Winnipeg troubadour brings 'Working Holiday' to St. John's

Justin Brake
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Music

It was 2002 when Matt Epp discovered his musical calling. The aspiring filmmaker had just released his first skateboarding DVD to rave reviews and was getting offers to travel the world and make movies.

"I had just become inspired to sing and to write songs," he said. "I had deep feelings that this was the direction I needed go, so I gave up a lucrative career to pursue music."

Matt Epp

It was 2002 when Matt Epp discovered his musical calling. The aspiring filmmaker had just released his first skateboarding DVD to rave reviews and was getting offers to travel the world and make movies.

"I had just become inspired to sing and to write songs," he said. "I had deep feelings that this was the direction I needed go, so I gave up a lucrative career to pursue music."

There was a minor drawback to Epp's revelation: he couldn't sing or play.

"I was shitty," he laughed. "I had never sung before, so my voice was really weak, and I had never played guitar."

Seven years later, Winnipeg's latest indie pride has four independent releases under his belt, the latest of which is sure to catapult the young troubadour into sought-after status in Canada.

"Safe or Free" is a collection of 12 songs woven with the common theme of the absurdity of materialistic safety and security.

"It's not really possible to be safe and secure, which everyone strives for," Epp said. "And stepping out and taking risks exposes that, I think. But also in faith and in true love you can have a safety and security that allows you the freedom to step out and follow your heart."

The intuitive message is most evident in "Working Holiday," a song that originated in St. John's during Epp's first visit to Newfoundland about a year and a half ago.

He stayed with friend and local musician Mark Bragg and his family.

"It was pouring rain and the water was flying down the street," Epp recalls. "It was pouring so hard there was a big river splitting around the side of this corner store. (Mark) has a piano in the living room next to the window, and that's where I was sitting when I wrote the chorus, and then I started just making up a bunch of words and recorded them to my laptop," he said.

The song opens with the lines: "I wish you were with me walking around the St. John's Battery. Newfoundland feels like home, come home with me."

It's an upbeat, optimistic number inspired by a story Epp said Bragg shared about taking his family on the road with him to the Island's west coast for a family holiday.

The songs on the album "Safe or Free" range from the solemn and celebratory - "This Old House," "Hallelujah" and "Crying In Mexico" - to the virtuously desolate "They Won't Find The Bodies."

They go beyond the archetypal observations of everyday life, and through the words and music, convey a spiritual journey that brings the listener right to Epp's inner sanctum.

"Crying in Mexico" tells the story of a trek from San Diego to Tijuana with a close friend and prospective lover.

"We were going to just go there for the afternoon and hang out. I had never been in Tijuana," he said. "

And then it started pouring rain and we ran into this Cathedral and sat it out just talking in there. It got dark and the doors were flung open and the rain was crazy; it was coming down the walls and down the stain glass windows. It was casting this light washing up and down this painted ceiling. It looked like it was being painted then and there.

"There were all these people getting in off the street and homeless people were in there pretending to pray so they could sleep in the pews. Our conversation was just so intense and it lasted our entire stay there. We ran from there to a market and I didn't know Spanish well enough to order. And then we're standing there in the rain, we ditched the umbrella and tears were streaming, but no one could tell because it was raining so hard."

When Epp arrived in Vancouver a few days later he wrote the song, a delicate piano number and arguably his most significant accomplishment on the album.

St. John's and Halifax songstress Amelia Curran joins him on "Emergency Kiss," a song inspired by a dream Epp had of the same girl he travelled to Mexico with.

"In the dream she had finally kissed me ... on some remote beach," he said. "And when we got back there was an ambulance outside her grandma's place."

Epp said he and Curran met during his first trip to St. John's, during which they developed a sibling-like closeness.

"We became brother and sister and spent the entire week I was there hanging out together," he recalls. "When she was coming through (Winnipeg) on tour, I basically had to finish writing that song because I needed to make an excuse to record with her," he said.

As the bio on his web site explains, he prefers hitchhiking and homelessness to a fixed address, so his return to St. John's will be just another stop on his long journey, wherever he may be going.

"I had great times as a kid when I was hitchhiking," he said. "I remember those being times when I felt very close to God because you depend on everything other than yourself. I really appreciate in my life having opportunities where it's just out of my control, and it feels like it's a healthy thing because I give up the illusion that I can be in control."

Matt Epp returns to St. John's for a performance at The Ship tonight. The show is slated to begin after Amelia Curran's 8 p.m. concert at Cochrane Street United Church wraps up.

Organizations: Old House, Cochrane Street United Church

Geographic location: St. John's, Winnipeg, Newfoundland Mexico Canada Tijuana Iceland San Diego Vancouver

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments