Written and Photographed by Billy Keith Bucher
Matt Bradshaw is a laid back, humorous musician out of the little East Texas town of Wills Point. When I spotted him waiting for our interview, he was slumped back in a big chair on the front porch of Moore’s Store in Ben Wheeler. From the first time I met him, I knew his conversation would often be punctuated by small bursts of light and easy laughter, and he had a way of telling his stories with the same lyrical sense of rhythm with which he makes music. His speech was peppered with politeness.
“Yes, sir,” Matt said as we sat down at a table, “I’m from Wills Point, which is about thirty miles down the road from here. I graduated from there in 2006, I’m 26 years old and I never thought I’d live this long. After all,” he said with a quick laugh, “when you’re eighteen, you never think you’ll make it much past that. And then you hit 21, and you’re just so excited to be drinking that those next few years really fly by.” He laughed again, only this time it was a slow laugh that rolled out of his chest like the lyrics to one of his songs.
“Yeah, yes sir,” he added, “I started playing country and Americana type music when I was 15. I kind of picked up a guitar and got together with some buddies who had thrown together a program for an FFA talent show. I don’t know how I got roped into that. It was the first time I had ever played in front of an audience. After that, I was talking to one of my friends, because a 16 year old isn’t really thinking about much of anything, but I do remember thinking, ‘A guy might just be able to make a little money doing this sort of thing.’ So I called up this little club in Tyler called Armadillo Willie’s and, ol’ Connie let me play in her club for a time, off and on.”
“For a couple of years after that I didn’t play as much while I worked and went to school. Then I put out the album from Rosewood Studio in Tyler, and it’s been more hectic since then. Now I’m going back into Rosewood Studio this month to start my new one. Whew!” he said as he lifted his gimme cap, scratched his head, and put it back down again. “Craig Wallace, who I play with at the Forge quite a bit, will be going in with me, and Heather Little. She is a fantastic songwriter and singer herself. She will be going in to do some backup vocals. Hopefully, we’ll have this project out by summer. And Heather is always working on her projects as well.”
He stroked the beard on his chin as if he was looking into the future at the task ahead of him. “Overall I’ve been working harder for the last nine or ten years now. I met Heather about three and a half years ago. She was doing a gig in Canton where the woman who owned the place asked me if I wanted to do a song swap with her. Right away, I said ‘well, heck yeah’ because, although I’d never met Heather before, I sure knew who she was. I mean, I jumped all over that, and right off the bat I was just very excited. That night we played together and then we became buddies from that point on.”
“Yes sir, she’s gonna come into the studio with Craig and I, and we are going to just try to get that really cool sound we get when we play at the Forge. Craig can certainly do it,” said Matt. “He’s been playing with us for a long while now, both as duos and sometimes as a trio.”
“I just really want to capture the natures of the sounds and get some of that same kind of magic. Get it down on a record. If we can do that, we’ll all be getting off into some really cool stuff. This town [Ben Wheeler], has done a lot for my music. I couldn’t thank them enough. Every time I play a gig here I’ll meet someone who has something to do with me or my music. It’s just really special how music brings this town together. I feel very lucky just to be a small part of it. That’s how I feel about that.”
“I know that once I get this CD out it is gonna be a more storytelling kind of record. Nothing as big and flashy as the first one was. I mean, it was fun having the larger band like that was on the first one, but this will be more intimate and personal.”
Certainly, Craig Wallace will be a big part of the direction that this album takes. Craig has a style of playing which has to be heard to be really believed. He can dish out a bluesy kind of sound with a slide guitar or quickly pluck strings and harmonics which accentuate the music which Matt and Heather are trying to deliver. He goes a long way in delivering the nuances of the lyrics with harmonics and notes which are spiked with his finger work. He can really bring out a different dynamic in the sounds of both Matt and Heather’s songs, which is important because you are dealing with original material.
Matt glanced out the window at the main street of Ben Wheeler, where so much music has begun to happen and has helped to develop Brook’s dream for the town. For this writer, when I first came to Ben Wheeler from Dallas, I asked at the Forge who I should hear first. Amelia, the bartender, said that the locals really liked Matt Bradshaw and Heather Little. And now that I have been here a while, and have heard them play several times, I agree. They are a strong act alone or together, and when they team up with Craig Wallace there is really a lot of creative music being made.
“I’m hoping to get out two records this year,” said Matt, “with seven cuts at least on each record. That should keep me out of trouble,” he added with a smile. “At least for a little while,” he laughed.
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