It’s a leap year and that can only mean one thing for Vancouver Island MusicFest fans: Matt Andersen will be in Courtenay in July.
This will mark the New Brunswick roots/blues singer/songwriter’s third appearance at MusicFest, with the other two being 2012 and 2008.
“Of course, that was my plan all along,” deadpanned MusicFest artistic director Doug Cox. “But honestly, there are so many people who are going to be thrilled to hear this announcement. There is a number of our volunteers who are huge fans, not just of the music, but of the man as well. He’s one of those guys who comes and connects with everybody.”
Andersen says he appreciates any opportunity to play at music festivals, because it allows him the chance to reach out to a broader audience base.
“It’s always a great vibe at these things,” he said in a phone interview last week. “People are often on vacation, or taking time off just to enjoy themselves and it puts them in a good mood. Personally, it gives me a chance to see and be around a bunch of different musicians, where during record-touring season you don’t really get to do … so it’s a real treat for me too.”
He said the Vancouver Island MusicFest is particularly good in that regard.
“Doug does such a great job at getting the acts … there’s always a really nice mix. Always someone on his bucket list and every time I have been there, there’s always someone I really want to see as well.
“And it (Comox Valley) is such a great area too. What a beautiful place for a festival.”
Andersen’s appeal in the roots and blues scene has been rising consistently ever since his introduction to the industry in 2002.
He won the Maple Blues Award (Canada’s blues awards program) for Male Vocalist of the Year last month, for the third time in five years.
He has also won back-to-back Entertainer of the Year and Acoustic Act of the Year Awards, in 2010 and 2011.
“He a pretty powerhouse singer,” said Cox. “There’s a few singers, like Joe Cocker, that are just powerhouses on stage – that they just stand out from everybody else. Matt’s kind of like that.”
The timing for this latest MusicFest announcement is perfect. Andersen just released his 10th CD – Honest Man – on Friday.
Andersen said there are always unique aspects to every album, but Honest Man is not a great departure from his other studio work.
“The biggest thing on this one, the producer Gordon (“Commissioner Gordon” Williams), He works so well with drum loops, which is something I have never done before… but other than that, it was just getting together with other songwriters and trying to put together the best songs I could,” he said.
As his popularity and demand grows, so to does his touring schedule. Andersen already has a busy year ahead of him in promotion of the new album – and the summer schedule has yet to be filled.
“Between now and the middle of May we have 64 shows booked,” he said. “So it will probably be at least 200 shows (in 2016). I think last year we did somewhere around 260-270, something like that. I would say that somewhere between 200 and 250 has been the norm the last few years.”
Days and time slots for Anderson’s performances at MusicFest have yet to be confirmed.
For a sample of Andersen’s music, go to http://www.stubbyfingers.ca/
Another blues favourite returning this year, who, coincidentally, also played in 2012, are the 24th Street Wailers.
“I would call them the fan favourite to ever play MusicFest, in terms of CD sales, popularity and such,” said Cox.
“They’ve kind of become our festival house band, in a way, and also are the band that I have seen the most growth in. Every time they come back, they are very serious students in what they do.”
They will experience a “MusicFest growth spurt” in 2016, as they will play the main stage for the first time.
The Vancouver Island MusicFest runs Friday, July 8 through Sunday, July 10. Weekend passes are available at islandmusicfest.com
MusicFest camping passes go on sale March 1 at 8 a.m. (online only). Camping passes are only available to those who have purchased weekend festival passes.
“Those (camping passes) go on sale today and they sell out extremely quickly, so I would advise anyone interested in camping to get their tickets now,” said Cox.