Banjo isn't Matt Sever's instrument of choice. The Austin, Texas, songwriter's principal instrument is guitar. "I own a tenor banjo, and I play it a little," Sever says. "But during a photo session, I just happened to be holding a banjo. I was hired to teach a banjo workshop in Canada based on that photo."
As Matt the Electrician, Sever mines a style of folk music similar to that of Arlo Guthrie, John Prine and Loudon Wainwright III and weaves humor, intelligence and musicianship into songs about the human condition.
Who: Matt the Electrician
When: 8 p.m. Thursday,
Where: The Wild Goose, 2365 Highway 66, Ashland
Sever will perform his quirky, acoustic, roots-based pop music at 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, at The Wild Goose, 2365 Highway 66, Ashland.
At 1 p.m., Sever will join Eric Teel for a live session on Jefferson Public Radio's "Open Air."
"I've always enjoyed the more humorous side of things," Sever says. "I'm not exclusively a writer of funny songs. I was just drawn to songwriters who didn't take themselves too seriously. I think artists like Taj Mahal, Paul Simon and Arlo Guthrie were having fun and liked what they were doing. I want to have a little fun with songwriting, too."
Sever's first trade was that of journeyman electrician. At the end of his workday, he'd play his songs in Austin nightclubs for anyone who would listen. Sometimes he'd get off work late and arrive at the clubs in his work clothes. Thus, he was dubbed Matt the Electrician. Eventually, he quit his day job in order to spend more time writing and playing songs. The name stuck with him, though, "because everyone needs an electrician sometimes."
Nowadays, Sever spends his time touring, recording and hanging out with like-minded songwriters at The Saxon Pub in south Austin and The Cactus Cafe & Bar on the University of Texas campus.
"Many singers and songwriters got their start there," Sever says. "People like Lyle Lovett and Nanci Griffith."
Well-known artists Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Alison Krauss, John Hiatt and others occasionally grace the Cactus stage.
"I grew up on the West Coast, so most of my musical influences came from listening to my parents' gigantic record collection of singers and songwriters from the '60s, like Paul Simon, Ry Cooder, Arlo Guthrie and John Steward from The Kingston Trio."
Sever lived in Ashland and Talent, and then in Corvallis with his parents. He attended Talent Elementary School until he was in the third grade. When his family moved to California, he studied at Humboldt State University.
He was already recording and playing music professionally before he left his steady job in 2002. His first album, "Home," was released on the Chez Dre Records label in 2000. Four self-released albums, "Made for Working," "Long Way Home," "One Thing Right" and "Playing Live at Cafe Mundi," followed in 2003, 2004, and 2006. "Animal Boy" and a live album, also independently released, came in 2010.
"My newest ('Accidental Thief') is different from the earlier albums in that I did a lot of co-writing with other songwriters," Sever says. "There's a darker quality to some of the songs that comes from making compromises with other writers, letting other people into my process."
Guitarist Jef Fretwell will open for Sever at The Wild Goose. Cover is free. Call 541-488-4103.