Matthew Hornell goes it alone
Matthew Hornell sings with the Diamond Minds at Club One March 2. The group opened for Bedouin Soundclash. — Photo by Sandra Lee Elford/Special to The Telegram
Grand Falls-Windsor - Despite some rumours that Matthew Hornell and the Diamond Minds are "breaking up," that is not how the scenario went, according to Hornell.
"It's a matter of choices that we all made," the Grand Falls-Windsor native said.
Last week when The Advertiser caught up with Hornell in Corner Brook on his solo tour, he knew all the Diamond Minds' whereabouts, right down to Paddy Byrne, the band's bass player, who is also a Grand Falls-Windsor native, being on his way back from the Bonnaroo Music Festival.
Other members - Joshua Bourden on drums and keyboard, and Jonathan Bungay on mandolin and electric guitar - are also still on the island.
"When I was in St. John's I got to see the other guys, Josh and Johnny," Hornell said. "They are all doing their own thing and staying musical and we all chat. We still have a few shows together over the summer, but after that, due to certain things like relationships, education, careers, we will no longer be playing together as a quartet as we once were. The band can't play together anymore due to certain commitments we have all made in our lives. We had a lot of fun while we were doing it and I think the guys wish me well. I know they do."
Hornell is embarking on a solo tour for the first time in recent years.
"A long, long time ago I went on a hitchhiking tour as a solo musician out to Nova Scotia and played a couple shows out around there," he said, adding also at times when venues wanted a solo act instead of a full band he would play by himself as well.
"This is my first time presenting myself, really, musically, as a solo performer."
He began the tour at The Bar Room in Corner Brook, and will finish the tour in this province as well.
He also played a full house all-age show at Murph's Café in his hometown.
"That was great," Hornell said. "For me it's always nice to be back in to Grand Falls-Windsor for a lot of reasons, but a lot of the personal things kind of come up a little bit, you know, like 'ah man, I remember this' and 'I remember that.' And I had to go into Donnini's to have a slice because that's what I grew up doing and the donair sauce remains superb."
He added that although he enjoys playing at bars and other bigger venues, it was nice to perform at the café.
"The café is nice because it's a little bit easier to have a chat afterwards, or at least one that everyone remembers," he said. "It's nice sometimes not having to sing out over a bar. That's like my thing for the whole tour, there are going to be lots of bar shows as well, but it's just nice sometimes to sit in a café, 25-30 people, where no one is talking, everyone is just listening. That kind of respect is very enjoyable."
The shows in St. John's included poetry and literature readings, including a reading by Arts and Letters award winner Aimee Wall of Grand Falls-Windsor.
"She grew up on Gardner Street just down the road from me," Hornell said. "It's nice to have a friend from Grand Falls-Windsor in support. That's what the whole thing will be, not having a band, but still having a collection of friends and musicians and writers, building up a bit of a community."
Hornell added he is trying out new material, different arrangements, and some of the old favourites, too.
"Obviously when you take out musicians that are as talented and integral as the three boys - Paddy and Johnny and Josh - something needs to shift in the songs," he said. "The guys added so many interesting layers to some of the songs, the core of the songs still stay the same, but all that other stuff is changed, so now I think I have created new ways to make the songs special.
"I think people have enjoyed it. It's a little refreshing."
There are also some changes to the website, which can be found at www.matthewhornell.com, and an updated bio is available.
"I am just going to be going under my name from now on for whatever musical project that is around some of those songs," he said. "Who knows, in the future I could do anything else, but for now it's just easy, especially in a transient period in my life, it's a lot nicer and more manageable to just go under the one name.
"It's fun, it's exciting, it's refreshing, new life to the songs, old-new car, not as much gear."
However, he will be the first to admit he misses the other band members.
"It's totally sad to lose the boys, especially due to their versatility," he said. "They are very open-minded and limitless players. It's sad to not have them in so many ways. You pull up to a show and sometimes you don't know anybody in this room besides these other three guys there and now it's going to be, 'Oh, you know nobody in this room.'"
He added it is tough being in a touring band, and eventually the question "what am I going to do with the rest of my life?" is bound to come up.
"It's tough (to say) I am going to spend my life in a van with a bunch of guys all the time, away from the people that I love in my life and away from, often, a lot of security that is missed," he said. "Part of me is I am this little kid with the dream of, hey, let's run around the country and play music, so that is what I am going to continue to do."
He has dates across Canada, from New Brunswick, Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario before returning to this province to end the tour.
Matthew Hornell and the Diamond Minds will reunite in August for some Newfoundland shows, and in September Hornell hopes to start recording the sophomore album, which will include a lot of players.
"If I record, I don't think the guys are opposed to recording with me," he said, adding the record will probably be released in 2012.
For now, he is trying out some new material to see how people react to it. He said he has also been playing electric guitar, which is a change for him. He said the response and support for the shows so far has been great.
"Thank you so much to everyone that has been supporting me so far and, hopefully, people will continue to identify with the songs and enjoy the live performances and we'll just keep growing on it from there," he said.
"There is certainly no security in it at all, but it's a lot of fun and you get to sing your songs for people. That's all I really want to do. I just want to sing songs for people and hope they like it and try to be able to keep my head afloat. I just want to be a singer and a songwriter from Newfoundland."