Though he hails from Perth, New Brunswick, for blues guitarist and singer-songwriter Matt Andersen, the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival can feel like a homecoming.
“Playing Harvest is almost like a family reunion … I played a lot in Fredericton when I was just starting out, so it’s nice to go back. I know the place really well, know a lot of people there… Fredericton’s only a couple hours away from where I’m from, so it’s like playing in your own hometown.”
This sense of New Brunswick as his homeland is even reflected in Andersen’s music, with lines such as “I’d take a walk by the Saint John River/And let my memories drift downstream” from “My Last Day” directly referencing the province’s geography.
“Anytime you write, where you’re from and how you live works its way into your music—whether you do so consciously or not,” he explained.
Andersen’s deep connection with his home province has helped him become a veritable staple on the Harvest lineup; after winning the festival’s first-ever battle of the bands-style “Rising Star Competition” in 2002, he has appeared at all but one of the festival’s incarnations since — partially because it’s such a great time.
“Harvest is always good,” Andersen stated. “The crowd there always shows up for a good time. There’s lots of energy in the room. It’s always fun to get back up on that stage…I don’t know any bands that haven’t had fun on the Harvest stage.”
Being a veteran of the festival, I asked Andersen what someone who has never been to Harvest before—say, a new student who has freshly arrived in the city—should expect from the upcoming event.
“Well, don’t let the name ‘Harvest Jazz & Blues’ make you think you’re only gonna get jazz and blues” he began, citing the festival’s diverse, multi-genre lineup. “But Harvest is also really great for supporting local music, which you don’t see at a lot of festivals. It always has a great lineup of local musicians—not every festival does that, so it’s kinda unique that way. And the vibe’s just really great.”
While the ECMA and Juno-winning artist often performs solo, this year, he’s bringing his full band, the Bona Fide—which includes an additional member from New Brunswick, further linking the set to the province—to share the stage with him.
“It’s a five-piece band, and they’re sounding really great,” Andersen said. “I think it’s the best band I’ve had.”
The blues musician, who released his latest album, Honest Man, last year, will follow up his stop in Fredericton by touring across Europe in October; an exciting prospect, no doubt, for someone with small-town Maritime roots—but not even a European tour can overshadow an annual stint on the Harvest stage.
“You look forward to every gig,” he said. “But some strike that special nerve—and Harvest does for sure.”
After all: there’s no place like home.
Matt Andersen & the Bona Fide will take the stage at the Moose Light Blues Tent on Sept. 13, 8:30 p.m. For tickets and more info, visit Harvestjazzandblues.com.