A League All His Own (part 2) • Matt Besey

Best Rock Songwriter • Best Blues Songwriter • Best Blues Vocalist • Best Blues Instrumentalist • Best Blues Band

    icon Apr 30, 2015
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Matt Besey dominated the Blues categories for the second year in a row at the 29th Annual RMA’s, edging into the Rock category as well with a Best Songwriter trophy, while proving once again that his expressive abilities as a musical artist are undeniably unique. Since he first surfaced as a musical wunderkind from Frankenmuth in the early ‘90s, Besey secured honors for Best Blues Band in 1999-2000, 2002, 2004-2005, and 2009-2010. 

Indeed, it was at a memorable performance when he joined famed Rock ‘n Roll legend Dick Wagner on-stage for a collaborative guitar-showdown during our 8th Awards Ceremony back in 2004 which in turn led to the two joining forces, with Wagner producing Besey’s debut CD release of original material.

Without doubt Matt Besey is a world-class guitarist – nobody’s fingers can dance across the fret board with such expressive velocity; possessing both a seamless fluidity coupled with a distinctive style that is as unique and on a similar level with such guitar greats as Buddy Guy or Eric Clapton. And let’s not forget to mention his ability to emulate Jimi Hendrix (as was witnessed when Besey produced a one-time only ‘Tribute to Hendrix’ at Pit & Balcony Theatre several years ago).

And the fact that he is capable of performing at such an incredible level of perfection as these aforementioned greats is also what is so infuriating – because he truly should be packing stadiums and theatres across the country; not simply because of his talent and persistence; but because few contemporary guitarists on any level can match let alone exceed his talent.

Everything about Matt Besey and his music is undoubtedly original and singular:  from the hybrid texture between Blues & Rock with his original compositions, to the way he translates familiar Blues standards and makes them all his own. Indeed, as I have stated previously perhaps the biggest problem Besey has faced as a musician is one shared with many young protégé’s when they first break out of the starting gate:  he was simply too good.

Filled with ambition and brimming with a talent it takes normal adults years of practice to accumulate, when Besey first broke out of Frankenmuth onto the regional scene 20 years ago he became the ‘Talk of the Town’, finding an early champion & mentor in the form of Larry McCray.

Constant gigging and the alliance that spawned his debut CD resulted in Matt opening gigs for Grand Funk Railroad at the Palace of Auburn Hills, and for Creedence Clearwater Revisited at Pine Knob, only to lose momentum from a barrage of management difficulties, personnel shake-ups, and too much constant live exposure locally that caused many to start taking him for granted.

But all of that is now past tense, as Besey persevered and went on to release a second dynamite CD, Prisoner, seven years ago and then departed from the scene to go on a 3-year tour of the world with the Australian Blues harmonica and didgeridoo player Harper.  Besey returned to the Mid-Michigan area two years ago with a new group consisting of drummer Mark Dault and bassist Todd Cox; and recently added a dynamite piano player, J. LeFevre into the fold capable of matching Besey’s fluidity and accomplishment on guitar.

“I’m writing and performing music that transcends both the Rock & Blues genres and I’ve learned to be what I want, not what somebody else thinks I should be or wants me to sound like,” reflects Matt when asked about the evolution of his style and approach over the years.

“I think now I’m closer to being able to express what I want to express. In the past I would feel like the sound in my head was difficult to make come out of that amp – and I’ll probably always feel that way – but you get to know yourself better the longer you’re alive and that comes through when you’re expressing yourself through music.  Aside from the obvious physical aspects of playing, a lot of the creative power from music comes from the imaginative aspect, which isn’t talked about a lot.”

What about the 3-year break that he took touring with Harper – did that experience help him grow and develop as a musician? “Yeah, I was all over the world and we toured Europe, Belgium, Italy, spent a lot of time in Florida and went out West and up to Canada and then back down south.  The style of music Harper played was a fusion of world styles and that entire experience was very helpful.  The Blues has a very strong following in Florida, but sometimes I think that with the nature of Harper’s original show and using the digeradoo and all that, some of the more backwards places we played didn’t really get it.”

“We’re getting ourselves together as a band. As a Blues player, I’m more on the Rock side of things than a lot of Blues bands prefer,” continues Matt. “In the past I would often hear, ‘Oh, you’re playing too much Blues; or ‘Hey, you’re more of a Rock guitarist; but as I’ve gotten older I don’t even think about that anymore. 10 years ago I would ask myself when I was writing a song – is this a Blues or a Rock tune? Now I simply don’t care. If it’s something that I’m creating that appeals to me then I go with it.”

When asked what he feels his biggest challenge is at this stage of the came, Matt points to the importance of endurance. “The biggest challenge is just to keep it all up and running,” he reflects. “You’ve got to be careful with your brand and not get over-exposed, yet it’s also a challenge just to keep working nowadays. The economy has affected everybody from large touring acts with the price of gas; and clubs are also shrinking, so it’s hard to go out on the road in the same way that you used to.”

For the immediate present, however, the Great Lakes Bay area is fortunate to have this incredible talent performing once again in the area on a regular basis.  You can often catch him at SloBones BBQ in Franeknmuth, White’s Bar, The Stables, and The Baywood Lounge. 

Check out his facebook page for more details and future appearance dates.

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