“Public speaking has never been an issue for me, but singing in front of people was a whole different ball of wax,” says singer-songwriter Matt Patershuk.
He released his debut album, Outside The Lights of Town, in 2013, after working to overcome some of the stage fright that had made him reticent to pursue music. Patershuk, who admits he tends to be more introverted when he’s not on stage, has made strides in overcoming apprehension inherent to performing and actually enjoys the experience these days.
“I think it was just doing it: gritting my teeth and saying, well, if you like this enough then you should do the work to make it so that it’s not so difficult,” he says. “It was just a matter of wanting it bad enough to push through the few little issues that I had and keep doing it.”
Is there anything that still poses a challenge when it comes to performing?
“Forgetting the words to my own songs,” he says with a boisterous laugh. “That happens more than it honestly probably should. I don’t have a great memory for lyrics, but that’s just a matter of doing the work
Patershuk will have plenty of time to work on singing his lyrics correctly as he heads out to promote his new album, I Was So Fond of You. Much like Outside The Lights of Town, there is a strong sense of humanity and an intrinsically relatable quality to Patershuk’s songs. They’re heartfelt and poignant, and Patershuk’s gruff baritone lays out deeply personal stories with unabashed clarity. Many of the tracks, particularly the title song and “Harviestown,” attempt to make sense of the death of his sister Clare, who was killed by a drunk driver in June 2013.
“I was thinking about Clare’s death constantly for such a long time after she died anyway, so I think to have written a good song, or an honest or genuine song, most of them would have been about that,” he says of whether songwriting helped him get through the situation. “I think it’s just a product of missing her and thinking about her.”
Patershuk notes he couldn’t write an album of “total downers,” and there is some lyrical and melodic variety to be had on the Steve Dawson-produced record, but there’s an underlying sadness at its core. All of the proceeds from album sales will also be donated to charities Patershuk says his sister was interested in: the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, where Clare worked as a counsellor, as well as the Peace Area Riding for the Disabled Society. A portion of the money will also be donated to the Clare Patershuk Undergraduate Psychology Travel Fund at the University of Alberta.
“If you pick one of [the albums] up it won’t be going to beer money—this time,” Patershuk jokes.
Clare’s presence is further entrenched in the record through its cover art, a striking painted portrait of an elderly man. The monochromatic colour palette of greys, blacks and whites converge to create a weathered character that, while unknown to Patershuk, has become a personal favourite of his.
“I loved that painting from the moment I saw it,” he says. “It’s the eyes of the man in that painting: they’re pretty startling. It’s hard to look away from them. The man in the painting looks like he’s been through some sort of tragedy. You can see the pain on his face, and I thought that was, aside from being a painting that I really liked, I think it fit the tone of the record well.”