Matt Webb’s solo project has been a long time coming. Best known as the lead guitarist and backing vocalist of the double platinum and Juno award-winning band, Marianas Trench, Matt has been crafting songs since he was a teenager. Long before the band, Matt was writing and recording his own music with the help of Josh Ramsay. Josh is the lead singer and creative force behind Marianas Trench, but twenty years ago, the two were playing in their school band and recording at Josh’s family studio.
None of Matt’s early songs ever made the cut (he jokingly refers to them as “absolute crap”), but they helped to lay the foundation for a successful career in music. Matt’s first solo effort, Coda and Jacket, was released in 2011. He followed that up with 2014’s Right Direction, which peaked at #5 on the iTunes Canada charts. Now, Matt’s back with his latest single “Again and Again”, a synth heavy pop track that reflects on mistakes and lessons learned.
We caught up with Matt to talk about his latest release, his struggles in writing and performing, and upcoming plans with Marianas Trench.
Let’s talk new music. Tell us about your new single, “Again and Again”?
MW: I went into the studio with a good friend of mine, Kevvy. We teamed up with Matthew V, a fantastic pop artist, to put a song together. I always like to surround myself with people who are much more talented than I am. You can learn a lot from them. We recorded this song just after the Christmas holidays. Things were temporarily slow with the band, so I got in the studio and made this track. The last [EP] just had guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. There may be some piano. For [“Again and Again”] we went pop heavy for no particular reason other than to switch it up.
The single is described as “late night driving music”. How would you classify that?
MW: [Late night driving music] could be anything. You know what started it…I used to record at Josh’s studio, which was near the University of British Columbia. From where I lived, it was a twenty-minute drive to the studio. We worked ridiculous hours. We’d start super late. It’s Vancouver, so you’d be driving in the pouring rain and its pitch black. I’d put on some tunes to get inspired. I always really enjoyed that. I really loved it, and having the perfect soundtrack made it such a great experience.
Is an album or EP coming soon?
MW: At the moment, it’s just the one track. There’s nothing in the pipeline. The Marianas Trench studio and performance schedule is keeping me quite busy. That being said, I have a bunch of ideas floating around in my head. If given the opportunity to record them, I will definitely do so. I love putting out new music, so I don’t see why I wouldn’t release more stuff in the future. But for right now, no new album in the works, and currently no tour schedules either.
As a solo artist, you have the freedom to explore. Is there anything you tried creatively that wouldn’t necessary work with a band dynamic?
MW: If you want to do something different and out of your comfort zone, solo is the way to do it. There are no expectations. You can do anything you want. There are no rules. The first EP was pop and all over the map. The next one, we were going after a John Mayer type thing. I wasn’t concerned with sticking to a particular sound, instruments, or song writing style. I wasn’t counting on [the EPs] for money or anything like that. It was for fun and to experiment.
Do you feel the need to distinguish your solo work from your Marianas Trench?
Marianas Trench is a group effort. When you’re doing something by yourself, it’s going to be different, no matter how hard I try. I have no desire to be like, “Here’s me!” It’s more for creative purposes. With Marianas Trench it is very much pop/rock music. There’s not a lot of room for crazy guitar solos and heavy guitar stuff on the radio in that genre. With my own stuff, I like to let loose with the guitar and have a little more guitar feature because it’s more acceptable for that genre.
How does it feel to write, record, and tour, things you’ve likely done many times before, but without the support of a band?
MW: I enjoy it, but I much prefer being with the band because you have a group of people going through it together. There’s not as much pressure. When you’re by yourself, it’s terrifying. I’m not used to being the frontman. I play guitar. I do some singing with Marianas Trench, but I’m not the front guy. I’m not particularly great at [being the frontman]. It’s a step outside of my comfort zone. I enjoy it. I enjoy the challenge, but if I had to pick, I would pick the band life.
You’ve stated before that Marianas Trench is your priority. What are you hoping will be the trajectory of your solo career?
MW: There’s no plan. At the end of it all, I would like to have a nice catalogue that I can look back on and be proud of. When I go to some of the Trench shows, I’ll see fans. They’ll come up to me and say, “Hey, I really enjoyed your solo show or CD.” It’s pretty cool. We were touring in Europe, and people were coming up to me with my EP. That’s amazing! I don’t even know how they got [the EP in Europe].
You’ve been making music for a long time. How do you keep from getting stagnant?
MW: I love what I do. I’m very lucky because I get to play music for my living. I’m very, very fortunate. The creative aspect is fun and being on tour is something I thoroughly enjoy. As far as the band goes, we’re a family. The band, the crew, we have a lot of fun together. We get to travel the world. See cool places. Eat at cool restaurants. It’s pretty special. In years’ time, I’ll be pretty blown away by what we have accomplished.
What’s your approach to creating music? What aspects are important to you?
MW: I always start more instrumental. I’ll sit down with an acoustic guitar, strum some ideas, and hum to it. The last thing in my process is typically lyrics. I find that’s my weakest…I’m just not good at it. I really struggle with it. A lot of people sit down and write first or have a lyric concept and make music around it. I work the opposite way. I can’t tell you how many demos I’ve recorded that are just me singing complete gibberish over a completed song. I struggle, but I get through it eventually. Sometimes I like to enlist the help of friends to push me through. Combining brains on creative endeavours is a lot better. Two or three is better than one.
They say write what you know. What do you write about?
MW: People can smell bullshit a mile away. If you’re insincere, that translates to the listener. The writing is based on personal experiences. In our case, the single was co-written with a bunch of friends. We were all contributing, laughing about bad habits, mistakes we’ve made, and reflecting on those in the song.
Your dog is featured quite a bit on your Instagram. What can you tell me about Fred?
MW: Fred is a labradoodle. He’s going to be two years old next week. He’s a great guy, and he likes to attack me. We have a lot of fun together, and he’s pretty cuddly. He’s a good boy.
Also from your Instagram, it also looks like you’re participating in a half marathon.
MW: Yeah! Well, let me clarify. I am running the 5K. I am a very slow and crappy runner. I signed up because I am doing some volunteering with a wonderful organization called Music Heals. I’m also training for a triathlon in the summer, so I’m taking it easy on the running. They put a team together. I’m running the 5K. People have been very generous in donating to the cause. All the money is going to Music Heals to help fund music therapy.
Lastly, what’s going on with Marianas Trench?
MW: We are hard at work in the studio Monday to Friday working on the new record. It’s coming together. We’re about halfway through, and the songs are great. I feel really strongly about this material. I think it’s going to be our best record yet, but who knows. The fans will be the judge of that. I’m really proud of it, and we’ve been working really hard and having a great time in the studio. We’ll hopefully be done by the end of the summer and have it out by the end of the year.