Matt Epp came to us on a Western Canada house concert tour with his beloved wife and newborn daughter. Although born and raised in Crystal City, Manitoba, his experience touring the globe as a singer-songwriter has altered his identity as a Canadian, but not in the way you may think. He has a perspective and world view that does not necessarily identify with his birthplace, or anywhere for that matter in the sense of having one true home. There is a place he is from, and family to return to, but he shares a way of life that creates a sense of home wherever he is at any given time, in any given corner of the world. He is the living, breathing idiom of “Home is where the heart is.”
Having said all of this, the music is fantastic, not that anyone needs me to tell them that, just take your pick at the reams of articles, reviews, interviews, accolades, collaborations, 8 albums and countless tours that patch together the career to date of Matt Epp.
However, it doesn’t take long to discover that his music “career” is not at the forefront of his life. His most recent immersion into fatherhood has most definitely altered his focus and created a heightened emotional sense as parenthood tends to do, but his relationship to his music and why he does what he does is much more profound, which I will touch on later.
His show at Serenity was beautiful for many reasons. The audience was a dead heat split between regulars and newcomers. It is always interesting to see how house concert audiences are going to mesh, and what type of energy is going to be created between the artist and the crowd. On this night, for much of the first set you could hear a pin drop. Not so much in an awkward sense, but more in that everyone was incredibly invested in what Matt was sharing, and were feeding off his calm spirit. After the mid-break when the crowd had a chance to mingle and get to know him over homemade cheesecake and wine, things started to loosen up and there was an apparent shift heading into the show’s second half.
Matt began to show more of his fun loving side, his smile became a bit wider, and his laughter contagious. Inviting us all to become his back up singers for his song “Met Someone” sparked something and had the crowd showing enduring commitment until the last note. A great storyteller, his lead in to “Where Does It Go?” shared his encounter with a dancing grasshopper that coaxed out the song’s melody as he watched the setting sun on some steps in Spain. It is a great story. His planned ending to the show was emotionally wrought, as he performed the poetic “There Shall Be Peace” off his recently released album “Luma” (appropriately named after his child). After mounting applause, the crowd was left quiet and still until one voice kindly requested, “One more song?” There was an immediate resonating agreement from the room and his response was quite the treat. Matt playfully shared his unrecorded tune “Valentine” (you can find the video on YouTube) that had the crowd in stitches as we giggled along to his account of a childhood sweetheart turned heartbreak song of redemption. Pure bliss.
So yes, the music, the performance, all superb, as would be expected from a Juno award winning songwriter (okay, so maybe he didn’t technically win for “When You Know”, Serena Ryder did, but he co-wrote and recorded it so we arguably see it that way). But as is with most shows here in the Serenity house, it was the time shared afterwards around the kitchen table and washing the dishes by hand in the middle of the night that provided a deeper glimpse into the heart and soul of an artist whose message was clear as day.
For although Matt Epp may not fully embrace a physical place of belonging, he has created one of the spirit, a place he carries with him and invites others to join wherever he may travel. This “place” is Amoria, a state of intention to love and serve others. This metaphysical state was embodied by every interaction he extended to those attending his show. For those of us who stayed to listen to his philosophical and spiritual foundations into the night, there was a soulful sharing of his passions, fears, and love for his family, his fellow human beings, and above all else, God.
As someone who has skirted my way in and out of faith and spiritual beliefs, the short time spent with this one man left quite the impression. As my reflections deepened, the brief connection shared with him as a person revealed a deeper inner peace and reverence for the love that God provides. There is not the space to expand on this here, yet it holds profound relevance to the essence of Matt Epp.
Matt Epp is an artist whose music and presence has the ability to be a catalyst for a transforming experience. Heartfelt gratitude is due for having him share his artistic journey with us. It is critical that he, and other artists, are acknowledged for the goodness their life’s work brings to the world. The value music provides to those who receive it is immeasurable, whether we fully comprehend its worth or not. Here’s to the continual healing that music can provide for the human spirit, and to those who dedicate their lives to create it.
Matt Epp performed at Serenity Performing Arts Centre on November 21, 2014.
He concludes his Western Canada house concert tour on December 6, 2014 in Vancouver, BC.
Matt and his family will be heading to Europe for a spring tour that begins in Germany starting April 2015.
To stay up to date on his touring schedule, links to album downloads, social media feeds and more, visit his website at http://www.mattepp.com