Q&A with Headwater's Matt Bryant


Talking Jazz Festival and Vancouver Music

Whether you're hankering for some folksy string music with some pop or just In need of a little entertainment on a BC Ferry ride to Vancouver Island, Headwater has you covered. While the Vancouver-based quartet calls the forward lounge of a BC Ferry one of its favourite venues to play  --  the band sets up wherever there's room and start playing for anyone who's interested -- the band, formed in 2001, is much more than a side attraction. It brings a fresh acoustic sound to clubs and music halls all over Vancouver, including a performance at the annual TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, which runs June 25-July 4 and will feature more than 400 concerts at various locations throughout the city.

This year marks the fourth time Headwater has peformed at the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival 2010, which takes over clubs and venues around Vancouver for two weeks, so we checked in with Matt Bryant -- the band's mandolin-player and vocalist -- about the event, the state of the city's music scene and, yes, playing concerts on a ferry.



Q: Your music, in five words or less...
Matt Bryant: Twangy, indie, folk, pop.

Q: How does this fit into Vancouver's music scene?
MB: Our sound fits in great here. There's a strong, younger folk movement in Vancouver that we're part of. Also, the way we write is really universal. We just love good songs, regardless of the genre they fit into. So even people that aren't into folk or country can dig our stuff because we don't necessarily write it in a folk or country way. We're sort of like a pop/rock band that plays all acoustic instruments and likes bluegrass more than the average band.

Q: The Vancouver International Jazz Festival is here. Is it as good as advertised?
MB: The Jazz Festival is the best and most diverse festival in the city, in my opinion. Coastal Jazz does an amazing job putting it together every year and pulling in amazing artists from around the world.

Q: For Headwater, being a part of the Jazz Festival means...
MB: It means raising the bar to perform with other world-class acts. But really we're comfortable on festival stages, and it means putting on a great show like we try to do every gig.

Q: How does an acoustic-roots band get into a jazz festival? Are you swapping the banjo for a sax?
MB: As I mentioned earlier, the Jazz Festival here is amazingly diverse in their programming. We have a bit of a jazz element in that a lot of our playing is improvisational, and that we'll take weird new directions on stage. I guess the staff at Coastal Jazz thinks we fit the bill for what they're looking for, and they keep booking us, which we appreciate a lot. But no, no saxophone. Maybe a few vocal scat solos for spice.

Q: Let's shift to the year round music scene. Scale of 1-10, where does it rate compared to other Northwest cities?
MB: I'm not sure how to answer that. I haven't spent enough time anywhere else to rank things like that.

Q: Then tell us your thoughts on the local, year-round scene.
MB: I think Vancouver has a great, if a little fragmented, music scene. We've always had good crowds and a good response here -- so I'd rank it really high. But I'm sure it's tough for rock bands here. There are fewer and fewer big, loud rock venues that you can play. We're lucky because we can play totally unplugged in someone's living room if we want to. Or in the forward lounge of a BC Ferry, which we've been known to do.

Q: What do you think is Vancouver's strongest genre?
MB: Folk or country, I think. We've got great acts like Dan Mangan, Dustin Bentall, ourselves and lots more doing really huge stuff. We all fall into a similar style, I guess. There's something about Vancouver Americana stuff that's really hot right now.

Q: Is it easy to break into the local music scene?
MB: It was really hard for us. It took a lot of work. Not that people didn't like the music -- our tunes were always an easy sell. But trying to carve out our niche and finding likeminded people to work with took some doing. We did lots of stuff to break in -- busking, giving away CDs at shows, opening for other bands, working for free, and the aforementioned playing in the forward lounge of the BC Ferry. Seriously, we've played to more people and sold more CDs there than anywhere else.

Q: "Hearing Headwater is like listening to the West Coast of Canada in song." We took that from your website. Explain what you mean. Are there any songs that particularly embody that statement?
MB: We're really rooted here in Vancouver. The city really inspires us, as does the surrounding countryside. We love this part of the world and are happy every time we come back to it. That love comes out in our playing and writing. Also, a reviewer wrote that line, so maybe he heard something I can't explain too well.

Q: From an outsiders' perspective, it seems Granville Street is where the live music is. Thoughts on that observation?
MB: From my point of view the live music is on Commercial Drive. East Van is really becoming (maybe it's always been) the cultural centre of the city. Granville has lots of live music going on, but it's mostly Top 40 cover stuff. Or at least it was last I was there. I spend most of my time in East Van. Maybe I'm a little sheltered.

Q: What's your favourite venue to play in the city?
MB: Forward lounge, BC Ferry. Well, actually probably The Cultch, where we're doing our show on June 24th, is our favourite to play. It's gorgeous inside and sounds amazing.

Upcoming shows:

8pm, June 24 at The Cultch, 1895 Venables St.

Jazz Festival: 1pm, June 27 at Jack Louks Courth, 145 West 1st St.

9:30pm, June 29 at Jericho Folk Club, 1300 Discovery St.

7pm, July 9, Lynn Valley Library, Lynn Valley Road and Mountain Highway

    For more:

    TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, June 25-July 4, 2010, at various venues throughout Vancouver. Call 604-872-5200 for info.

    Headwater music on iTunes

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