Five years ago, Kalle Mattson's life changed.
The Ottawa singer/songwriter was just 16 years old when his mom died. As he recalls, he was walking home from school, listening to a leaked version of Wilco's Sky Blue Sky, which would come out the following week. It was a Friday.
Mattson took great comfort in Jeff Tweedy's songwriting -- that record is still important to him -- but he didn't know how to process his grief. "I think that's something everyone who loses a parent deals with," he says. So he pushed it down. He kept himself busy with a burgeoning music career, releasing two critically acclaimed full-length albums -- 2009's Whisper Bee and 2011's Anchors -- and touring with the likes of Sunparlour Players, Cuff the Duke, Jeremy Fisher and opening for Jim Bryson, the Rural Alberta Advantage and Blue Rodeo.
It wasn't until 2012, when he found himself back in his childhood home in Sault Ste. Marie after the death of his grandmother, that his grief came bubbling to the surface. He was alone with a record for which he had the music but no lyrics. "And I dealt with what I hadn't dealt with when I was 16."
His third full-length record, this year's hyper-personal Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold, sees Mattson, now 23, work through his grief and come out on the other side. He'd written about his mother in the past, but not with the directness displayed on the new record. It was a liberating experience for the singer/songwriter. He says it was a track called Someday -- which was released on an EP that served as a prelude to the album -- that ended up being his "a-ha" moment.
"It was exciting to actually sing about how I felt, even if people didn't know my past," he wrote in an essay about the album. "It didn't matter. What mattered was actually singing about something that felt real and significant."
Indeed, Someday, the Moon Will Be Gold has resonated with listeners.
"I want to shy away from using the word 'cathartic,' but it's connecting with people," Mattson says. "It's been really awesome. I'm so glad people are responding the way they are."
Produced by the Wooden Sky's Gavin Gardiner, the album is, at its core, about the eternal battle between darkness and light. But, to crib a line from True Detective's Rust Cohle, on Someday, the Moon Will Be Gold, "the light's winning."
"The tracklist was very deliberate. It starts in darkness and ends up in light," he says. "I didn't want it to be a total downer. I wanted there to be hopeful moments." (The album contains another loving tribute to Mattson's mom; the cover art is one of her paintings.)
For Mattson, Someday, the Moon Will Be Gold represents an important step in his grieving process -- one he recognizes is ongoing.
"It's not a problem that gets solved," he says, "but I feel better about it."