You’re How Old?

You’re How Old?

By Matthew Holtby

I hear it all the time. It’s one of those things that I used to shy away from but now an artist in my forties, I kind of embrace it. Like many, I was somewhat of a late bloomer in the whole “I’m a musician” thing. In high school, I should have stuck with the jazz band after grade nine instead of smoking way too much pot and acting like I could skateboard. I clearly could not but I fell into the crowd of burnouts and tough guys who may have had talent in other departments. Music simply wasn’t one of them. Fast forward to college when my best friend (to this day) offered me a sampling of the music he was into. Yes, he was a few years older than I but his Napster folder was rammed with bands I hadn’t heard of at the time; they certainly weren’t on mainstream radio. This will become more significant as we get to know each other; you, the reader of this column and I, the author.

Regardless, the term “Indie Rock” became part of my vocabulary as did the names of bands I still know and love today. Enter Built To Spill, Elliott Smith and most importantly, Guided By Voices. The latter two grabbed my attention more than any other because of the way the music was recorded. “Lo fi” was a label slapped on a lot of bands at the time but the four track recorder entered my life and my bedroom as it became clear that decent sounding recordings could be done right from my own makeshift studio. It was actually one Shure SM57, some headphones and a beat up Yamaha acoustic that the previously mentioned friend’s mother had gifted him. Nonetheless, my addiction to writing and recording was born.

I quickly dove head first into consuming as much of this music as was humanly possible and illegally downloadable. I tried to write songs similar to the bands I loved. This carried well into my twenties before I had the nerve to perform at an Open Mic at the campus bar of the college I was attending. Yes, I went back to college a second time. Ironically, I took Radio Broadcasting. After graduating and working in radio for nearly 16 years, I began to perform and write music with a few different bands but never quite as seriously as I do now. It took me well into my late twenties to write something I would ever play for anyone and a couple more before releasing an album. I worked out of home studios. I had CDs made. We sold T-shirts and silk screens. We played in local bars including The Horseshoe Tavern a couple of times. I was a Rock Star, right?

Well, in my own mind I was really doing it. However, somewhere down the line, I began to see a lot of my friends and artists my age start to walk away from the band thing. Moving into the adult stages of our lives clearly meant owning a home, getting married and starting a family– all wonderful things and yes, all things I too have accomplished. The difference, however, is that I am hitting it harder now than ever before. No, I’m not a Rock Star. No, I haven’t gone on tour or lived a complete life of debauchery. I’ve had my moments but all things considered, I’ve kept it together. I have a beautiful wife of 20 plus years and two beautiful kids. We live in an amazing community in the country and I work from my home. In my down time, I write more music now than I ever did when I first started. My band and I are booking decent little shows here and there and my own father is my piano player. At the age of 43, I’m finally taking music seriously and I’m really proud of what we’ve done in the past three years since going solo, meaning I’m using my own birth name. I’m not hiding behind a moniker or a bad band name. I’m finally just me and it’s pretty rewarding. I’ve learned, by falling down time and time again, what not to do. I’m learning what audiences not to play in front of and other simple things. I avoid playing rooms where UFC is on or TVs at all for that matter. I’ve learned to say no to bringing in my own P.A. and to selling my own tickets so a promoter can bill me with a death metal band followed by a rapper. You know who you are. I am Dad Rock. I’m going to continue to write and release and play the game as it is now because there’s something inside of me that has to continue. Guess what. There are artists out there who are a LOT older than I am just hitting their stride. I only pray I’ll be as great as they are one day. Onward and upward.

Hell, maybe I’ll even play The Horseshoe again one day.