Vikki Matsis Finds Her Voice

Devin Grant

I first met Vikki Matsis while doing freelance writing for another local publication. She's a great writer, and a few years ago, we covered the Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee. In the process of taking in that epic experience, I also got to know local musician Lee Barbour, who traveled to Bonnaroo with us. Matsis and Barbour eventually got engaged (Barbour's proposal will likely make any other guy feel inadequate about their attempt at popping the question) and married last September. I always love it when a couple of creative types tie the knot, and since getting hitched it seems that Matsis has recaptured the songwriting bug that she had while in high school and college. Matsis recently released "When Dawn Meets Dusk," an EP of original songs that beautifully captures her songwriting talent and musical prowess. Songs such as "Dreamcatcher" and my personal favorite, "Two Wolves Fighting," demonstrate both a mature sense of songwriting, and a playful quality that adds to the listening enjoyment. Matsis recently discussed the new EP and the direction her music career has taken. 

Charleston Grit: When did you first start writing the material for the EP? Were there more songs that you pared down to the ones that are on the EP?
Vikki Matsis: "I started writing the material on the EP last year while taking a Berklee songwriting course online, and then a life skills for songwriters class. My teacher was Neil Diericks, and he taught us how to focus, set goals, reach out to the community, set a time everyday to write and to create a space dedicated to our craft. He was a great teacher that really helped me move forward with my dream of becoming a songwriter. I have more songs, ones that I wrote years ago (Charlie, for example) and others that I choose not to put on the EP due to time constraints in the recording studio. My goal is to record another EP in 2014."
CG: How long have you been writing and playing music?
VM: "I've been playing music since I was a wee lady of seven years old by way of classical piano. I played guitar in high school, and in college had a band called Blue Eye. We recorded an EP, wrote a few songs and played around town for a few years. It wasn't until last year that I started to take songwriting seriously. I wrote most of my songs on the piano, and last year, I realized there was so much more to learn. That inspired me to go back to school and I'm now finishing up my second semester at the College of Charleston to understand the magnificent mystery behind those 88 keys. I'm also hoping it will lead to writing better songs in the future."
CG: Who else plays on the EP? How did they come to contribute?
VM: "My husband,, Lee Barbour was on lead and rhythm guitar. He also produced the album along with my friend Majeed Fick, from Truphonic Studios, who I went to high school with back in Sylvania, Ohio. Jack Burg was on drums, and Jonathan Gray was on upright bass. They all were very supportive, encouraging, and gave me great suggestions for things like alternate endings and intros."

CG: Is there a particular song that you're most proud of? Why?
VM: "I am the most proud of the song 'Two Wolves Fighting.' One day last spring, I sat in meditation for one hour and thought about the old Native American tale about two wolves fighting. I watched my thoughts and saw a battle taking place between two very opposite forces in my mind. After I sat, that entire song came all at once. I picked up a guitar and started singing about what I had experienced, and what I had seen with my eyes closed. It's a life lesson for me, one that I'll always go back to. It reminds me that we as humans all face similar struggles, and that one of our greatest challenges is to learn who we really are. Everyday, it is a struggle to feed the good wolf and it's a battle worth fighting."
CG: Who are your musical influences?
VM: "Lee Barbour has been my greatest influence. He's taught me about discipline, courage, and how to listen to music on a deeper level. Local songwriters that have inspired me are Cary Ann Hearst, Michael Trent, Lindsay Holler and Michael Flynn. I don't know what else is better on this earth than listening to a song that is deeply moving and touches on the human experience and these songwriters have done that for me. Paul Simon, Bright Eyes and The Wood Brothers are some of my other favorite songwriters and I'm grateful for the music they share."
Anyone wanting to experience Matsis' music live will have a chance this coming Saturday as she performs at Gage Hall downtown at 4 Archdale Street for a show benefitting Charleston area elementary school enrichment programs. Gage Hall is a great place to see a show. It's an intimate space with a small stage, and attendees can purchase coffee and baked goods while they take in the performance. Matsis will perform starting at 7:30pm followed by a set by Barbour and Asheville musician Barrett Smith. Suggested donation at the door is $15 for the general public, $5 for students. Come on out and see why Shovels & Rope isn't the only immensely talented musical couple in Charleston.