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Club Passim's Matt Smith discusses Folk Alliance and discovering new artists

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Located at 47 Palmer Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts and conveniently at the Harvard Square T stop, Club Passim has a stellar reputation for bringing in nationally-known talent as well as introducing promising new artists to Boston.

With a wide array of performances, audiences are treated to anything from a night of storytelling improv to a collection of renowned musicians collaborating together for the first time. Visit www.passim.org for more information!

I had the honor of speaking with the man behind Club Passim’s music, Managing Director Matt Smith, about his recent election into Folk Alliance International and his passion for all things music.

Let’s talk about your recent election into Folk Alliance International. Congratulations on that!

Thank you very much.

How did you end up being part of the organization and how is this going to enhance your presence at Club Passim?

It’ll enhance Club Passim’s presence at Folk Alliance! The Folk Alliance is an annual conference. Right now, it is in Kansas City, Missouri. It’s the first year and will be there for five years. It’s a conference that has been all over the US and Canada and I’ve probably been to it maybe a dozen or more times. This is my first one, this past one a couple of weeks ago, where I had been elected as a board member.

I had noticed that they were looking for new board members back in the fall. I had talked to some of the board members from the Folk Alliance last year if they thought I would be a good candidate. They said yes so I put my hat in the ring and got a notice from the nominating committee that I was going to be on the ballot. The membership elected me on.

You deal a lot with folk music anyway with the bands you put on at Club Passim. It must be a nice coo for you.

It was an honor. It brings all kinds of folks together from all over the world and gives a meeting place for artists, managers, booking agents, festival people, and venues. It is the music that I would not otherwise get to see in person.

Tell me about the bands that you’ve seen lately. Anyone stick out?

At the conference, there were some great acts I had not seen before that had not played at the club. These are national acts touring in other regions. A guy named John Fulbright was fantastic. People have been talking about him for awhile and I finally got a chance to see him. There was another act called the T Sisters from out in California. Someone I had known for years had turned me on to going out to see them. Another Michigan band called the Apple Seed Collective was fantastic.

I did get to see some folks that do play at the club fairly regularly, but I got to see them in a different context. I saw Rachel Ries, who just played at Club Passim last weekend, do some great sets. Ruth Moody, a Canadian artist, plays with Wailin' Jennys but also plays on her own. I got a chance to see her again out there.

The conference itself is a great opportunity for me to catch things that are already touring in different regions, but haven’t made it out to the East coast yet. So, I can check them out and see what might work to have them build towards an audience here.

In a way, you are still discovering new bands through this organization.

Always.

You sound really passionate about what you do. What would you say drives you every day?

Music. For me, the most exciting thing is matching an artist to an audience and seeing that artist grow. Not just in their own arts and writing, but also seeing an audience get excited about them. I love watching artists from the early stages and seeing them go from just being an opening act or playing into open mic, to eventually becoming a headliner, and even growing beyond the club. We’ve had some great acts recently that have gotten far too big for the club and I think that is great. I don’t feel like we should hold onto them forever. I want them to go on to do bigger things.

What do you think is the best reason that people should come to Passim, especially now that the weather is getting warmer.

It’s that exciting feeling of discovering something new. You’re not just going to see what everyone is going to see. You are going to find the cool new thing that’s in the small room, and then be able to tell your friends about it. There is a thrill to that.

This week, Club Passim offers three chances to see Argentina-based singer-songwriter Richard Shindell from Wednesday, March 18 through March 20 at 8 p.m. With a successful debut CD, ‘A Winter’s Tale’ and sophomore CD, ‘Wishbone’ to his credit, New York-based singer-songwriter Bobby Long is working on a new CD and will perform Friday, March 21 at 7 p.m. Performances on Saturday, March 22 include Passim School of Music Ensemble Showcase featuring students from Passim School of Music and an evening performance with sought-after local guitarist Tim Gearan.

Visit www.passim.org for the full schedule!

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