We had the good fortune of connecting with Matthew Wallace and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Matthew, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Taking risks is fun! The easy path is rarely the most rewarding. Comfort and stability are overrated. Why did we like roller-coasters when we were kids? Why did we make stupid, wreckless decisions as teenagers? Because that tingling you get in your chest when you’re standing at the edge of a gorge in Ithaca NY, about to jump into a deep, water-filled canyon, is something risk-takers are always chasing. Do things that get your heart pumping! I’ve been playing music since I was 8 years old and performing for audiences since I was 12. That rush, that tingle, that you get from standing on stage, ready to bare your soul to perfect strangers, is addicting. Any time you make yourself vulnerable by sharing your passion, and in the case of songwriting, sharing your deepest emotions, you are risking everything. What if people don’t like it, and by extension, because the songs you write are so personal, they don’t like you as a person? What if they think you’re lame or uncool? I take that risk every time I step on a stage. The rewards for doing so, however, are incalculable. If there is one person in that audience that is moved by a song. moved to dance, moved to sing, moved to cry, it makes up for all the times that I was ignored by people drinking cheap beer in the back of a bar.
I didn’t decide to take the risk of writing and performing my own songs until I was 10 years into a career as a farmer. I was in my 30’s when I took the leap and released my first album. I had to lean on my family and my friends to get anything done. It has been DIY all the way! My first record we tracked in my buddy’s unfinished barn in Hayfork, CA. I called up musician friends from New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, Texas, and California to come sit in on the record. My partner did the heavy lifting financially to keep things going while I followed my dreams. We can accomplish very little without cultivating a strong network of support. Without friends and family that believe in us, the possibility of our risks turning into rewards is much lower.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My upbringing and the paths I’ve taken in life are pretty unique. I grew up in a large southern baptist family in Texas, singing in church congregations and choirs as early as I can remember. This exposure to harmony singing had a great effect on my ability to write melodies. Unsurprisingly, growing up in Texas, country music was ever-present on radios and was a big influence on my life. I gravitated towards the story songs of Willie Nelson and Marty Robbins and Lefty Frizzell. In the South, stories were everything. From Bible stories to songs to anecdotes from family friends, stories helped us understand the world and our place in it. The Blues were also something that was always nearby. We grew up on both sides of the tracks, as it were, and never saw anyone as different from us simply because of where they were born or their skin color. We all talked with the same drawl and used the same words. Texas is, and has always been, a worldwide musical melting pot which birthed some of the greatest songwriters of all time, and I am proud to have been brought up in that unique landscape. It can also be noted that I have some of that legendary Texas songwriter DNA in me, as my grandmother, Juanita Van Zandt, is the great Townes Van Zandt’s aunt. I had an itch to leave Texas, however, in my early 20’s. I had dropped out of college to start a band in Dallas and after a couple of years decided I needed a change. I wanted to see what was out there. I had no money and didn’t even have a car at the time, so I did something I had only read about in books: I hitchhiked. I spent a year traversing America by thumb, with a backpack and guitar, playing on street corners, bars, coffee shops, night clubs, wherever I could find listening ears. This experience really helped me learn how to connect with other people. In the case of playing on the street, not only are people not there to listen to you, they actively DO NOT want to hear you, because then they might feel obligated to throw a buck or two in your guitar case. Being able to cut through the noise, to make a passerby feel like you are singing only to them, and projecting your emotions as far and wide as possible, was a learning experience of which I am very proud to have undertaken. It took a lot of moxie to put myself out there like that and the rewards I reaped are hard to put into words.
I ended up landing in the redwood forests of Northern California where I got a job working at a cannabis farm. I spent many days up on the mountain, just me and my dog Winston, where I played guitar, taught myself banjo, and began writing songs. I yodeled across the coastal ranges, sang to the stars, and listened to the ocean whenever I could. The solitude really helped me get in touch with myself, my childhood, my emotions, and the muse. Without many distractions, I was able to learn how to say what I want to say; to express myself and hopefully, the feelings of the people, through songs. I don’t want to be the guy that sings only about himself, for what good will that do for the community? Having traveled the country and talked to people of all backgrounds and experiences, I wanted to be able to be a mouthpiece for all of us. To talk about our fears for the future as well as our consternation over abuses we have suffered at the hands of those that hold power over us, and maybe, hopefully, shine a little light wherever I can.

My second album, Shovel Ready, was released to the world in May of 2021. I enlisted the help of my musical friends and dubbed them the Stolen Horses as they all came from other local bands! We spent a couple days tracking the record at After Hours Recorders in Redding, CA with Bruce Turgon, formerly of Foreigner, at the helm as engineer. The Spring of 2021 everyone was just emerging from their pandemic-induced slumber, and we managed an album release party and a couple of local shows like the County Fair and some of our favorite Trinity County watering holes, but for independent artists like myself, booking a tour in 2021 was hellish. Between a backlog of canceled shows needing to be rescheduled and some venues forcing noxious safety protocols on fans, we had to delay touring the record as we would have liked. In addition to all that, I moved my family a couple hours west to Eureka, CA that summer. Fast forward to this year, and I was itching to hit the road.

I returned from my first solo Southwest tour just a couple weeks ago! With gas prices and inflation being what they are, taking a band on the road was out of the question; so I packed up my Astro van with three guitars, a banjo, a bin full of T-shirts, CDs, patches, and hats, as well as a sound system, and I headed east. The tour began in my old stomping ground of Hayfork to play Summer in the Park, then made stops in Reno, Elko, Salt Lake City, and Laramie, before turning south for Colorado. Longmont, Boulder, and Pueblo were on the docket before getting to indulge in a relaxing week in Taos. After Taos, I made it to Flagstaff and Sedona, while dodging monsoons in the desert! After a few days in beautiful Arizona, I made my way back home to sunny California. I met a lot of really great people and got to see some spectacular views. I also made a substantial impression on bar owners and patrons across the Southwest so this will likely become an annual tradition! Mark your calendars for early summer, 2023, or subscribe to the mailing list at http://matthewwallacemusic.com to stay updated on when I will be coming to your town. I can’t wait to be back in the Southwest but in the meantime, I will be spending time with my wonderful family, enjoying the ocean, and writing some new songs! Thank you so much for your hospitality, Arizona!

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Having just been in Arizona, I would drive up to Flagstaff for a drink at the Monte Vista Cocktail Lounge and get a room for a night at the hotel there. Don’t sleep late though, because the sunrise on the drive down from Flagstaff to Sedona will take your breath away. That forty-five minute cruise on SR 89A is one of the most picturesque drives anywhere in the Southwest. Once in Sedona you can’t go wrong. The art and sculpture in the region is so impressive. Plentiful day hikes followed by cocktails at the Sundowner. Take a helicopter ride then catch a show at Mooney’s Irish Pub. Spend a day checking out the shops and the gem and mineral specimens. Go for a swim in Oak Creek. There’s no end to the sights and sounds in Sedona! If you’re looking for a vacation, check out my new hometown, Eureka, CA. We will start off at the Samoa dunes to get our feet wet in the Pacific Ocean. Then we’ll head cross-town to the Sequoia Zoo where we can experience the sky walk through the redwood trees. After that we’ll go to Old Town and feed a dollar to Zoltar to get our fortune before entering Eureka Books and finding something new to read. Then we can catch a beer and a concert at Siren’s Song Tavern before ending the night at the Speakeasy, sipping a cocktail and listening to the local jazz band. Tomorrow we will go up the coast to Trinidad and swim in the ocean at College Cove before having a relaxing dinner at Moonstone Grill. We’ll get homemade ice cream cones in Arcata on our way back to Eureka. It’s like a mini San Francisco! Come say hi!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My partner Nebula, who has supported me from the beginning and continues to work her ass off to hold it all together! My kids, Maggie and Kayla who always have kind words for me and always rock my gear! Shawn Hill from 4th Corner Productions who recorded, mixed, and mastered my debut record in addition to his constant encouragement to do what I love. My musician buddies Fiscus, Taylor, Joe Willy, Harrison, Duney, James, Linda, Danielle, Timmy Puke, the other James, Shawn, Miner, Sam, and Jeff.

Website: http://matthewwallacemusic.com

Instagram: instagram.com/matthewwallacemusic

Youtube: https://youtu.be/hhny56cQxtQ

Image Credits
photo credit: Zachary Marlow, Brian Gossman, Oz Jones, Katie Haile, Brent White, Sam Mitchell

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