Music is back at Aster Cafe!
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Matthew French + Haley E Rydell $15
Saturday, November 18 @ 9:00 pm - 11:00 pm
Matthew French is a Minneapolis-based singer, songwriter and Gibson guitar collector who creates music to connect people through shared stories of love and loss. The former minister has grown a loyal fan base through his engaging performances, wry sense of humor and warm, community-minded spirit.
Raised in a small town outside of Dayton, Ohio, French grew up playing music in the church. He sang with various bands and flirted briefly with the trombone and cornet before falling in love with the guitar at 16. French played in bands through college and started performing music professionally. French moved to Minnesota in 2005, but it was not until several years later that he truly immersed himself in songwriting catalyzed by a painful divorce in 2014.
“Songwriting was my way of saying things I didn’t know I needed to say,” French says. “It was the best therapy.”
Inspired by songwriters like Peter Bradley Adams and David Ramirez, he started performing some of his own songs out at open mics and released his debut EP Home in 2015, recorded by Danny O’Brien (Annie Fitzgerald, Al Church, Meg Kirsch) at Hot Dad Labs studio. Since then, French has immersed himself in the Twin Cities music scene, performing and recording with some of Minnesota’s top folk/Americana artists including Sarah Morris, Annie Fitzgerald and Ben Cook-Feltz. He released a second EP, Winding Road, in 2016 followed by his first full-length album, Sweet Love.
During the pandemic, he has focused on writing and recording, releasing two new singles — a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Song for the Asking” (recorded with Sarah Morris) and “Man in the Yellow Chair,” written for his grandfather. The song’s moving video premiered on The Current on Father’s Day. His new album, Two Sides, is available now on all streaming platforms as well as CD & Vinyl.
When not writing or performing, Matthew French likes to run and research more about vintage Gibson guitars. A staple of the Twin Cities music scene, he can also be seen at clubs around the Twin Cities, supporting his favorite artists and occasionally hopping up on stage to sing harmonies.
HALEY E RYDELL is a singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist originally from Fargo, ND whose memorable melodies and honest lyrics have been making their way across the country. Rydell has been performing for nearly 20 years in a plethora of projects, most recently Ryan Necci & the Buffalo Gospel and The Lowland Lakers. Although best known for her top-notch fiddle playing and her Christine McVie-esque harmonies, the Minneapolis-based artist has been quietly making a name for herself as a first-rate songwriter. Now, with the release of her solo album Midwestern Daughter, she shows why her work has been called “Absolutely gorgeous, like Patty Griffin sitting in with The Weepies” (Denver Westword).
Raised in Fargo, ND, Rydell started taking violin lessons at the age of three and picked up the guitar at 13, teaching herself how to play. Influenced by the punk rock music on her discman and the music her parents
played in the car, she drew from James Taylor’s songwriting, Enya’s haunting melodies and Fleetwood Mac’s sophisticated rock arrangements.
After spending a year at University of Minnesota in Duluth, Rydell went to Minnesota State University in Moorhead, MN to study music education. But she soon was spending much of her time writing songs. “After being inspired by local female singer/songwriters like Brenda Weiler and Angie Stevens, I wrote my very first song ‘Little Row of Boxes,’” she says. “A friend who was a music engineering student asked me to record it with him for a school project. Then he asked if I could write 4 more songs so we could record an EP as another project, so I did and we recorded my self-titled EP.” A couple years later, she was asked to be the school’s very first “Dragon Studios: Presents” artist, allowing her to record a full album at the school. In 2010 she made her first full-length Before We Go as part of that program. It was the only solo album she ever recorded until now.
After graduating, she worked for several years at a fishing tackle shop in Fargo, playing on the weekends with the raucous bluegrass outfit The Johnson Family Band. She also got married during this time. “I married a man, not understanding that I was queer,”
Rydell says. “I didn’t know anyone who was gay. I didn’t really see lesbians in the media or in real life, so it didn’t really cross my mind until I got out of my small town and saw that how I was living was not who I was.”
She made the difficult decision to end her marriage and then moved to Denver, where she started making music with Angie Stevens, digging into her songwriting and recording two albums together. Continuing to live her truth and pursue an authentic life, she moved to the Twin Cities where her now-wife lived and worked as a theater artist.
She continued to make music, forming the folk/bluegrass trio The Lowland Lakers with former University of Minnesota classmate Nate Case. It was through her work with the The Lowland Lakers that she met Ryan Necci and was asked to sing on Buffalo Gospel’s record and play their album release show. She’s been a part of the band ever since.
During the last 10 years of making music with Buffalo Gospel and The Lowland Lakers and supporting some of the Midwest’s top Americana talent, Rydell was quietly writing songs and occasionally performing them around the Twin Cities. “After so many years working with a band or as a supporting player, I realized I was kind of scared to take center stage,” Rydell says. “One day I realized I just needed to trust myself and do it.”
Realizing she sometimes shied away from writing love songs explicitly about loving women, she pulled together her most personal songs, setting out to sing more honestly about her life. She put her pandemic break from touring to good use, shaping the songs and recording with an all-star cast of players Grammy award-winning engineer Brian F. Joseph (Bon Iver, Indigo Girls), Kyle Keegan (Watchhouse, Hiss Golden Messenger, Ben Howard), Dave Mehling (Gaelynn Lea, The Fontanelles), Matt Donoghue (The Lowland Lakers) and her Buffalo Gospel bandmate Ryan Necci (Buffalo Gospel). Now, 20 years since that first album she made in college, she releases Midwestern Daughter – a career-defining album proving that she is a powerhouse songwriter unafraid to tell her truth.
When not making music with her band or touring with Ryan Necci and Buffalo Gospel, Rydell enjoys cooking and spending time with her wife and 1 year-old.
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