Barry, Rachel, & Jim of Dirt Road Opera

 Barry, Rachel, & Jim of Dirt Road Opera

SBS Covid Relief

Interview with Barry, Rachel, & Jim of Dirt Road Opera

SBS:  Let’s make sure we’ve got everyone on the same page – who are ya?  How long have you been doin’ this music thang and what’s the story behind it all?  What separates you apart from the rest?

Barry:  The band is called Dirt Road Opera, based out of Kelowna.  We’ve been working on our debut album on and off for the last few years and now it’s finally done and was released earlier this year.  Band members Rachel Matkin, Jim Ryan and myself have all worked together in different groups in the past, garnering numerous awards in our careers including Juno nominations, so it was a good fit when we decided to form DRO.  Sean Bray: guitar and Scotty Gamble: drums, are members of the larger version of the band.

Our debut album is called Nowheresville and Americana would be the best term to describe the type of music on it.  We’ve written nine of the twelve songs with the other three being covers by some of our favourite artists.  “Seven Shells” is a Fred Eaglesmith tune, “Rattlin’ Bones” was written by Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson and “Horseshoe Turn” is a song by Rachel’s dad, Dave Matkin.  We had help from some amazing musicians such as multi-instrumentalist John Ellis, Mike Sanyshyn on fiddle and City and Colour’s Matt Kelly on pedal steel.  The record was mixed by Bill Buckingham and John Ellis in Vancouver and John Palmieri at Sony Studios in Nashville.

Years of experience in the music business along with the burning desire to keep on making good music have kept us all going and just as excited as the first time we heard ourselves on the radio.  Music chooses you, you don’t choose it so here we still are 🙂

SBS:  How has this time in lockdown/quarantine affected you and the music you make?  Positives?  Negatives?  It’s obviously a crazy time for everyone, but certainly musicians throughout the independent scene as well…what have you been doing to make sure the music is still flowing somehow at this time?

Barry:  On the negative side, a few of the biggest drawbacks are not being able to physically sit in a room and play music together which we did a lot.  We’ve had to cancel some big shows we were really looking forward to and releasing an album just before a pandemic shuts the world down isn’t the greatest timing we’d hoped for.

On a more positive note, I have a studio in my house and we’ve been able to keep working on things from our homes, transferring files over the internet and recording in a makeshift vocal booth out in my tool shed!  We’re doing quarantine videos and putting them on Youtube, Facebook and our website to keep our fans engaged so they won’t forget about us 🙂  Being locked down has given us more time to write and take care of the music biz stuff.  I’ve been reading a lot and that’s always good for getting the creative juices flowing.

SBS:  Is there a lesson to be learned in all this Covid-craziness?  If so, what do you think it is?

Rachel:  I think that a major lesson to be learned during all of this is to never take our freedom for granted.  The fact that we are no longer free to visit friends and loved ones when we want, that we can’t come and go as we please in public without being worried about getting sick, or breaking simple rules and guidelines.  The fact that we are no longer free to go to work, school, go to the movies or out for dinner.  To attend concerts or sporting events…obviously the list goes on.  This has been such a huge challenge for many but when all of this is over I don’t think that we’ll take those simple things for granted anymore.

SBS:  What is the most key thing that people can do out there to support musicians during this time?

Jim:  Like and subscribe on YouTube, go to the websites and purchase cd’s and merch, share videos on social platforms. 

SBS:  There are some that say there’s ‘no going back to normal’ and others that still think that’s a possibility after all is said & done and we’re allowed outside again…what do you think?  Let’s ballpark it…let’s say it’s…September 2020, that’s not too far away…what does the world look like at that point?

Barry:  I hope it gets back to some semblance of normal.  I think people are still going to be worried about a resurgence of the virus and will be more cautious and aware of spreading it around.  At the same time, I hope we will have more appreciation for the things we took for granted before the epidemic.  Peace, love and understanding would be a nice side effect of the hard times we’re having right now.  I hope that by September we will be able to play live again.  I imagine if we do, it will be in a situation where people are still practicing social distancing.  Possibly smaller crowds and more back-to-back dates in the same venues.

SBS:  What do you miss most during this whole lockdown?  What’s the first thing you plan on doing if/when things find their way back to normal, and why is that the most important thing to ya?

Rachel:  I miss my loved ones, I miss making music with the band, and performing live!  I miss watching my son play sports.  When this is all over I would love to get the band together and throw a big party and invite those who we have missed the most during this time and play some music for our family, friends and fans.  Can’t wait to celebrate being able to all be together again.

SBS:  Open floor!  Anything else you want to say to the people out there?

Jim:  This is an opportunity to appreciate what you have, as well as what is truly important in life.  Simplicity, compassion and basic common sense will go a long way in bringing us back to a more everyday way of life for us.  And also, give Dirt Road Opera a listen on Spotify, YouTube or Facebook!

Find out more about Dirt Road Opera from their official site at:

We’ve extended the deadline & we’ll be accepting submissions to the SBS Covid Relief interviews in written, audio, and video forms until the end of May – find out more about how you can get involved right here.

Find out more about what sleepingbagstudios does to help assist the independent music scene and view a list of our services by clicking this!



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