Matt Epp is a mighty charming fellow. He is refreshingly honest and palpably genuine, qualities that become evident the instant he begins to speak.

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This article was published 20/6/2015 (2357 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Matt Epp is a mighty charming fellow. He is refreshingly honest and palpably genuine, qualities that become evident the instant he begins to speak.

"I just want to tell you the truth -- that show was terrible," the Winnipeg singer-songwriter says with a chuckle when asked about his first performance of the tour supporting his newest release, Ready in Time.

There were sound problems and the venue's kitchen nearly blew up, but Epp is convinced things can only get better as he heads east for the remainder of his Canadian dates -- including a stop at the Park Theatre on Tuesday, the day his album comes out.

Regardless of the hard times, and the fact Epp has spent the better part of the last 12 years being a travelling troubadour, touring non-stop both nationally and internationally, he says he still loves being on the road.

"It's the essential part of who I am.... To have that energy and have it circle back around to me onstage, that's what I'm about as an artist, and a person."

But even the most tour-happy musician needs to take a break every now and then, and that's what Epp did in 2013, following the release of his last full-length recording, Learning to Lose Control.

The break didn't last long, though. By early 2014, he was back at it, spending the entire month of February penning songs, a process ignited by the prospect of becoming a new father (Epp and his wife welcomed baby Luma nine months ago.)

The songs naturally divided themselves into two separate groups, and the result was the appropriately named Luma EP, released in November 2014, and Ready in Time.

Both recordings tackle big ideas and big sounds in a short amount of time. Epp's storytelling remains at the forefront, each song a little nugget of sound that delves deep into personal narratives, making the less-than-30-minute album hit hard and fast. The content of Ready in Time is offset by catchy hooks and pop-inspired melodies, which Epp says is the biggest difference between the full-length and Luma.

"Luma was very personal for me, but it's not very fun, the content is super-heavy," he admits. "And while there's still some heavy stuff on Ready in Time, it's a bit more fun."

Epp enlisted the help of award-winning Winnipeg-based producer Rusty Matyas because of his lighthearted personality, which Epp felt matched up well with this set of more upbeat songs. "As I began writing, I would think, 'This song really has a Rusty sound,'" he says.

Epp has spent a long time tackling this process alone; whether it's writing or recording or producing, he says he used to try to keep too many industry hands from messing with the work, for which he had a specific vision.

Now he's allowed himself to let go a little bit and permit other voices and minds to create with him, to add to what he's started and help make it better. (He collaborated with Serena Ryder on a couple of songs that helped the Ontario singer-songwriter win a 2014 Juno for Songwriter of the Year.)

"I've remained out of the industry and tried to retain all of the control," he says. "Now I'm ready for people to join in and to contribute to the songs.

"I was 'ready in time,' you might even say," he adds with a laugh.

Epp speaks about his music with such infectious passion that it's impossible to ignore. He has a respect for his art and his fans that is unwavering, and after 12 years and eight albums, there is not an ounce of fatigue.

His goal, he says, is to have such a wealth of back catalogue that it's almost "a kind of archeological thing to leave behind."

"It's like a 15-year-old girl discovering Dylan for the first time... and she hears those songs and the hairs stand up on the back of her neck and then she discovers that he's got, like, 50 albums and it's a real musical awakening. I want to create that kind of catalogue."

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @NireRabel

We asked Epp to put together a playlist of his favourite songs, and his only instruction was to keep it at 20 songs or under. Here's what he came up with: 

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Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Manager of audience engagement for news

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.