Matt Mays calls Dartmouth the New Jersey of Nova Scotia. If that's the case, you could say he is the Bruce Springsteen of the Maritimes. Songs about life in Mays' unheralded hometown located on the other side of the big city are reminiscent of how Springsteen so often wrote about the characters on the Jersey Shore during his early career. In "Queen of Portland Street" and "City of Lakes," Mays celebrates aspects of life on the east coast that might otherwise seem bleak.
His success, which began a decade ago as a member of the Halifax outfit The Guthries, has given Mays the opportunity to journey across Canada and beyond. He has lived in New York for six years and also spent time in Costa Rica. Like Springsteen and other fine songwriters, the influence of travel has impacted Mays' craft. Several of his songs have to do with life in a car, or, in the case of his hit "On the Hood," idling away on top of one.
"I love driving a lot. It's just something I've always done -- get in a car and go," Mays said prior to a show at the Trailside Cafe in Prince Edward Island that preceded his cross-Canada tour in the fall. He was interviewed as part of Vacay.ca's Rock 'n Roll Road Trips series, which features musicians discussing their travels.
As Mays noted, road life can be arduous for Canadian musicians. The winter weather is notorious for curtailing tours and postponing gigs. Jokingly, Mays said, "It's what it must be like to kill a man. The first time must be tough but every time after that must be easier -- that's what touring Canada is like."
Making the journey, though, can be inspiring. Mays has recorded evocative lyrics about the Canadian landscape, including in "Spoonful of Sugar" where he sings about missing home while on the road:
"Lookin' for answers through the night owl's window
A million miles an hour through the wind n' snow
A spoonful of sugar in Montreal city
Nothing can cure this homesick disease
This fall the trees fell before the leaves"
His latest album, Coyote was released on September 4 and the first single, "Take It On Faith," is one of his finest songs.
"I have this realization of death, that I'm not going to be around here forever," he said introspectively while sipping on an ale from a Charlottetown microbrewery. "I like travelling so much because I get to see places I haven't been and I feel like I'm here for such a short time, why not see this world that we somehow made it on to? And I think in turn that comes out hopefully in my songwriting."
To read more and to see a video of Mays talking about his favourite travel moments while also playing an acoustic version of "Take It On Faith," visit Vacay.ca.