The making of Your Perfect Matador
Left: Alex Gamble / Right: Michael Phillip Wojewoda in full maestro mode at Union Studios, Toronto.
Top Left: Robbie Grunwald - Keys
Back Right: Champagne James Robertson - Guitar
Bottom Left: Jay Aymar - Acoustic guitar, singer-songwriter
Bottom Middle: Devon Henderson - Bass
Bottom Right: Michael Phillip Wojewoda -Drums / producer
Sometimes you just have to take the bull by the horns. For veteran singer-songwriter, author and part-time poet Jay Aymar, that time is now. And the stellar result is his game-changing sixth album Your Perfect Matador. "This is the album I've long wanted to create," says the Toronto resident. "I wanted these songs to live in a heavier, deeper atmosphere. There is an intentional cinematic feel to this record, from the moment I arrive at her graffiti filled village to the moment it fades into the rear view. From hope to pain and back again, it's all here."And then some. The acclaimed wordsmith and performer pulls out all the creative stops on these nine tracks, spinning a poetic fable of seduction, obsession and addiction— while washing it down with a narcotic cocktail of edgy post-Americana, swampy southern roots-rock and even menacing soul-funk. Hazy, bloody, apocalyptic and transfixing, Aymar's spiritual odyssey through doomed love aligns him with such darkly kindred spirits as Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits, while making Your Perfect Matador the ideal soundtrack to the next season of a haunting detective drama, or the next dark night of your soul. Aymar didn't get there alone.
Formidable producer Michael Phillip Wojewoda (Barenaked Ladies, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Rheostatics, Amelia Curran) helped construct the sonic cathedrals, theatres and wastelands beneath these stories. "Working with a world-class producer like Michael has been an extremely rewarding experience," Aymar says. "He has a gift for putting the artist at ease and drawing out the inner musical vision. Or as he puts it: 'Coaxing performances out of fragile egos.' I love that. It really does sum it up." Also on board: A resonant, responsive band featuring a who’s who of Toronto’s finest musicians, supporting Aymar's rhythm guitar and his deep rasp. "Add to that three of my favourite artists— Chloe Charles, Alejandra Ribera and Shakura S'aida — and string arrangements by Drew Jurecka, and how can a guy go wrong?" Like many a magnum opus, it was a long time coming. And a long way from Aymar's humble beginnings as the youngest of eight siblings in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. "The only way I was going to get any airtime was by having a magic trick," he recalls. "One day my brother came home with a guitar that was riddled battle scars and after he taught me a few chords I was off to the races. It coincided with a time when I was reading and writing a lot of fiction, which culminated with my graduating with an English lit degree from Carleton University. I believe it was these life circumstances that led me toward songwriting as my artistic medium of choice."
After being discovered via a CBC songwriting contest and releasing his first album, his path seemed clear. “I was getting national airplay and performing with some legendary artists but I didn't take it too seriously back then. I didn't look at it as something viable at that time. The vision dimmed. I was a nine to fiver, performing shows around Ontario and feeling creatively stifled. I was so much older then."At his lowest — "I’d lost my creativity; I was in a loveless relationship; my palette was devoid of colours," he says — then suddenly everything changed. Ian Tyson recorded his song My Cherry Coloured Rose in 2008. It was the boost he needed. "Ian called me and told me he liked a lot of my songs. Over the course of our conversation, he offered the insight that pursuing music would be akin to a vow of poverty - but good things follow good intentions. If an icon tells you something, you take it under serious consideration. I guess you could call him a catalyst. So, in short order, I sold my possessions and hit the open road for 10 years. I felt like Kerouac, hitting every little town around North America: a true bohemian existence. It was pretty crazy."
Along the way he stopped long enough to make more albums — 2008's Halfway Home, 2011's Passing Through, 2013's Overtime — and in 2015 to pen the road-dog memoir The Chicken Came First, which included a live CD. More crucially: "During the journey, I met the woman who would re-ignite my spirit. With my creativity awoken, my only desire would be to document our love in song. This collection of songs represents that moment in time," he says. "I crafted these songs over the course of five years. They were finely tuned until they were finally done."He's relieved to let them go. "I feel like the matador who’s left the ring with visible reminders of the battle. Reminders of the love we shared. I want people to feel these songs; to consume them slowly over time. After repeated listens I’m sure they will reveal their deeper meanings. The universal story we all share: The war for love.” It's your turn to step into the ring.
Shakura S'aida Alejandra Ribera Chloe Charles