Musicians of Concord: Matt Poirier, juggler extraordinaire

Andy Laliotis (left) lays down the lead while Matt Poirier keeps the rhythm during a performance at Penuche's last Thursday. (JON BODELL / Insider staff) JON BODELL / Insider staff
Andy Laliotis (left) lays down the lead while Matt Poirier keeps the rhythm during a performance at Penuche's last Thursday. (JON BODELL / Insider staff) JON BODELL / Insider staff

Playing live music in front of a crowd is hard enough, but when you have to squeeze that in between work, spending time with the wife and helping with the kids’ homework, it’s a wonder anyone can ever pull it off.

But Matt Poirier has figured it out, somehow.

The singer-songwriter from Hopkinton has been playing in and around Concord (and well beyond) for years, but he’s not a professional, meaning he still has to go to work in the morning like the rest of us in order to pay his bills.

He also has a wife and three kids, so it’s safe to say he’s a pretty busy guy. Despite all that, he’s still active on the music scene, and spends plenty of time writing his own music and re-arranging old classics.

How does he manage it all?

“Honestly, it’s just always a juggle,” Poirier said. “If you’re someone like myself with a normal career, three children, wife at home – there’s a lot of scheduling, checking the calendar.”

With plenty to keep him busy during the daytime hours, Poirier does most of his music work – practicing, writing, experimenting – at night.

“Sometimes I get a few hours of sleep,” he said.

A hectic schedule like that can sometimes create tension in the household, but not at the Poirier home.

“My wife (is) very, very accepting of what I do, so she’s a big help,” he said. “It wouldn’t work out as well if my wife wasn’t on board and so supportive. For someone like me, the spouse definitely sacrifices. She does a good job.”

While many active musicians hold jobs at music stores or record shops, Poirier is more engrained in the corporate world. He runs a recruiting firm, a branch office for a staffing agency.

“We’re kind of, the old term would be head-hunters,” he said. “I’m in charge of an office doing staffing for various companies – it’s also a juggling act.”

Seems like if this whole music thing doesn’t work out, Poirier could always pursue juggling as a way to enrich his life.

But now that you know a little about Poirier the man – the juggler – what about Poirier the musician?

“I do a little bit of everything, actually,” he said. “I write some originals, I play some traditional music and also do some rare, deep-cut covers.”

We caught Poirier playing at Penuche’s a few months back. That night, he played with Andy Laliotis (you might know him from his Grateful Dead tribute band Blue Light Rain), and the two blended nicely together, Poirier on acoustic and Laliotis on electric. We didn’t recognize most of the songs, meaning they must have been originals or just deep cuts from obscure albums we’d never heard before.

Poirier sings and plays guitar – the only instrument he’s ever played, he said – and he also does a lot of writing. He mostly performs solo, but from time to time he’ll play in a duo, and he often has a percussionist to accompany him – not that he needs it, as he’s adept at the technique of hitting the guitar with his hand to create his own percussion.

“My main focus, for the last decade or so, has been solo acoustic performances,” he said, “but to keep things interesting I play in a few different projects, but I always sort of go back to the solo thing.”

He started playing in college – about 20 or so years ago now, he said – and he’s constantly working on new things, always looking to expand his sound.

Poirer draws influences from all over the board. He listens to everything, and most of his favorite artists did the same thing.

“The Dead have always been one of my favorite bands,” he said. “They draw from a lot of influences, but they took from a lot of the old, traditional American music.”

For example, Poirier said Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia would take some song from 200 years ago and rearrange it into a rock song. Poirier does the same thing.

“I rearrange some old, public-domain kind of stuff and make it my own,” he said. “I like old, American traditional music. I’ll play it in a different key, I’ll rearrange the chord structure.”

He also likes solo musician Martin Sexton. Poirier and his wife have seen Sexton live about 30 times, and he’s even gotten to meet him a few times.

“If you’re someone like myself who’s trying to be a solo acoustic performer, I try to sound like there’s more than one guy with a guitar, and he’s like that,” Poirier said.

“Another gentleman that I listen to a lot for acoustic is Keller Williams. He’s another guy who’s made a living being a solo performer, and he does it a little more electronic than Martin Sexton.”

When Poirier plays, he likes to have a captive audience. Sometimes the hustle and bustle of a crowded, sometimes rowdy bar like Penuche’s can be a little distracting, and it’s a buzz-kill when you’re playing and nobody’s listening, he said.

“I’ve been playing at places that are more listening-oriented,” he said. “There’s a place in Campton called the Mad River Coffee House where the guests are encouraged to keep quiet and listen to the show.”

That said, he’ll still play The Nooch when the timing is right, and he just performed at Market Days, too. He also appears at Hermanos Cocina Mexicana about once a month – in fact, he’ll be there July 29 starting at 7:30 p.m.

When he’s not playing in Concord, he travels down to Massachusetts or up to the northern part of the Granite State – “I like to play in places where people don’t know me, too,” he said. “I’ve been branching out lately.”

To stay up to date on Poirier’s playing schedule and to hear some tunes, go to MattPoirier.com.

Author: Jon Bodell

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