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The Chat Room: Colour Film

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Hamilton, ON singer/songwriter Matthew de Zoete’s fondness for preserving unique moments has been a foundational part of his music since he arrived on the Canadian scene in 2006, first under his own name and then as Colour Film since 2016. His songwriting has been widely praised for its atmospheric blend of folk and pop, with his lyrics capturing those emotions that, once experienced, remain in our consciousness to help guide us through our lives.

That approach has taken on a deeper meaning with Half An Hour, recorded just prior to the pandemic in January 2020, and delayed following an injury Matthew suffered that almost derailed his music career completely. Now having partially recovered, Matthew is ready to share Half An Hour, and revisit a time that already feels like another life.

Half An Hour was produced by Matthew’s longtime collaborator Les Cooper, and features stellar contributions from vocalist Kori Pop—who accompanies Matthew on all tracks—along with backing from Les, Christine Bougie and Dan Rodrigues.

The intimacy they achieved within the studio is embedded on each of Half An Hour’s 10 songs, allowing Matthew to, on one hand, delve into his personal dark corners and on the other hand, use his powers of observation to express striking moments of clarity.

Exploring everyday life is something Matthew has learned from his primary songwriting heroes, from Ray Davies and Randy Newman, to more contemporary artists like Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, whose unfettered style played a big part in shaping the sound of Half An Hour.

Colour Film’s Half An Hour is available now on all digital platforms and via Bandcamp. Matthew took some time to talk with us in the midst of his current run of dates across southern ON. To find out if he’s coming to your town, go to colourfilm.ca/shows.

You recorded Half An Hour in early 2020. How hard has it been keeping it under wraps until now?
The delay hasn’t been easy, I’ll admit. It’s been a bit like having a good joke you really want to tell all your friends but can’t until the time is right. I was very excited about the album as soon as the recording sessions were finished, and even more so when I heard the mixes and masters, so having to keep them to myself has been a good lesson in patience.

Can you talk about the injury that put your music career on hold, and how you’ve recovered from it?
In November 2022, I had a high voltage electrical injury. I’ll spare folks the details, but about 16,000 volts went in through my right hand and out through my left foot. The current left very bad burns at those spots, but it somehow went through my whole body without damaging anything else. I spent a month in the burn unit and had numerous operations to remove the burnt tissue on my hand and foot, fill the holes with tissue and skin grafts, and replace a ruined tendon in my right thumb with tendon from my wrist. Most of 2023 was spent recovering with a lot of physio for my foot and even more for my hand. There’s still constant pain in both places, but I’m able to walk normally again, and even run around a bit with the kids. And I can play guitar and do most daily tasks again, in somewhat altered ways. It hasn’t been the most fun experience, but I’ve certainly learned a lot about patience, acceptance, and gratitude. It could have been much worse.

You’re about to start playing live again. What’s your relationship like now with the new songs?
They still feel fresh and alive to me. Maybe it’s the residual excitement from the live-off-the-floor recording sessions for the album or my own joy and relief at recovering to this point, but I get pulled in and energized each time I play the songs. I feel genuine and present inside them. They still ring true, and they’re still intriguing, both musically and lyrically. I still feel the spark in them.

Your lyrics have always been infused with a sense of nostalgia. Where do you think that originated in your writing?
The past has always had a bit of a hold on me. As a kid, I was fascinated with ancient people, places, and artifacts, and I always loved hearing my parents and grandparents tell stories from their lives. I got a history degree in university and still read a lot of history books, but it’s the personal side of things that has increasingly interested me – people’s experiences and emotions. We’re all the result of everything we’ve been through. Most day-to-day experiences are fairly mundane and don’t leave much of a mark, but some episodes seem to resonate in ways that can be mysterious and profound, at least for me. Maybe it’s the notion of certain points in a life meaning something and continuing to be meaningful even after they’ve slipped away. You don’t want to constantly relive them, but you want to recognize their continued presence. Not being mired in the past, but having an awareness that the present comes from somewhere, sometimes somewhere specific. I don’t pine over things gone by, but some of those things do trigger emotions and ideas that create spaces for songs. There’s a deep well there that can be beautiful. Dangerous, but beautiful.

Have you been working on any new material?
Yes. There’s at least another album’s worth of songs, and a few ideas on how to record them. I’ve been exploring a few different approaches to writing, so I’ll see where they lead. For the next while, I’ll give the songs on Half An Hour their time in the sun while writing some more in the shadows. The new ones will eventually come into the light. Fortunately, I’ve learned that songs, or at least the good ones, can hang around a while without going stale.

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