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Quarantine leads to new songs, debut EP

Matthew Burkhart had the time and inspiration during the pandemic lockdown to write and record new tracks. Submitted

Kitchener-born musician Matthew Burkhart was on vacation in Arizona when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Western world. He re-entered the country a mere day before borders were closed after Canadians were ordered to fly back home. Upon returning to Toronto, where he now resides, he was on his way to work when he received a text requiring him to self-isolate for two weeks; his new EP, Slow Burn, is a product of that quarantine.

His vacation in the Copper State was an eye-opener, Burkhart says.

“I was frustrated. I think that just seeing the sort of lackadaisical response down there to what was happening and, and knowing that that was just going to make this whole thing worse.”

Upon returning to the Great White North, he noticed a much more sophisticated approach to handling the coronavirus outbreak with attempts at flattening the curve.

“I got back and drove to work. And then as I was getting to work, I got the text saying that I had to sort of quarantine for two weeks. So from that point, I was like, ‘OK, now I have to apply for EI, I don’t even know if I’m going to have a job after this.’ And everyone during that time was pretty confused, and just rolling with the punches as this virus was spreading like crazy.”

Seeing these societal changes and differences lead to a “point of frustration” for Burkhart, which he put to pen and voiced over the accompanying guitar chords in his Toronto home under the title Slow Burn.

The six-song release is Burkhart’s debut solo album, which consists of raw barebone tracks. He hopes the new release will place him alongside other contemporary Canadian alt-country hard-hitters such as Saskatchewan’s Colter Wall, Welland’s Daniel Romano or Toronto’s Orville Peck.

His two-week period of being locked away proved to be the kicker Burkhart needed to release some new material. “This was the first time that I actually sat down with the intention of writing songs, just for me to play with an acoustic guitar, which is exciting and it’s also kind of terrifying, because it’s just you and an acoustic. It’s super raw, but I think, all roads were sort of leading to this point.”

Although he’s been able to host just one concert this year – a virtual one celebrating the EP release – Burkhart has been working alongside his fellow employees at Blood Brothers Brewing in Toronto to add more dynamics to his solo tracks and put on a show displaying the tracks in a new atmosphere. “I’m really excited. I think it adds a whole wide array of dynamics and different elements to the songs.”

Burkhart’s roots haven’t always been in the country realm; he played in the popular funk/reggae act Mowgali while attending high school at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate. Of his experience playing in other acts throughout the 519 zone, Burkhart says memories like playing bills opening for three hardcore bands at the Schwaben Club will always stand out, even if the band stuck out like a sore thumb.

From his personal experience through the pandemic, Burkhart issues the following message: “In a world that’s set up to divide us, if we all turn to music, and we all turn to each other, we’ll be OK.”

More information and the EP can be found online.

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