Toronto-born, New York-based guitarist Matthew Stevens’ latest project is a solo acoustic guitar album called Pittsburgh.
The intimate, unadorned recording was always a “maybe someday” prospect, until both the pandemic and a broken elbow set up the perfect circumstances to finally do it.
Stevens began working on the project in September of 2020 while staying in his wife’s family’s hometown of Pittsburgh, still busy teaching remotely at Baltimore’s Peabody Institute. He played daily on a vintage Martin 00-17, a small-body mahogany guitar, and came up with a collection of ideas and sketches that could turn into songs.
With the help of drummer and producer Eric Doob, he made preliminary versions of some of the material for the Jazz Gallery’s Lockdown Sessions video series. After breaking his arm in a bicycling accident, finishing all of those songs then became a major part of his rehab.
As the album took shape, Stevens knew it had to be a fully unaccompanied recording, with no overdubs or sound layering.
“I’ve always felt that playing acoustic is a great way to develop a touch and a connection to an instrument,” Stevens says. “There’s no apparatus that helps you be expressive, play dynamically, or create ambience on an acoustic guitar. So when you develop that, it’s something you can carry with you into playing electric.”
Listen to the single Blue Blues below.