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Kalle Mattson. Photo provided by artist.

Talking Albums: Kalle Mattson

By John McDonald on May 8, 2020

Born in the Soo, Kalle Mattson began writing songs while still in high school and recorded his first full-length album, Whisper Bee, at the school’s music studio. Now Ottawa-based, his work has received notice. His Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold album was long-listed for the 2014 Polaris Music Prize. He was awarded Best Songwriter and Best Album by a Solo Artist at the 2015 Northern Ontario Music & Film Awards.

In the video for the title track of his 2015 Avalanche, he and director Philip Sportel cleverly recreated 35 classic album covers, including his own. It received the 2016 Prism Prize for Best Canadian Music Video of the Year, and a Juno Awards nomination for Video of the Year. Sportel received a MuchMusic Video Award nomination for Best Director.

There have been other releases since. This year, Kalle has released a single under his own name (“Back To The Start”), and has introduced summersets, his new musical project with Andrew Sowka.

Kalle Mattson:

In terms of my own music, I’ve a new duo project with Andrew Sowka called summersets. He and I have been playing music together for 7 years. He’s my longest collaborator. I love singing with Andrew and playing acoustic guitar with him.

We’re trying to write like the classic songwriters from the late ’60s, early ’70s. We’ve just released our first single (“Anywhere You Go”) from our debut record Small Town Saturday, and did an NAC live stream—our first show.

I began writing Small Town Saturday to play out like a series of vignettes, each one exploring a different moment in time between two characters, from the first time they meet until one passes away. I was really interested in telling the story of a relationship across a collection of songs. Changing perspectives and spanning milestones, both big and small, over the course of a lifetime.

Small Town Saturday acts as the first chapter in a three-part album, just the beginning of the story for these two characters.

Talking about albums… My first album choice is Saint Cloud from Waxahatchee. I’ve been a fan of her past albums but this one really hits the sweet spot for me. Everything about it feels classic to me. I hope that isn’t a lazy word but it really feels like a culmination of so many classic American songwriters, Lucinda Williams, Dylan, Springsteen etc. The songwriting sounds effortless, but you know there’s no way songs this terse and concise could ever be. Brad Cook produced. I’ve loved his work for a long time as well. The production never overpowers and somehow manages to make a traditional rock band sound fresh. In 2020, that’s incredibly hard to do. Easily my favourite of the year so far.

And album two. For obvious reasons, John Prine. I’ll say the first [self-titled] record, but I’ve been revisiting all his albums over the past few weeks. For most of March, I was at the Banff Centre for a songwriting residency and John Prine’s name came up almost every day. In workshops, master classes, over dinner, he was everywhere. I think it goes to show how much his work has influenced this generation of songwriters. He has the incredibly unique ability to walk the line between being laugh-out-loud funny and incredibly sad. And that, as anyone who’s ever tried writing a funny song knows, is so hard to do. He’s a bit of a northern star in that way. His influence will live on and only get deeper I think.

About Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud

Named after the Alabama creek, Waxahatchee is a solo musical project started in 2010 by American singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield. Released in March, Saint Cloud is Waxahatchee’s fifth album and features the Detroit-based band Bonny Doon… Not to be confused with Ottawa band Bonnie Doon.

Waxahatchee Bandcamp

About John Prine – John Prine

This debut album wasn’t a big seller. It peaked at #156 in the Billboard charts in 1972, a year after its initial release. However, as Forbes magazine wrote, “that small splash has had big ripples down through the years. John Prine not only set the tone for his half-century career, it influenced several generations of American singer-songwriters working in the rock, country and folk traditions.” Canadian singer-songwriter Corb Lund said that “the first Prine record hit me pretty early on. ‘Sam Stone’ especially. I’m probably not alone in that.”

Rolling Stone magazine reviewed the album in their December 23, 1971 edition just after its release. Karin Berg wrote, “This is a very good first album by a very good songwriter… Prine is differently good.” The review ended with words that mean much now. “It’s good to have such a fine new talent around who is both interesting and provocative. If he’s this good this young, time should be on his side.”

Further reading: The Last Days and Beautiful Life of an American Original

More from Kalle Mattson


YouTube channel




Summersets on Bandcamp

Summersets on Facebook