Nfld. & Labrador·First Listen

Veteran musician Matthew Hender steps into the spotlight with solo debut

Hender has spent years playing with musicians across the province, with everyone from the Kubasonics to the Long Distance Runners. Now he's dropped his own album, titled Baby Eagle.

Have a First Listen to Baby Eagle by Matthew Hender

Musician Matthew Hender released his first solo album, Baby Eagle, at the end of 2020. (Chris Donnelly/Submitted by Matthew Hender)

Matthew Hender has been part of a lot of bands across Newfoundland and Labrador, but at long last has finally found the time to create music of his own with his first solo project: Baby Eagle.

"I was just happy to have it done and to finally do it," Hender told CBC Radio's Weekend AM on Saturday.

"I feel like it was something that was a long time coming. I played on a lot of people's records … and it seemed like it was bound to happen, but I wasn't sure when was the right time to finally do this."

Hender has spent years playing with bands across the province, including the Kubasonics and the Long Distance Runners. His work as a studio musician helped him come up with the name for his debut album, with the original inspiration coming from one of the province's biggest musical exports.

"In my very first recording session, more than 10 years ago now, it was for Amelia Curran for her album Hunter, Hunter," he said. At the time, Curran's bandmates were veterans and legends — from Sandy Morris to Geoff Panting to George Morgan, he said — with Hender the rookie.

"I was kind of like the young whippersnapper in the group, and I was also very eager and full of piss and vinegar," he said.

In those sessions, Curran dubbed Hender "Baby Eagle," and the nickname stuck.

"An eagle is such an animal that brings great presence, but a baby version of an eagle is destined for greatness," he said.

Singing challenges, and staying offline

Hender played just about every instrument on his nine-track release, ranging from acoustic guitar to organ to cello. He said creating the album came with challenges, like finding time in the early morning to record, or a bout with vocal cord paralysis in 2019.

"It kind of just stopped the whole process of doing anything," Hender said. "There was a period of nine months when I couldn't sing or wasn't allowed to sing, and I had to just kind of save my voice."

Hender experienced vocal cord paralysis during the recording of Baby Eagle, meaning he couldn't sing for nine months. (Christopher Deacon/Submitted by Matthew Hender)

Since that time, Hender's vocal cords have made a comeback.

"I'm about 95 per cent there, but there's still a little bit of paralysis. It was a tough period for sure," he said.

Unlike most artists in 2021, Hender's music can't be found on streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify. He said the decision to keep his music offline is a personal one, making Baby Eagle exclusive to Fred's Records in St. John's.

"You put work and time into creating a product or a piece of art, and you should be compensated for what it's really worth," he said.

"I think that a lot of people's work is worth more than what they're getting."

LISTEN | Matthew Hender speaks with the CBC's Paula Gale about his new album, Baby Eagle

Paula Gale speaks to Matthew Hender about transforming from a side musician to a solo artist 24:06

Do you have a new album of music that Weekend AM should know about for First Listen? Email us, wam@cbc.ca, and tell us about it. 

You can hear First Listen on Sundays on Weekend AM from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. (5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. in Labrador) on CBC Radio One.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Weekend AM

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