a journey from Appalachia to Missouri, and then on to Ireland and East Africa before heading back home to Pennsylvania.
Toronto singer-songwriter Shawna Caspi has released “Wait Love”, the second single from her upcoming album “Hurricane Coming” – a fascinating project that pairs Shawna’s songs with her own visual art. For Wait Love, that meant an abstract piece inspired by pyrography (the art of writing with fire).
“Wood is a living thing, and every living thing reacts to a flame in a unique way. Pyrography is the art of writing with fire – there is an element of danger in that, but the result is a work of beauty. The bold lines and marks of wood-burning mirror the scars left in the wake of a turbulent relationship and are depicted in the painting with prints and etchings in contrasting colours.”
St Johns NF vocal powerhouse Janet Cull has released a great new collection of deeply personal and soulful songs as her third album “Hear It”. On this episode we play the lead off track “The Only Thing Changing”, a powerful song about the aftermath of a broken affair.
“This album consists entirely of original songs that came from a very deep place within myself. I had some friends co-write some of the music to certain tracks, but the content is derived from my experience. I was living what I’m singing about, and I’ve never shared such personal things on any of my other albums.”
Bobby Dove‘s “Chance in Hell” comes from her 11-track Americana Country album “Hopeless Romantic” which was co-produced with Bazil Donovan (Blue Rodeo) and Tim Vesely (Rheostatics) at The Woodshed studio in Toronto. It features Jimmy Bowskill (The Sheepdogs, Blue Rodeo), Burke Carroll (Kathleen Edwards) as well as guest vocalist Jenny Whiteley and on this track, Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy.
Manitoba’s Del Barber is a wonderful songwriter and produced one of our favourite albums of 2019, “Easy Keeper”. Del’s back with a great new album, “Stray Dogs (Collected B-Sides Volume 1)”. A true pandemic-inspired recording it takes as its source material, demos of songs that had not yet made it on to an album. Well, they are out there now. From Stray Dogs, we wrapped this episode up with the beautiful “Nothing Left To Find”.
“When the pandemic began I was lost, scared about the future and in the depths of an unprecedented creative slump. I’ve written every other record with a tight vision, a thesis, a picture in mind, subject matter chosen. I’ve written them all with what I thought was a clear narrative thread. This record, however, is a group of songs that ended up together but were never intended to live together—a funny looking pack of stray dogs, different shapes, different pictures, whose differences give them their personality as a whole.”
That’s all we have time for. Thanks to all the artists who share their music with us, and thank you for listening. We have lots of great music and interviews to bring you on future episodes.
If you enjoy the music we play on this show and want to support the artists – many of whom aren’t able to play live at the moment because of the Covid-19 pandemic, don’t just stream their music – that earns them much less than a penny per play. Instead, buy their music – and really make a difference to their income. They’ll love you for it!
Image credit: Mattie Leon by Ryley Dawson.
You can listen to this episode again on Soundcloud by following the link below. You can also listen to episodes of Folk Roots Radio, on demand, via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Tune-in Radio. (Click on the highlighted link to reach your chosen platform.)
Nicolas & The Iceni (Theme)
Lucy She Rises
Roll Right (2019, self)
If I Were The Moon
When We Wander (2021, Wander Records)
Brandywine Ridge (2020, The Gallery)
How Could I Want Someone
In Natural Light (2021, Self) CDN
Interview: Mattie Leon discussing his new label deal and latest album “In Natural Light”.
In Natural Light (2021, Self) CDN
All The Time
In Natural Light (2021, Self) CDN
Hurricane Coming (2021, Self) CDN
The Only Thing Changing
Hear It (2021, Self) CDN
Chance in Hell (with Jim Cuddy)
Hopeless Romantic (2021, Self) CDN
Nothing Left To Find
Stray Dogs (Collected B-Sides Volume 1) (2021, Acronym Records) CDN