Matt (Mojo) Tedder is not your typical teenager.
At 16, the Texas-born guitar wizard is starting to attract plenty of attention in the music world, branded a phenom at the tender age of 10.
But while he’s got what it takes to whip an audience into a frenzy, much like he did Saturday afternoon at the Thunder Bay Blues Festival, at heart he’s still in awe of the world emerging around him.
It’s not hard to tell he’s a music fan at heart.
Hours after spending several minutes talking shop with headliner Derek Trucks backstage – where musicians of all ages were seeking an audience, autograph or photo opportunity with the legendary guitarist – Tedder was perched at the front of the stage to watch the Tedeschi Trucks band close out Day 2 at the Blues Festival.
Wanting to maintain his musician’s cool, Tedder nonetheless went into fan mode when Trucks, best known for his role in the Allman Brothers Band, and his wife, Susan Tedeschi, strolled past.
He had to introduce himself.
“It’s hard not to annoy them,” Tedder said. “Derek came out and I gave him one of our CDs. He’s been through that thing a whole lot. I have huge respect for him. He’s working day and night on it. Susan, we sat down and talked for 10, 15 minutes on guitars and music.
“I’m telling you, she’s one of the sweetest people and one of the most amazing musicians too. Her voice is phenomenal. And Derek Trucks, I’ve never heard such original slide guitar playing, such original guitar playing in general. For an artist nowadays to do that, it seems so rare. And that’s such a huge inspiration to me to create stuff of my own.”
In his younger years, Tedder, who got his nickname from his guitar teacher, would listen to the radio and play along, instantly able to pick up on the music he was hearing – be it James Brown or Stevie Ray Vaughan.
But for the past couple of years, the desire to leave the cover tunes behind has grown and he’s started learning how to write his own songs, a task that’s much easier than it looks, said Tedder, who grew up in a household where Merle Haggard and Hank Williams ruled the musical roost.
On top of that, he wants to forge his own sound, instantly recognizable around the world, once again following in the footsteps of the likes of his newfound hero Trucks.
“When you hear Derek Trucks play anytime you know it’s Derek. That’s his style of playing, you know it’s him. That’s what I’m striving for. That’s the same thing with Jeff Beck, Stevie and all those guys.”
Tedder first started playing when he was six or seven and said the reason he never started writing his own stuff until now is because he was still trying to learn his instrument.
And writing, he found, doesn’t come easy.
Once again, he started listening, but this time it wasn’t just the music he was hearing, it was the words.
It inspired him, knowing his career would plateau in a hurry if he didn’t come up with original material.
“It was just sitting down and doing what I did with my guitar and writing and writing and writing and trying to find my own sound,” he said. “From my perspective, I still haven’t found it, but I’m just always striving to work at songwriting.
“I haven’t done it a very long time. It’s only been two years or so that I’ve really sat down and worked at it.”
His latest CD – his friends stayed up all night Friday burning and labeling 120 to sell at Blues Festival – includes three home-grown songs, written in the months leading up to his first-ever working visit to Canada.
Like his songwriting, it too is a work in progress.
“We still don’t have the product we want,” he said. “Hopefully by the end of the year we’ll have a full album,” he said.
Blues Fest wraps up on Sunday, with .38 Special, Sonny Landreth and a host of other talent taking to the Marina Park stage throughout the day.
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