I guess you can say I come from a fairly musical family, my Grandmother and Great Uncle on my Dad’s side both played in big bands, she played sax and he was a drummer; and all my cousin’s on the that side were in bands. I wasn’t that aware of it as a kid though, because I’m so much younger than everyone on that side of the family. They were in 80’s metal bands when I was barely walking.
On my Mom’s side it mostly comes from her and my Grandmother, both always sang and played piano. In fact the first instrument I ever played was an old Hohner harmonica which I still have (and still don’t play that well). I’ve also got the piano that the Grandma got for her 5th birthday.
But I guess my first musical influence came from my older sister, I remember the first music that I was exposed to was 80’s hair metal and really bad early 90’s “dance music” like C and C Music Factory. My parents listened to things like Johnny Cash, Elvis, and Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, but I guess I was too young to appreciate it. And they weren’t “cool” like an older sibling was. The first tape I remember her having was Poison, Open Up and Say Ahh.
But everything changed the second I heard Nirvana. That was the first music I got into that was completely my own or at least felt like it. It wasn’t my parent’s music, it wasn’t my older brother or sister’s music, it was mine.
It also corresponded with the time in my life I had started bothering my parents to get me a guitar. The second I had one I started writing music, I also seemed more interested in the sound of the guitar and creating music than learning solos to impress my friends. My next goal was a Fender guitar and a Boss distortion pedal – Just like Kurt. I think that’s where my obsession with drive and distortion came from. Nothing was more fun than playing clean, then stepping on that pedal, I’m sure everyone in my family must detest “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Around the 8th grade is when I would have started playing in my first “bands.” It seems to be this magical time in Canadian rock; you would see bands like Treble Charger, Hayden, The Kill Joys…on TV and think they were these huge rock stars. Obviously that wasn’t the case, but it was exciting to see these bands that would play locally on Much Music, and see their posters around town. Thank god for Much Music in those days because that’s where we got most of our exposure, and luckily they were playing all these really cool indie bands at the time. Could you imagine growing up with it now? (Is it still on?) It’s pure pop or mindless TV shows.
Once I was in high school, I started to form proper bands. This where I met Mike Finch, and both of us kind of turned our parents basements into practice/ recording spaces. This would eventually evolve into Cartel which would then evolve into CityWide Panic.
We went through the same bullshit that every band goes through, lineup changes, people come, people go. Once we hit our early twenties and started playing in actually bars it became really fun. The scene around here at that time was pretty cool. We got to play with bands like The Stars Here, Babyshakers, Humshuttle; guys like The Miniatures were taking off, and Danny Michel and Paul Mcleod. It was so cool being 20 years old and seeing this great scene and these local bands that looked like they were going to concur the world. We would play the same festival’s or stages as some of our adolescent heroes; or see ours peers opening for Sloan or The Reostatics and think “holy shit, this is possible.”
You keep chasing the dream, chasing the next song or album, constantly trying to get better, to improve – and you do get better. You get better at your craft, work in better studios, have better playing and sounding instruments; but you start to see other obstacles. Life starts to get in the way until it’s not getting in the way anymore, it just becomes your life.
Some people move away, some people focus completely on their “careers,” some get married and never look back. I’ve found this to be the cruel aspect of making music, everybody is so into it while you’re terrible. Once you actually get good nobody has time anymore. We all have to make that decision, are we willing to make that sacrifice to play music or do we take the safe route. Not to say you can’t do both, but you’ll have a hard time excelling at it.
Now that CityWide Panic has for the most part faded away (we refuse to burn out, and will continue to pop up for one show every few years or so) I’m ready to try something new.
Making music. That is something that I will never stop doing. It’s never been about money or fame, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized this. Nothing makes me happier than making music. It creeps into everything I do, it’s always in the back of my head.
My story is that of a musician who has taken a few wrong paths, maybe been misguided by a few wrong people, but have ultimately come out the other side better and smarter.
All of the The Animals, Elvis, Chuck Berry, and Johnny Cash albums I heard as kid slowly sunk in and led me to find Jimmy Reed, and Muddy Waters. Which led me to find Freddie King, Buddy Guy, and Little Walter. I became obsessed with tracing back Rock n Roll, and I’m still learning. I love the connections of Robert Johnson and Son House through The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin all the way through to Jack White. It’s music that has history and depth.
I don’t know how to describe my sound, but I’m trying to incorporate everything I love into it. From Delta Blues to alternative rock, to singer songwriters like Bob Dylan and Tom Petty. I’m not comparing myself to any of these people, but I hear their influence.
This has personally been my favourite music I’ve ever made. Mostly because it all came so naturally.
All I can say is, give it a listen, and I hope you like it a little bit too.
Matt Ryan Jacobs is a singer songwriter from Kitchener Waterloo Ontario and a member of the bands CityWide Panic, and Petty Theft and The Jailbreakers.
Southwestern Ontario Singer and Songwriter