Montreal Folk Music: The Man to Know – Matt Large

Matt Large

Matt Large

“The term folk music is something that I think about a lot”, says Matt Large co-director of Hello Darlin’ Productions during our chat at Les Copains D’Abord where we talked about music, his projects, and the Montreal Folk Community.

“For me, the term Folk music can be best articulated as singer-songwriter music,” Matt explains. “After the Bob Dylan era and the post 60’s revolution, folk music really became identified in pop culture as a woman or a man with their guitar and it kind of had a granola overtone to it. So, I don’t want to fight the modern vernacular and if that’s the lexicon people want to employ then I’ll go with it and we can call that folk. To describe what I personally define as folk music I use the term Traditional music. Because traditional music is music that doesn’t have a beginning or an end, hasn’t come from one particular source but has evolved culturally like traditional Appalachian fiddle music.”

Montreal Folk FestivalAfter many years of working with bands and being a roadie to a death metal band in Toronto, Matt moved to Montreal for his studies at McGill. Matt and his partner Rebecca, who is also his partner at Hello Darlin’, encountered many talented singer-songwriters who lacked a viable outlet to showcase and expose their music in Montreal. Many artists that they encountered in the folk festival circuit seemed to be skipping Montreal. The two decided to try and fill, in earnest, this undefined underdeveloped space in the Montreal music scene and began working with acts like David Francey, now a good friend of Matt’s, and younger up and coming artists like Old Man Ludecke. They began by booking shows at Club Zone, (which became Club One and is now defunct), where they launched the Wintergreen Series back in 2003. Now, they are situated at Petit Campus which, Matt stresses, “Is an incredible supporter and sponsor”. Hello Darlin’ Productions trys to hold most of their shows at the same venue and every year their program continues to grow: “Our first year, we did one show. Our second year, we did six shows. Now we are probably doing around fifty shows.”

Five years ago, Matt and Rebecca’s work evolved into a Folk Festival. I had the pleasure of volunteering for the Folk Festival on the Canal last summer and found the experience amazing. This year the Fest is moving from the McAuslan grounds down to îlot Charlevoix- at the north-west corner of St-Patrick and Charlevoix street in the Arrondissement Sud-Ouest. The McAuslan Brewery will continue to be involved as partners and sponsors: “Peter McAuslan runs one of the best breweries in the province, and the country. He supports music like no other patron in this province.” Parks Canada has joined in as a big underwriter and supporter of the festival and the Arrondissement Sud-Ouest has come up with $25k to sponsor the event. The full programming for the Fest will be announced this week.

These days Matt is listening to the Stanley Brothers and Bruce Springsteen: “Springsteen was probably my biggest and first big pop-rock idol. I got introduced to his music through my cousin really early, at around eight or nine years old. I had all his records that had been put out on tape. I’m plowing through Darkness on the Edge of Town again and a bunch of the tracks that were unreleased from all those sessions. I think unbeknownst to me he has shaped my music writing style and now I’m kind of realizing that it had a subliminal effect on how I try to tell stories.”

Notre Dame de Grass
Left to right: Joe Grass, Josh Zubot, Andrew Horton, Matt Large, and Guy Donis.

Matt is the lead singer of Notre Dame de Grass and is co-organizer of the Barfly Sunday Night Bluegrass and Old Time Country Jam that has been taking place weekly for fourteen years. “For myself as a musician in Montreal, if I didn’t have this community I wouldn’t have been able to sustain this band” Matt underlines. He has seen lots of bands coalesce out of the Sunday jams and a lot of musical exchanges: “We push each other to learn more, play better. There are a number of jams all across town and a number of venues that support that kind of collaboration. In terms of the musician aspect of a folk community, without that interchange it’s impossible for us to create a community. We need each other to push and someone to bring in an old recording of a fiddle player that’s just been made available from the Alan Lomax Collection that some might know and some might not but this constant sharing and introduction to old sounds is very, very important.”

For Matt, who has been an integral force behind the Montreal Folk community, an ideal folk community comprises, “a multi-disciplinary artistic community that doesn’t necessarily just support folk music. An ideal community is something where people can afford to support one another’s public and/or private ventures.”

Photos courtesy of Matt Large

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