Matt Van Winkle

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Bio I was born in Meadville, PA in 1979. I attended the local high school there, and was interested in reading, music, and theater. In 1995 I formed a band to go with the band name I'd come up with. We were called "Pass the Peasants." My friends Paul Clever, Jeff Toth, Gamiel Lodge, and Matt Rak were all members. Those were great, fun times. Early benefactors included Robin Sipos, who gave me a few lessons and a nice Ovation guitar to keep; Dave Devine, who I hope is making money now in Erie; Mary & Larry Clever, whose basement it was; and Monsignor Henry Schauermann, who let us play on the stage (!) in the Seton School auditorium.

Max Keefer was a great blues and rock guitar player I met at Washington & Jefferson College in 1998. He was a good ear to play to, and a great musician to play with. At Oberlin College, Josh Ritter ( set a new standard for song craftsmanship -- he was doing the Real Thing, and he was just a year older than I was! I really looked up to Josh, and respected the commitment he gave to his art.

Mark Williams, a roommate was always ready with his guitar for some diversion from school deadlines. My conservatory-trained harpist friend Nuiko Wadden was also exceedingly generous and accompanied me on a gig or two at the Cat in the Cream Coffeeshop.

I almost never met Tim Roark ( We were both hanging around Oberlin after grauduation, and got introduced somehow. Tim allowed me to play guitar and sing harmony with him on his first album, "The Unseen Exit Machine." Tim's written some of the greatest songs I've heard in the last three years, and our late-night discussions on Songwriting dos and don'ts were continued after we bumped into each other three months later at Academy Records on 18th St., New York, NY.

I played a string of shows with Tim's ensemble, the Iberian Six (featuring Sammy Grabler, Brian Quinn, Mike Bieber, and Seth Fruiterman) at CBGB's Gallery and the Orange Bear on Murray St. In the meantime it seems I was also playing 'solo' shows a lot at a now defunct bar on Allen St. Guitarist Anthony Mascorro, a singer named Kabrina Carlson, and Seth Fruiterman on accordion, supplied assistance at those shows.

I stopped playing gigs for a brief time, though I always tried to keep writing songs. That has not always been easy. Joe Kross, a terrific drummer, had me over to his place in Queens a few times for jam sessions in 2003. The lack of presentable material I had to show Joe was an indication to me that I had run out of ideas. But, I was also painfully aware that even a good Idea does not guarantee a good song.

Low point: I leave my building to go downtown for a gig, but before leaving my stoop feel around in my pocket for a guitar pick. Finding none, I call the gig a wash, and head back upstairs, feeling sorry for myself.

Through the winter of 2003-2004 I played a few open mics at George Keeley's on the Upper West Side. Jazz bassist Mark Anderson lent me his expert accompaniment at a gig on Easter 2004 at CBGBs Gallery. I also begin collaborating with classical violinist Phoebe Parros around this time -- our musical sessions were mainly conducted over the telephone, with Phoebe struggling to both play a violin and hold a phone to her ear.

Recently, both solo and with my great friend and keys player Seth Fruiterman, I've been playing at the Sidewalk Cafe Monday open mics (sometimes winning valuable prizes left behind by audience members). I'm also performing regular gigs there and playing this year's Winter Antifolk Fest!


I came to the Sidewalk Cafe to change the world with my songs, and blow everyone away with my talent... Some vague notion builds itself up in my mind that if I play well enough THIS ONE TIME that they'll rewrite music history, rename the club after me, declare me at last to be the one thing we all really want to be: Cool (read: "well loved"). Yeah, that's just the kind of myth Sidewalk dispels, for the greater good. SIdewalk keeps me Listening, and lets me know how important it is for those who want to be heard to Listen, and be true to what you're doing -- nothing does that for you like playing for a room of fellow songwriters; seeing what you can get accomplished with honest work in 4-8 minutes. It's not easy to keep a cooler-than-thou attitude going for very long in a room with singers and writers like Lach, Rebecca Smith, Debe Dalton, Cockroach, Beau Johnson, and the Analogues. So I try not to wear that nervous mask; I try and sit and just listen, and I'm always rewarded. Antifolk people aren't playing pretend music, they are really doing it, and they know it.

For more info on Matt, visit Matt site