Ex-pat bluesman back in the UK

It was his dad’s record collection that first gave Matt Schofield the blues.

Matt, who does his biggest UK tour for a while this autumn, including a date at Shoreham’s Ropetackle on Thursday, November 20, (01273 455992), fell under the spell of the likes of BB King and Muddy Waters.

“It was real stuff,” says Matt, who was born in Manchester but now spends most of his time in north America, currently Toronto.

“It was my coming of age listening to people like Stevie Ray. My father was generally much more into the traditional stuff. I was discovering Hendrix. He was so important. With Jimi, it was so much about his playing. Jimi was the whole thing, the whole package. It was not that he was technically advanced particularly. It was just that he had a way of putting it all together that nobody else had. Other people have come along and cleaned up and broken down the wall, but nobody else has ever smashed their way through the barrier in quite the same way.

“As soon as I started to play, I took it very seriously. I had already been listening to my dad’s stuff. I started in bands, and within six months I was doing gigs at the age of 13.”

Listening was always crucial when it came to learning his trade.

“For me, it was always about listening to the records, but listening really deeply.”

It was never a question of flitting. Matt would select five or six recordings and listen to them all summer: “It was the stuff that just grabbed me, and I would listen, listen, listen.”

Matt has taken his music to nearly two dozen countries and has played on some of the most prestigious stages in the world, including the North Sea and Montreal Jazz Festivals, and as a regular featured artist at the annual Allman Brothers Band family of festivals including Wanee, Peachfest and Mountain Jam.

“I have always felt that the blues is instinctive inasmuch as my vocabulary and technique have got much better. I was able to sound reasonably convincing straight away even with my limited vocabulary, just because I could do it. The music really resounded with me. There are definitely some people that just get it right from the start, but actually there are also some guys that are fantastic players that have just worked really, really hard to refine what they do. You see how hard they have worked, and it makes me feel as if I have been lazy. But really, it is all about emotion. Blues are about a shared emotion. It’s about creating an emotion. When I am playing, I am trying to make myself feel the same way I did when I was listening to my favourites. Playing just makes me feel great. It’s cathartic, I suppose. For me, it is about lifting the load. That’s what blues is. It is life. It is everything. It is joy and it is pain, it is the ups and it is the downs. It is all about expressing the inexpressible.”

Matt’s new album Far As I Can See came out in February: “This is my first extensive UK tour since its release.”

The album was his fifth studio recording in nine years – years which have also see four live albums.

Matt is the proud recipient of awards including the British Blues Awards Guitarist of the Year 2010, 2011 and 2012 and British Blues Awards Album of the Year 2010.