Jake Mathews
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Jake Mathews Time after Time

Time After Time, a memory returns to Jake Mathews that foretells his country music future.

"When I was 14, I traveled to Canada's Wonderland in Toronto and entered this booth where you could record the song of your choice," recalls the laid back Sudbury-born singer and songwriter. "I sang Randy Travis' 'I Told You So,' and after I recorded it, they played it over the loudspeaker while I hung around with my friends."

A female passerby, upon hearing Jake's voice, stopped and turned to him. "Is that you?" she asked. When he nodded in the affirmative, she offered some priceless encouragement. "If you ever put out an album of your own, I'd buy it," she said. Mathews never got her name, but she confirmed what thousands of others have discovered since he exploded on the scene with 2002's Jake Mathews: this artist is a keeper.

Several Top 20 hits and a couple of CCMA Rising Star nominations later, Mathews continues to fulfill his destiny as one of Canada's most exciting new country talents with the outstanding Time After Time, his first effort for Toronto-based Open Road Recordings, also home to The Wilkinsons and Doc Walker.

Aside from the Dean Dillon-Al Anderson-penned title track, which was the most-added song to Canadian country radio upon its release earlier this year, Time After Time offers ten additional dyed-in-the-wool real-life slices of country living in contemporary times. The values and emotions expressed in such unforgettable songs as the beer-budget, daily-grind anthem "Payin' Your Dues" and the melancholy loneliness of "That's Why They Call It Cheating" to the more sophisticated life lesson of the story song "He Never Learned How", are identifiable and applicable to everyone, from your average Joe and Josephine to those with champagne tastes.

"Country music has an honesty about it that's really appealing," says Mathews. "And no song tells a better story than a country song. That's what attracted me to the music in the first place."

And whether you're line-dancing to the irresistible honky-tonk shuffle "My Heart Won't Let You Leave My Mind" or grooving to the Cloud Nine love anthem "Better World," the stylistic diversity will appeal to you whether you love McGraw and Chesney or Haggard and Strait.

"I looked for songs that would connect with people and ones I would love to perform in front of them," Mathews states. "Especially songs with a traditional edge."

Kicking it all off: "Time After Time," which Mathews confirms acted as the initial catalyst "It's a fun theme," says Mathews, who makes his home in Calgary "And it really set the pace for the rest of the album. We wanted a mix - lighthearted with a traditional edge, so we built the album around that song.

"But we were also looking for songs that told more of a story, hence the presence of 'He Never Learn How' and 'Paying Your Dues,' the latter written by Carl Jackson, who sings the harmony vocal on the track."

His early recording experience at Wonderland wasn't the only life-altering event Jake experienced at the tender age of 14: it was also the year he began singing, playing guitar and writing his own music, prompted by impromptu family reunions that were as sizable as his first club dates.

"I come from a big family," says Mathews, whose older brother is fellow Canadian country star Gil Grand. "My Dad is one of 20 kids, so family reunions were literally 150 people. A lot of my aunts and uncles play guitar or fiddle or harmonica, so we'd rent a hall, sit around and sing. I started getting into it when I was 14. I didn't start performing live until I was 17, but by that time I learned to perform, write and had entered a few local contests. George Strait was a huge influence."

Released in 2002, his self-titled debut included a number of singles that penetrated the Top 20: "That's How Long", "Rush," "I'm Gone" and "I'll Do You One Better." But Mathews was just getting started.

"The first album was an introduction to me and my songwriting," says Mathews. "But Time After Time is more focused, more confident, more me. This truly represents who I am as an artist. People who hear the album will know me a little better."

Reunited with Louis Sedmak, the producer of his debut project Jake Mathews, the artist says he couldn't have found a better collaborator, "Louis has a great set of ears, and he's so well-trained in music, it just seems we're on the same wavelength," says Mathews. "He really understands the emotions I'm shooting for. We just have identical visions."

Although there's an impressive cadre of Nashville writers - Harley Allen, Jim Lauderdale Odie Blackmon and Rivers Rutherford among the writers that contribute to the current project - Mathews delivers his own strong impression with a handful of his own, including the stirring ballad "You Got Away With Love" and the reflective "Kings For A Day."

One of his own compositions Mathews is particularly proud of is "My Heart Won't Let You Leave My Mind." "I wrote that one with Tim Taylor," says Mathews. "The line just popped up in my head, and I figured that since I didn't get a chance to include a good honky-tonk shuffle on my first album, this was an opportunity too good to pass up."

A strong believer in public interaction, Mathews admits that many of the songs that made Time After Time were determined by audience reaction. "I always say the audience is the best gauge," Mathews explains. "I was considering the song 'Time After Time' for my first album, but it just didn't fit with the flow of things. I kept it in my live performance set, and the continuing audience enthusiasm made it a no-brainer for this album. It's the same for 'How Many Days' and 'My Heart Won't Let You Leave My Mind.' After all, fans are the ones who phone radio stations to request songs and they buy the albums - so it's only right that they should have a say as to what goes on the album."

And Mathews' favourite?

"The song that affects me most on this album is 'He Never Learned How,'" says Mathews. "It's about a bull rider, and although I don't pretend to be a rodeo or cowboy kind of guy, I think the song itself just says so much in the story. It's about a rodeo guy that doesn't know when to give up until it's too late. That sentiment resonates with everyone. It's my favourite to perform."

Rock solid from start to finish, Time After Time earmarks the continuing journey of an artist destined for bigger and better things, hoping to entertain and touch everyone he can along the way.

"I appreciate people and I love music," says Jake Mathews. "It's an honour and a privilege to combine these two loves and contribute something meaningful in the process."

And one you'll want to come back to Time After Time.