Sound stripped down

Matthew Barber recorded his self-titled album in his basement

Barber was nominated for a 2011 Canadian Folk Music Award on Oct. 19.
Barber was nominated for a 2011 Canadian Folk Music Award on Oct. 19.

Matthew Barber’s self-titled album was nominated for the Canadian Folk Music Award’s (CFMA) Contemporary Singer of the Year last month. The singer-songwriter didn’t even submit his record for the awards.

“It was a surprise,” Barber said. “I didn’t even know they existed. I guess my record label had submitted me for it without me knowing, but it’s always nice to be acknowledged.”

The nomination is especially impressive considering Barber’s new album was recorded in his basement, using an analog eight-track recorder.

“I always like to record on tape and I’ve always done a lot of home recording over the years,” he said. “I have never really had the guts to release any of that stuff as an official album, but I think I’ve been getting better at recording as I’ve been going along.

“I wanted to make an album for zero budget basically and have it be a real solo project and work at home.”

The new album is Barber’s sixth. His recording style is influenced by Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. Barber was reading Richards’ biography, Life, while recording Matthew Barber.

“[Richards] kind of confirmed my recording approach of doing it on eight-tracks and keeping everything stripped down.”

Barber’s enthusiasm for the music of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s is evident on his latest record. Despite his love for music eras past, he insists on the value of the present.

“I think you have to embrace the time that you’re in because it’s a recipe for disappointment if you’re yearning for other times,” he said. “The fact that people all over the world can listen to your music for free at the click of a button is pretty mind-blowing.”

Barber is currently touring Ontario, playing shows from Peterborough to Toronto. He said he looks for a balance between touring and recording.

“It’s nice to be able to go back and forth between the two because you can get a little burned out playing shows and it’s nice to put your creative forces into a different thing,” he said. “I love them both, but touring is pretty tough to beat, traveling around and playing shows.”

Barber said his ideal touring partner would be Joni Mitchell.

“I like touring with women because they’re a nice balance on the road,” he said. “I would just like to be mesmerized by her music every night. It seems like it would be pretty amazing. And she seems like she’d like to have a good time.”

Music wasn’t always Barber’s main passion. He said he was around 15 when he transitioned from being obsessed with sports to being more involved in his music. But his childhood obsession with sports didn’t fade completely.

“I’m a hockey player. I’ve been doing it my whole life; it’s kind of in my blood,” he said. “I’m a [Maple] Leafs fan, so I take my share of punishment, but there are occasional glimpses of hope [for the team].”

Matthew Barber plays the Grad Club tonight. Doors open at 9 p.m. and the show starts at 10 p.m.

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