Matt Bell wants you to rethink the violin.
You may know the violin as a wooden box with four strings that often plays classical music – or perhaps country or bluegrass.
But Matt is taking the violin to a different place – pop and punk rock. His new all-original EP, “One Way to Do It” is an exploration of a half dozen different ways to use the violin, most of which would surprise you.
From screaming solos on the instrumental “Exile” to synthy sounds reminiscent of the Police on “It’s All Good” to a 90s rock sounding “Tell Me” to a Megadeth-inspired “Whole Lotta Nothing”, his 6-string electric violin plays a wide variety of characters. If no one told you otherwise, you’d assume you’re listening to a guitar album. But there is virtually no guitar on this project at all.
"Rock and roll has long been dominated by guitars,” Matt explains. “It’s time for violinists to get involved in the action.”
Matt admits that he’s hardly the first person to bring violin into rock and roll. Mahavishnu Orchestra, Kansas, and many others were using violins in rock in the 1970s. But he’s one of the first to replace the traditional role of the guitar with a violin. “Honestly, Tracy Silverman was here before me. He had a power trio with violin, bass, and drums. But when you listen to his record, it sounds like violin, bass, and drums. I wanted people to be surprised when they heard that there was no guitar on most of these songs.”
Matt is a well-known name in the electric violin community. He is the public face of Electric Violin Shop, a Durham, NC-based business which is the only shop of its kind in this hemisphere. “There are two stores on that planet that only do electric bowed strings: Electric Violin Shop and a recently opened shop in Japan.” EVS has supplied instruments for Lindsey Stirling, Brian King Joseph, Beyonce, Zac Brown Band, Dave Matthews Band, Kane Brown, Kishi Bashi and many more. Matt handles the social media, content creation, and artist relationships. “It’s literally my job to hang out with rock stars and go to awesome concerts,” he laughs.
Matt knows a little bit about live music concerts. He was a member of the Greenville, NC-based party band “Spare Change” for 10 years. During that time, he played approximately 1500 shows up and down the east coast. “When you’re in a cover band that does a wide variety of styles and doesn’t have a keyboard player, you learn how to make a lot of different sounds and plug a lot of differently shaped holes with one instrument,” he explains. “It would get really boring just listening to a plain violin sound all night.”
He left Spare Change in January 2019. “I just felt like I had said what I had to say, artistically, in that setting.” He spent the year writing, recording, and traveling all over the world to represent Electric Violin Shop. “Of course, you end up in NY, LA, and Nashville, but this past year, I also played in Brazil, France, Italy, New Mexico, Kansas, Kentucky, Georgia, and Washington, DC. I’m hoping to play a little more around North Carolina, though, in 2020. I think this album is going to help me do that.”