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Straight shooter: Matthew Good gets back to basics on Arrows of Desire

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To hear him talk about his sixth and latest solo album, Arrows of Desire, Matthew Good sounds like a man recharged.

And he's eager to talk about it, too.

"I haven't done this much press since Beautiful Midnight," he says over the phone, referring to the Matthew Good Band's 1999 CanRock classic. "It's been crazy."

His excited energy translates to the new record, which was heavily influenced by late-'80s alt-rock pioneers such as the Pixies, Hºsker Dº, the Replacements and the Afghan Whigs -- "the kind of music that's just like, '(expletive) it, let's go,'" says Good, 42. "Give me a Telecaster and a distortion pedal and let's go." The kind of music that inspired him to pick up a guitar in the first place.

That stripped-down sensibility is in stark contrast to the vision Good had for his last solo album, 2011's ambitious Lights of Endangered Species, a bold-strokes stylistic departure that boasts densely layered arrangements crafted from strings, horns, woodwinds and piano -- not to mention an elaborate accompanying stage show.

"The last album was very heady. It was something that (longtime MGB producer) Warne (Livesey) and I had talked about doing for many years and it was something I wanted to do. It felt good to get it done, but it was very heady," he says.

While Arrows of Desire sees Good plug back in and get back to basics, it, too, is something of a departure. His alt-rock output post-MGB, which dissolved in 2002, has a certain kind of precision, particularly in the live show. It rocks, to be sure, but it's also incredibly polished. There are no frayed edges. Arrows of Desire, meanwhile, has a welcome raggedness.

"That (precision) really defined what I've been doing for the past seven years or so, so I was really happy to get away from it. I was very curious about how the new stuff would translate. It's so raw. At first it scared me. It's right at the edge of going out of control. Playing Via Dolorosa, it's like playing in a hardcore band, and I don't mean because it's loud; it just feels like everything could just fall apart at any second," Good says.

Playing this album live has, indeed, been a thrill for Good, who plays the Burton Cummings Theatre Thursday as part of a 33-date Canadian tour that wraps up in Vancouver on Nov. 28. "Oh man, I'm over the moon about it. For the first time in seven years, I bought new clothes for a tour. If you spent some quality time with Google Images, you'd see that I've been wearing the same thing onstage for years. I bought new shirts for this," he says.

And Good knows that in 2013 touring is how a musician survives. The face of the music industry has changed a lot over the course of his 20-year career. Although all six of his solo albums have debuted in the Top 10 on Billboard's Top Albums chart in Canada, including five in the Top 5, it's not about album sales anymore, he says.

"It's about asses in seats. That's how I make my money and that's how I connect with my fans."

Still, for a family man, the grind of the road is hard. Good has three kids at home in rural Mission, B.C.: son Thomas, 2, daughter Elizabeth, 10 months, and stepdaughter Avery, 6.

"It's tough. Being away is tough, but it's the job. To be quite honest, I don't think it should be taken out of context. It should be said of all the people who don't get interviewed in newspapers, who do shift work, who have to be away, who have to endure the same distances. To provide for your family, it's very unsung," he says.

While Good says fatherhood keeps him grounded and focused, it hasn't influenced his songwriting all that much -- although he does make one confession: "If you listen to the demos of Arrows of Desire, you can hear Caillou in the background."

 

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 5, 2013 D1

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