Matt Henderson talks vintage synths, rap rivalries and being quirky

Matt Henderson By: Peter Skrzypczak
July 29, 2009

“Electro-acoustic indie folk pop.”  The mouthful of adjectives is the longest description Matt Henderson’s ever used to describe his sound.  After listening to his debut solo album, People with Places to Go, I’m more partial to “Ambient Acoustic Space Rock.”

However you want to qualify it, the mix of acoustic guitar, vintage synth, and clean vocals is exactly how Henderson wanted his first solo work to take shape. 

“For a long time I wanted to do a solo album. There’s always a desire to do something completely by yourself.”

Henderson is no stranger to music, having played guitar for Bryan Hunt and both guitar and bass in several bands over the last decade including First Aid Kit and the Parents.  But the draw – and convenience – of putting together a self-recorded album and giving it as much time as needed made People with Places to Go a must. 

“I’ve always been interested in obscure instruments,” Henderson said, describing the atmospheric feel of the record.  “So I bought this 80’s Juno keyboard off eBay three years ago.  It’s really temperamental, but I love it.”  The synth gives off a warm tone that adds layers of self-created sounds to the album’s nine tracks.

He’s also refreshingly candid when talking about it, making it clear he doesn’t have a grand explanation to where the songs came from, reasoning most answers along those lines tend to sound “obnoxious and pretentious.”

Nevertheless, Henderson says major influences include England’s Stereolab, No Age, and of Montreal.  “I’ve always been into less mainstream stuff, what people call ‘indie’ for lack of a better word,” he said.

Such influences are evident on songs such as “Lovemuffin,” “If I Was A Number and You Were A Name,” and “Farmer’s Tan.”  They also have a thematic connection, one readily identifiable to many people at his shows. 

People with Place to Go is about this awkward mid-20s phase where nothing is stable anymore.  Friends move away, get married, and get jobs.  Communities fall apart, but it’s no one’s fault.”

When it comes to crowds though, Henderson casts a wide net.  “I’ve done dance shows, folk clubs.  I was somehow on the bill for a hardcore screamo show.  I was the smoke-break guy, playing between sets on my own little stage.  I wasn’t well loved there.  But it was cool.

“It’s a little quirky, my music.  I always feel a little out of place at most shows that I play. Indie shows is where I’m most comfortable,” he continued.

Still, even being self-admittedly a novice at promotion, reaction at his shows has been mostly positive.  And the evident wry sense of humour goes a long way to putting people perhaps unfamiliar with his sound at ease.

  “There’s another Matt Henderson out there, let’s call him Nashville Matt Henderson.  He’s a Christian rock singer.  I wouldn’t mind starting a Jay-Z/Nas type rivalry.  He turned down a MySpace request.”

Toronto Artist Matt Henderson iTunes has predictably put the two under the same heading, but not entirely to detrimental effect.  “My music is listed under ‘inspirational’ thanks to Nashville Matt.”  Stealing a few of his listeners doesn’t go against his musician’s sensibilities either.

“I can’t pretend that I’m one of those artists who feels like as long as I’m happy [with the album] then nothing else matters.  That’s not true, I want people to like it, to enjoy it, to want to listen to it.”

Matt Henderson can be checked out at various venues across southern Ontario.  Visit his MySpace at

Photos by: Sarah NJM Feehan and Darren Rigo.  

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