Matt Colpitts has been putting himself out there, but you wouldn’t know it from scouring the concert listings checking for the Winnipeg singer-songwriter’s name.
Type The Reverend Rambler into Google and you’ll come across what you might call a stripped-down version of Cuff the Duke - an acoustic guitar slingin’, finger pickin’ son of a gun whose lyrics flow from the gut.
Having developed the Reverend persona over nearly four years while playing in the now defunct Red River Ramblers, Colpitts realized he had some real singer-songwriter tunes and blazed forward.
“There’s a lot of freedom to be able to write and practice completely independent of others,” he says. “Even in the performance aspect of it I very much improvise most of what I do. There aren’t any set song structures so I really enjoy it. It’s very liberating.”
The songs, which will make up the currently in-production first effort from the Rev, are occasionally performed live and on said record with his sister Karli on back-up vocals and longtime friend Sean Multan on harp.
“I try to write the songs so that they can exist in a solo fashion without needing anyone but it’s great when (Karli) does vocals,” Colpitts says. “It really thickens things up and makes it a lot more fun.”
Colpitts is firm to state that constant jamming with friends helps to fuel him as the Rambler.
“I definitely do miss playing in a band,” he says. “I actually am still playing and jamming around with different people so it’s not like I’m just making music alone in my basement. I just started jamming with some boys from the Empty Standards and Ivar Palmason from the Upsides and the Girth.”
Another member of the Rev’s diverse group of collaborators is country musician/producer Adam Young, who is currently working on the aforementioned debut disc.
“The process has been very interesting and challenging,” Colpitts says. “He approached me with the idea of capturing something very much like the live show so we didn’t want to overproduce it at all.”
The Reverend Rambler’s trademark foot percussion, guitar and smooth as sandpaper vocals were recorded live off the floor all at once, with many first takes being used.
“The sound is going to be very live and honest, filled with imperfections,” he says. “I struggled with that a little bit. You go into the studio and you want to come out and have a finished product that doesn’t have any sharp notes in it or little mess-ups, but the idea is that it will only add to the appeal of it and it’ll be an honest recording of what I do.”
Most people wouldn’t feel confident putting out something so raw and personal, but feedback from fans new and old has helped to get the Rev in the right headspace.
“It’s a good gauge when someone you’ve never met is compelled to come up to you and let you know that they like what you’re doing,” he says.
“That’s really motivating and makes me think that I should be recording this music and sending it out there for the world to hear, though I would be perfectly content just playing it in my basement.”
He’s even been able to pay a few bills as a musician and has been asked to play higher profile gigs.
“I’m playing Country Fest this summer, which is pretty hilarious,” he says with a laugh. “I don’t know where that will take me; I have no expectations, I just love making music and if people like hearing it then that’s the bonus.”
Published in Volume 67, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 6, 2013)