High Hopes: Northcote

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Matt Goud was born to run. From his religious upbringing in rural Canada – and the family car-repair business that could have been his life – to tonight’s show in Wiesbaden, Germany, the artist known as Northcote has barely stopped for breath.

“There’s been a lot of miles,” the 30-year-old songwriter says as he rockets along the autobahn. “Hopefully I’ve gathered a bit of wisdom along the way. All these shows… You might not get a diploma to hang on your wall, but I really believe it does give you an education.”

Musically, too, Goud is a man in motion. His earliest sighting was on the hardcore scene of Saskatchewan (“I had a ponytail and camouflage shorts, all that stuff”), and when Northcote debuted with 2009’s Borrowed Chords, Tired Eyes EP, the project traded in chunky folk-punk. Now, third album Hope Is Made Of Steel is a marked departure, with widescreen anthemics and Springsteen-worthy tales of blue-collar yearning. Asked if it will surprise his fans, he says: “I don’t know. It definitely surprised me.

“I wrote fifty songs, and lots of them were very ‘Northcote’ in style, with heavy acoustic, but the ones that made it onto the record were different. I was in the mood to play more electric guitar, to be louder and to feel the energy of the volume. There’s been people dancing and jumping around at the shows, which is new, and fun. All my favourite styles of music, they challenge your intellect. But also it’s physical – you can feel the music.”

“The record for me is about faith,” Goud explains. “And I don’t mean in a religious sense necessarily, but just hope for the future. It’s the last record I’ll make in my twenties – because I just turned thirty – and you have struggles and trials along the way. It’s just about keeping that faith that it’s gonna be okay and that you’ll find your place.”

Of all Goud’s lyrical themes, the most prevalent is escape – it’s writ large on moments like Small Town Dreams and Leaving Wyoming.

“Yeah,” he says. “I’m not sure what that’s about. I have a hard time accepting who I am as a person. Hopefully some day I will, but it’s just self-acceptance. Music is always a way where I can try to be different kinds of people. It’s like being an actor or something.”

For all that, there’s no doubt that Hope Is Made Of Steel, plainly sung from the heart, is as honest as music gets. Goud brightens at the compliment: “Yeah. It’s important that there’s some kind of meaning to it, some kind of legacy, as opposed to just selling two hundred tickets and moving on to the next show. The really special songs, you kinda know as soon as you write them, because there’ll be some kind of cathartic feeling. Maybe it’ll make you sweat a little bit, or feel like an emotional light bulb. And those are the special ones, the ones that will survive.”

FOR FANS OF: Bruce Springsteen

“Just like any Americana rock group, my guys are Springsteen and Petty. Darkness On The Edge Of Town was the first one where it really clicked with me. Listening to Racing In The Street, Factory, Candy’s Room, The Promised Land… I really relate to the rural, small-town people. That’s all I knew. It’s pretty much still all I know.”

Classic Rock 216: News & Regulars

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