Taking the DIY route let Matt Mays geek out on his own in the studio
Canuck rocker Matt Mays has worked with some mighty high-profile producers and engineers over the years. In 2005, for the self-titled Matt Mays + El Torpedo album, he acquired the services of Grammy winner Don Smith, whose credits include U2, Bob Dylan, and the Stones. Three years later, for his Terminal Romance disc, Mays shared the studio with Chris Tsangarides, the Brit whose name will forever resonate with rockheads for his helming of Thin Lizzy’s final album with Phil Lynott, Thunder and Lightning.
But for his new album Coyote, the 33-year-old singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist left the big-name producers behind and took the DIY route.
“I just wanted to sort of geek out on my own,” says Mays from the road just outside of Kingston, Ontario, “to take my time and see where I was at musically. I produced my first album myself, and it’s been almost 10 years since then, so I kinda wanted to check in and see what I could do on my own again.”
The self-producer role came with some hairy moments this time around, however. Like the day when Mays was booked for a mixing session in New York City and the tapes didn’t arrive. He managed to make use of the expensive downtime by recording a song he’d penned the night before, recruiting a local drummer and performing all the other instruments himself.
That quickly assembled track became Coyote’s first single, “Take It on Faith”, a melodic rocker in the same catchy vein as Mays’s 2005 hit “Cocaine Cowgirl”. The tune exudes an upbeat, positive vibe—at least until you see the video that was shot for it outside of Palm Springs, California, near the Mexican border. It depicts a longhaired yahoo (Mays) stealing a lovely señorita away from her frantic mother for an afternoon of drug-fuelled debauchery in the desert sun. After much praying by the mom, a pair of wolves come racing out of nowhere to make lunch of the sprawling lovers. The message is pretty obvious.
“Sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll don’t always pay off,” Mays points out with a chuckle.
Besides the Big Apple, Mays recorded Coyote at four separate studios in Nova Scotia, including one called the Shed in the coastal town of Prospect. The CD booklet folds out into a mini poster of Mays twiddling the knobs on the Shed’s console while his impressive array of Gretch guitars occupies the couch behind him. His long-time friend Tim Jim Baker—who coproduced Mays’s 2006 release When the Angels Make Contact—owns the place.
“Tim and I have been making music together since we were kids,” Mays notes, “and it’s just the shed in his back yard. So we just threw all our gear in there, and it’s gradually turning into an awesome little studio.”
Mays has also been using the Shed to record an up-and-coming band out of Charlottetown, P.E.I., called the Meds, which is touring all the way across Canada with him.
“I produced their album for them over the last few years,” he says, “and it’s gonna be coming out pretty soon. It’s a two-guitar/bass/drums sorta thing, rock ’n’ roll with introspective lyrics. They’re a really killer band.”
Matt Mays plays the Commodore Ballroom on Wednesday (October 24).