Matt Holubowski Redefines His Fame

Matt Holubowski Interview For Northern Transmissions
Matt Holubowski by Marc Etienne Mongrain

Despite making his first appearance to many Canadians through a TV music contest, Matt Holubowski has assured that his music has always been the most important aspect of what he does. Hailing from Quebec, Holubowski has balanced the worlds of Francophone and Anglophone music while exploring the experiences that come from his own upbringing. We caught up with Holubowski ahead of another string of North American dates to talk about his unique position in Canadian music and why he made an epilogue to his own LP.

Northern Transmissions: How did you want to expand on the world of Solitudes with Epilogue and why didn’t those songs initially make it onto the album?

Matt Holubowski: We’d recorded parts in a different key from our original session, and at some point we decided to change the key and it felt better and less angry. Once we had that flash, the album was already out really. The other songs felt like they belonged on the record but they had that evolution of where we took the songs while on tour. There’s more freedom now that we all know each other. We’d had these tunes knocking about and I knew there would be time before I could do another record, so we just went in to record them.

NT: Why do you think it is that despite singing mostly in English you can have a celebrity in French Canada but can still be struggling to catch on everywhere else?

MH: Quebec has its own kind of star system, and one that the rest of Canada seems unaware of. There are some insanely talented musicians in Quebec that can sell a million records and the rest of Canada ends up ignoring them. It seems to be based around some kind of nationalistic fervor. Tge fact that people follow me despite singing in English, is because of my accent, I do have French songs and that I speak to their lives. As far as I’ve heard, it’s always been an issue for Quebec Anglophone artists to struggle in the rest of Canada. But people end up going to Europe, get known there and Canadians start to pay attention.

NT: How did you end up working with Connor Seidel on Solitudes and the EP, and what did he bring to the albums?

MH: Connor and I go back, and he produced my first record as well. We met after I had been meandering about making music professionally. A friend of mine invited me to open up for a friend’s band and Connor was playing banjo in their band. We talked and started working together after that. He brings a lot of clarity in the studio, I have all these ideas but I’m not the best at expressing them, so he acts as a translator to my ideas. He’s also knowledgeable about music which is great because I’m self-taught. He helps explain to the session musicians about what I want. He also brings me back down to earth when I have all these extravagant ideas.

NT: How did your injury happen last year that broke your foot, and how was trying to keep the shows lively while you played sitting down?

MH: I broke my foot by falling off stage, right before I had my first vacation time in a few years. We initially thought we’d cancel the shows because they wouldn’t be as exciting. We also realized we’re not putting on a huge rock show, it’s pretty introspective and ethereal. I wrote the songs sitting down at a desk. In the end I decided to see it as coming back to the source, and my band is exciting enough that with our great lighting guy we could keep it entertaining.

NT: I was also interested to read that you hold a sense of paranoia or false celebrity you feel from your time on La Voix, do you think the attention from this is fake or is it really just another way for artist to get noticed these days?

MH: My project seems to work so well in Quebec and the show is super popular here. But the show has propelled my career beyond French Canada as well. The fact that that one small chapter is hyper-focused on just overshadows the rest of my career. I could speak to living in Uganda for three months but it doesn’t seem as interesting to people. (Laughs) It’s not as black and white as people think. Obviously the show is manufactured to a degree, because it’s TV and they have to sell ad time. The people behind the scenes are genuine music fans that care, they like all kinds of music. The point of the show is to highlight all these different kinds of music, but they have to wrap it in a commercial image. One of my other musician friends summed it up very well, “None of our heroes like Kurt Cobain or Bob Dylan ever got their start that way.” In the end though it is a different way of showcasing artistry. The show isn’t necessary a good way of showing of your music but you do have a couple million people who can get curious about you.

NT: What’s next for Matt Holubowski and his band for the year?

MH: We’ve got a handful of festivals this summer, and I just got back from one festival in London. After a bunch of Quebec dates, I have a U.S. tour and then some more touring through Europe. I’ll have time to write after all that, so I’ll probably go travel to get some ideas for some tunes.

 

Words by Owen Maxwell