AEWest Spotlight: Matt Blais
How have you grown as a musician since AEWest?
Since AEWest, I have really focused on my songwriting, making it a consistent intention and taking even more care to craft compositions that are meaningful, exciting, and truer to me than ever before. Since, I was named Calgary’s Songwriter in Residence (2021) and in this year alone have written over 40 songs. I’ve recently released a new single “Our Comeback”, raising money for the “Prophets of Music”, a local not-for-profit that supports emerging artists.
What was your biggest takeaway?
There was a lot to take away from AEWest. Mainly, it served as a reminder that a professional music career is a tight-rope sort of balance between creativity and business. If you lean too far to one side, you will fall, and so you’ve got to constantly readjust. At that point, my music career was imbalanced, and I was teetering. I now know how to center myself.
What was the most valuable lesson?
The vocal instruction is something I consider daily: tips for my vocal health, warm-ups, expanded range, and emotional delivery. I think back to those discussions and exercises whether I’m about to go on stage or into the studio.
What advice would you give for someone thinking about taking AEWest?
If you’re thinking about taking the AEWest course, you should. Whether you’re experienced or new to the industry, there’s something for everyone. My instructors made a point of addressing everyone at their level. It wasn’t just a lot of information; I could tell it was curated and intentional for each artist, more focused on next steps rather than end goals.
What was the most surprising thing you learned?
I’ve learned to expect the unexpected in this industry, so I’m not sure what surprised me. Perhaps it’s the fact that there are so many artists who are thinking what I’m thinking and going through what I’m going through at the same time. Music is more about community than competition.
What challenged you the most?
When I started the program, I was in a creative rut. I hadn’t written a song in a long time. I had forgotten why I had started writing songs in the first place and struggled with the motivation to get that ball rolling again. When I shared this with the group, they challenged me to write a song in 10 minutes and just appreciate what came out. I accepted the challenge and in 10 minutes, I wrote my song “Love Together” which made it onto my album and I play live at nearly every show.
What was the most meaningful moment of the program?
In the program we shared laughter, a few tears, and of course many memorable moments. After the program, we celebrated by hopping on a party bus, driving around Calgary dancing, connecting, and drinking. Friendships were formed, collaborations inspired, and memories made.
Have you been able to use what you’ve learned in your career?
Yes, all the time. Whether it’s a spreadsheet, my elevator pitch, website, one-sheet, bio … the list goes on. Some things have become second nature now, but if ever I’m stuck on the wording of something, or the impact of something on my career, I consider my time with AEWest to help me make the decision. Even recently, I had some questions about syncs. I reached out and was able to talk it through. It’s not just about what I have learned. It’s about what I continue to learn.
How did the program change the way you think about your business?
By the time I took the program, I had already been in the music business for nearly a decade. A lot of the business elements discussed, was already in practice. What the program did for me was streamline the business side. I’ve become more efficient and organized.
How did the program prepare you for your next steps?
After the program, I released by record “In Shadow and Light”. I received more play and press in Canada and internationally than ever before. I sold more records and played more shows. I never felt overwhelmed. It was a natural progression that was in large part to AEWest and the CMI team providing me with the tools that I could use for marketing, promotion, release planning, and touring. Even today, when I’m preparing a release, I go over my notes to make sure no step is missed.