I have been speaking with…
the excellent Colour Film (Matthew de Zoete) about his single, Open Road, and its creation. He talks about shooting its video and working alongside Caroline Brooks; how he feels he has developed since his debut – de Zoete offers some advice for upcoming artists.
I ask the Canadian songwriter whether there is more material coming later in the year; if there are any tour dates planned; how he spends time away from music – he ends the interview by selecting a classic cut.
Hi, Colour Film. How are you? How has your week been?
I'm doing well, thanks. My week's been good - lots of activity around the new single and video, so that's been fun. I've also been working a fair bit on my wife's flower farm, helping her out during the busy season. It's nice to get outside and do some physical work as well.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Sure. My name is Matthew de Zoete and I live in the countryside near Hamilton, Ontario (Canada). I started releasing music and touring in 2006. Since then, I've released four albums and toured throughout North America and Europe.
What is the story behind the moniker, ‘Colour Film’?
The name comes from the title-track of an album called Colour Film released under my own name in 2012. The song is a reflection on seeing home movies of my grandparents and their siblings from the 1960s when they were much younger than I've ever known them being. Seeing those silent films made me realize that my grandparents are just like me - they started out young and are getting older one day at a time – and that I have a lot more in common with them than I thought.
So, the song is important to me, personally but, also, when I thought about it, I realized that I often write songs with a visual element - some characters, a plot or situation; a distinct setting, some details that hopefully bring the song alive in a listener's mind. Sometimes it's subconscious, sometimes it's intentional but it seems to be a recurring theme in how I approach songwriting.
Open Road is your new single. Is there a story behind the track?
The song was inspired by a bike ride I took with my wife and two young daughters in the countryside one evening. At one point, they were up ahead of me a little way and I caught a glimpse of them biking with a stretch of open trail curving off into the distance in front of them. I was struck by the idea of a person you love being an open road - taking you places inside yourself, opening possibilities and shaping your path into the future.
This thought and the mental snapshot of my family stuck with me, so I wrote the song the next day. The rhythm and melody remind me of biking with them and we shot the video on the same stretch of trail where the song was inspired.
How did you come to work with Caroline Brooks? Do you two have a musical past together?
I'd met Caroline a few times through producer Les Cooper (who has also worked with Caroline and her band Good Lovelies) and other musical friends. We don't have a musical past together but I was familiar with her music. So, as soon as I started visualizing the feel and atmosphere of how I'd like to record Open Road, I thought Caroline's voice and approach would be perfect.
The video sounds like it was really interesting to put together. How quickly did Nathan Fleet, the director, come up with the concept?
The video was really fun and easy to shoot. It was a very relaxed and enjoyable experience, which isn't always the case! Nathan and I were kicking around a few concept ideas and I suggested two people doubling on a bike, which I'd seen and done a fair bit on previous tours in the Netherlands. We fleshed the idea out a bit and both felt it would suit the song. So, the concept was quite easy and natural as well. Usually a good sign.
Is there going to be more material before the end of the year? What are you working on?
I'm always writing new songs, so that's what I'm working on at the moment - preparing material for the next album which I plan to start recording later this year. The album won't be out for a while, but you never know…there may be another single before then.
How do you feel you have developed as a songwriter since your debut?
I think I've been able to achieve a bit more focus and clarity, both musically and lyrically. I think I've learned to have a little bit more direction.
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
Beyond that, I'd like to help Open Road reach some ears and connect with some people; maybe elicit a few smiles. I'd like to continue to grow as a songwriter and record a few more songs.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
I played a concert a few years ago in an intimate venue and it happened that a number of relatives - aunts and uncles of mine, along with some cousins of my parents – could be in the audience. Introducing and playing the song Colour Film that night was quite powerful and meaningful; knowing that those relatives, who understood the family connections and knew the people in the home movies that inspired the song, were there sharing the experience.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
I would open for Ray Davies and only ask that I could play guitar in his band.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Not sure how much wisdom I have to share, but two things have been helpful to me...
One is to be open to honest feedback, both positive and negative, from people whose opinions you trust. The other is to keep on keeping on - in both musical and non-musical aspects. Keep writing and learning; keep booking shows and tours; keep trying to connect with people.
IN THIS PHOTO: Don Brownrigg
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Don Brownrigg. He's released a few albums - so not a new artist, per se - but his music is well worth checking out.
Will you be touring very soon? Might we see you in the U.K.?
I've always wanted to tour the U.K., which might be partially due to my secret but thriving interest in Anglo-Saxon history. I don't have any confirmed plans for a U.K. tour, but it is on my list of projects.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
We've got a couple kids and a farm to take care of, so there isn't a whole lot of true downtime. But, to relax I enjoy gardening and reading - mostly history, but current events and novels as well.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
I'd love it if you could play A Song for You by Gram Parsons
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