Music can take you in all sorts of directions.

Throughout his years at York University, Mathew Fantini was influenced by jazz icons: Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, John Coltrane and the like. But nowadays, he’s playing in a band that’s focused on pop songs grounded in R&B sounds.

And things are moving fast. His band The Free Label formed in 2017, and already the band has had the chance to perform at the Mariposa Folk Festival, the Beaches Jazz Festival and Light Up the Square; they were among the top 100 of this year’s CBC’s Searchlight talent search and they were semi-finalists at the Indie Week music festival; and they’ve released two EPs and two singles, with the debut single racking up more than 250,000 streams. This summer, they’ve performed at Soul in the City and made another appearance at Mariposa.

Fantini plays bass in The Free Label, providing the heavy, groovy rhythms that form the foundation of their tunes. And while his career has deviated from his jazz origins, Fantini says he wouldn’t be doing everything he does today without the technique he developed as a jazz bassist.

The 24-year-old participated in our Jazzology program in 2017.

“It was a great way to learn how to get a lot of professional material together quickly,” he says. “This is something I find is actually really important in the industry. A lot of opportunities come at you really fast and usually all at once.”

We asked Fantini to tell us more about his budding band, what else influences his music, and what to expect in the future.