Dirt Road Opera's journey began back in 2016 when Rachel Matkin and Barry Mathers once again teamed up to make music.
The two had previously worked together on three albums by the Cruzeros, a Canadian country band. Barry was the singer and songwriter and Rachel sang harmonies on many of the songs. Their mutual love of music by the likes of Buddy and Julie Miller, Steve Earl, John Prine, Fred Eaglesmith, Gillian Welch and many more inspired them to start writing and recording an album of their own. Musicians came and went as the band developed a distinctive sound. Dirt Road Opera solidified it's core when Jim Ryan, also a former member of the Cruzeros became the third member of the trio.
Skip ahead three years and after countless hours in Barry's home studio, Redhouse Recording and an album was finally finished.
Rachel and Barry's voices have always had that special "thing" when they sing together and Jim's third part brings it all home. With the additional support of some great studio players: Scotty Gamble; John Ellis; Matt Kelly; Andrew Smith and Gary Smyth, the songs on Nowheresville have a sound that is distinctive and satisfying. Every track brings something new to the table. Pedal steel, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, drums and rock and roll guitars all wind their way through a diverse collection of songs, with the trio's vocals being the common thread that ties it all together.
Recently, Robert Bailey has joined the group. An accomplished recording engineer and multi-instrumentalist, Rob brings a lot to the table: keyboards, bass, pedal steel, guitar and banjo.
Vocals, Guitar, Mandolin & Harmonica
Barry was listening to music before he was even born! His mother was an accordion teacher with 60 students a week so there was no shortage of polkas songs bending his young ear for eight hours a day. She tried time and again to teach him accordion and piano, but it was the snare drum his uncle gave him for his fifth birthday that won out. For the next 15 years, he would play drums in numerous bands. Eventually, he switched to guitar and began singing and writing songs.
California singers and bands were a big influence upon Barry. Jackson Browne, the Byrds, Gram Parsons, and the Eagles left their imprint on his style. Additionally, outlaw country with singer/songwriters like Steve Earle and Guy Clark also left their mark.
Barry formed the Cruzeros and made his first record which was nominated for a JUNO Award. This was followed up by two more critically acclaimed albums that spawned numerous top 40 hits on Canadian country radio and seven videos on CMT. The band went on to win dozens of awards including Best Independent Country Band in Canada.
Barry's fascination with the recording process motivated him to buy a TEAC four track reel to reel and he began laying tracks. This hobby eventually turned into a business. He now owns Redhouse Recording where he records and produces music.
Vocals, Guitar & Mandolin
Rachel Matkin could probably sing before she could walk, Rachel is the daughter of country singer, guitar player, and songwriter Dave Matkin. As a young girl, she performed as part of the Matkin Family Band with her dad and brothers Judd and Seth.
The Matkin Family Band opened for some of country music’s finest such as Dwight Yoakam, Patricia Conroy, Ian Tyson, Gary Fjellgasard and the Moffats. At the age of 14 Rachel won her very first award as Junior vocalist at the British Columbia Country Music Association (BCCMA).
In 1995, she recorded Living Beyond Our Dreams with Cross Country Records. The album would become a complete success winning the BCCMA Album of the Year with five charting singles.
In 1996 Rachel was nominated for a Juno Award for Country Female Vocalist of the Year. In that same year she won the Ray McAuley Horizon Award for Female Performer of the Year.
Her success caught the attention of MCA/Universal Music with whom she signed a distribution deal.
In her hometown of Kelowna, BC Rachel won an Okanagan Music Award (OMA) for Female Performers the Year and Country Group of the Year.
Vocals, Bass & Keyboards
Jim is classically trained on piano, complete with theory/harmony via Toronto Conservatory of Music.
He started playing piano at age 3, guitar at age 6, and bass at age 8. Since age 9, he’s played in bands.
Additionally, throughout his elementary and high school years, Jim played a wide variety of brass and woodwind instruments.
At age 14, he started playing professionally in a small-town nightclub, as well as for corporate functions.
While living in Vancouver, Jim started honing his studio experience by playing bass and keyboards for jingle work and demo sessions for various artists.
He was soon picked up to work on sessions with artists such as Doug Bennett (solo album), Idle Eyes, Payolas, and Jim Foster. Jim toured with Jim Foster in support of Loverboy and Mister Mister. He then joined the Patricia Conroy band for four years of performing, touring, and recording. Along the way, Jim played with Johnny Depp (21 Jump Street years) and Debby Harry.
In 1996, Jim joined the Cruzeros. They toured extensively and recorded the second and third Cruzeros albums together. Jim stayed with the Cruzeros until 2005, when he and Rachel formed the band Steelwater. Together they explored different sides of country and country rock music.
Keyboards, Bass, Pedal Steel, Guitar, and Banjo
Robert Bailey is a musician, producer, recording engineer, and software engineer currently based on Bowen Island. An accomplished recording engineer and multi-instrumentalist (keyboards, bass, pedal steel, guitar and banjo), Rob is the newest member of DRO.
A career in the BC music scene began in 1979, eventually moving from local bands to playing keyboards and touring Canada with Juno award winning songwriter and performer Paul Janz.
Moving deftly between both sides of the glass in the studio, Robert has done keyboard session work for such artists as Alice Cooper (Hey Stoopid), Queensryche (Empire), and Jimmy Page (Coverdale/Page). Beginning in the late '80s, Robert was the keyboardist with Juno Award winning Canadian songwriter Paul Janz for several years. 1990 saw a Canadian and European tour with Gino Vannelli, where he acted as head keyboard tech for studio legend Joe Vannelli.