It all starts with a lesson. Few musicians have their careers without one. For Ainsley Matich of Ainsley Matich and the Broken Blues, her fire for music was lit as a child by a guitar lesson. She began playing when she was 5 years old, living in Phoenix with her family. “I wanted to be a rock star,” Ainsley explained when asked what drew her to music originally. Her passion started young and continues to grow in NOLA as the band plays local shows and builds their following through original music described as “rock ’n’ roll blues pop.”
WYAT: What is your background musically?
Ainsley Matich: I dabbled in different instruments when I was young, and started playing the guitar when I was 5 or 6. I went to a performing arts school, and my performing art was music, so half of my day was spent practicing. I played piano on and off and also played the tuba. In 2006 I moved to New Orleans so I could go to Loyola while the school was giving out scholarships, and I majored in Music Education. I got to meet a lot of new people who I’m still in contact with today. After I graduated, I taught band and now I teach piano lessons while I work on different band projects.
WYAT: What came first for you: singing or the piano?
AM: I’ve always played piano on and off, but singing didn’t come until college. I haven’t always been interested in singing. I wish I had taken up singing when I was younger because I feel like my voice might be stronger now. It can be daunting being a musician here, but I want to do something completely different as a singer.
WYAT: You play keyboards as well as vocals. What is your songwriting process like?
AM: It really just depends on the song. Some are just waiting to be written. They can be based on personal experience, but it usually starts with instrument improv. I just try to start playing music to see if it catches. I don’t usually start with lyrics; it’s more of a concept.
WYAT: How did the “Broken Blues” part of the band come about?
AM: I met Joseph and Jonathan while doing another band project, and once that fell apart I really wanted the three of us to keep working together. At first I thought we might need a guitar, but I feel like the sounds sort of clash and now we have a saxophone and a full horn ensemble. This feels like my ideal band.
WYAT: What does “Broken Blues” mean?
AM: Jon was the one who started that; he was the creative force throwing out ideas but we were going back and forth on it. Originally I thought we would just have a band name, but because I do vocals and keyboard we went with Ainsley Matich and the Broken Blues. It can be hard to come up with something that can describe your band in about four words. The name just has a good flow and I think it’s a good way to communicate what the band is about.
WYAT: What is your favorite thing about being a part of the local music scene in New Orleans?
AM: It can be daunting to be a musician here. It can be frightening but also inspiring. There are lots of opportunities for all sorts of music. It feels like more of a community here. I’m not looking to compete; I’m just looking to be a part of the conversation.
WYAT: Was music the reason you stayed in New Orleans after college?
AM: It was a big part of why I stayed. This is a good place for a musician.
WYAT: What can you tell me about your album? What was the process for finishing it?
AM: I was involved in a reggae band and through that I met someone with his own studio, which is where we recorded the album. I had no reference for it. I’ve met so many people here in New Orleans who are involved in music and I was thinking that if they can make an album, then so can I. The hardest part was working with rehearsals and figuring out everyone’s schedules. Sometimes we were pulling 8- to 10-hour days. I learned a ton through the experience, though. Without New Orleans, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to make the album.
WYAT: Do you ever find it nerve-racking to share your songs?
AM: Oh, definitely. Even now, I sometimes have self-doubt. Getting started was especially nerve-racking. I was doing lots of open-mic nights but you have to be okay with sucking for a while. I’m still working hard on my voice.
WYAT: You have a background in teaching and now you teach piano lessons. How do you balance teaching with music?
AM: I thought for a while that teaching was what I would do full time. But what I have now is the perfect job for me; I’m really lucky. It leaves time for morning work and gigs and practicing. I have a flexible schedule and I love teaching.
WYAT: You’ve had a lot of local gigs this summer. What has that meant for the band?
AM: We’re definitely building more of a following. We’ve played at the AllWays Lounge and Dmac’s and a few other places. I love playing in different parts of the city because it means that we can to play to different crowds. I like getting to introduce new stuff, too. We’ve played on Frenchmen Street and it’s great because between sets of our shows we can walk into any venue and hear good music.
WYAT: What is your overall goal as a musician and for the band as a whole?
AM: For me, success will mean people enjoying and sharing the music and being able to make a living off of it. I would like to make three albums in three years, too. I’m just lucky to be working with the musicians I get to work with. The band clicks so well and I like seeing it grow. I think we now have the momentum to keep going.