Discoveries: PA Mathison of Sightseer

October 10, 2012 | 0

PA Mathison

PA Mathison of the Seattle band Sightseer is a natural-born storyteller. That trait that shines through loud and clear in the song, “Resting Place,” the best song Marshall Tucker never recorded and a track on the Discoveries Playlist.

Mathison grew up in Calgary, Alberta, but now calls Seattle home. “I really do love the rain here,” she says. 

Here’s more from this very entertaining artist. 

How long have you been singing?

I come from a very musical family, but I was a really shy introvert. Music and bands were something other people did, not me. I’d sing in the shower and in the car but I didn’t start singing in bands until way after my kids were born, when I was 30. And now I’m 42.

My husband had a band that practiced in the basement and the singer was pretty bad. One day I had a houseful of running, screaming, bleeding and crying kids. I was doing dishes and listening to that singer cranked at full volume downstairs. Well, I just lost it and thought I could do better than that. I went down there with a kid on my hip and said, “This is how that part goes.” I stood and sang it, and then stomped back upstairs to continue scraping burned bits of salmon off a grill. I became the singer in that band. That’s how I got my start. 

What’s the history of Sightseer?

Four years ago I had a gig booked, but the band I was in at the time was unable to make it happen. I said screw it; I’m getting a band together and playing this show no matter what. It was two weeks out, so I popped on Craigslist and saw an ad that said “Page Seeking Plant.” That struck me as pretty funny so I listened and loved what I heard. I met Jason Lightfoot at a sports pub and discovered we had similar tastes in music. I asked if he wanted to write a bunch of stuff and play a gig in two weeks and he said, “Sure.” Just like that.

I wrote on my way to practice and in parking lots. Thirteen days later we had 11 songs. Some were good and some were really bad, but we worked well together in a very short period of time. Unfortunately, I had to take a year off of music right as the ball started rolling for us, but once we reconnected, we picked up right where we left off.

We’ve had some line-up changes over the years. Right now the band is two Jasons and two Daves: Jason Lightfoot (guitar, vox, guru, and our producer), Jason Welling (guitar, vox, violin, keys), Dave O’Leary (bass), and David Nielsen (drums). This is our strongest line-up to date, and I’m beyond blessed to work with these guys.

How did you end up on Critical Sun Recordings?

Critical Sun is a tight-knit community of musicians and bands that work together to promote each other and the community. Jason Lightfoot plays guitar in Furniture Girls, who fall under the CS umbrella. Through that community Jason was able to book a lot of shows at SXSW last year.

What is the band’s writing process?

Typically, but not always, I bring in the bones of a song: lyrics, a basic idea, and a melody. Then we all get to work on it, editing out, adding in, and sometimes restructuring entire sections. From that point on, it becomes everybody’s song, a Sightseer song. It’s got everybody’s signature on it. We’re a very democratic band.

How did you end up in Seattle from Calgary?

I met my husband in an elevator in Calgary while he was on business from Denver. After we got married, we lived in Denver for eight years, and then moved to Seattle.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

I love storytellers, because that’s what I strive to do when I write. Johnny Cash for sure. Neil Young paints a great picture. I love the way Keith Richards plays guitar and the passion in Linda Perry’s vocals. I’m constantly trying to say more with fewer words. Still working on that.

Sightseer’s influences are all over the map. Black Crows, David Bowie, CCR, PJ Harvey, Kelly Joe Phelps, Billy Squier, Led Zeppelin, and the list goes on.

Is there a story behind “Resting Place?”

Yes. I spent a lot of time in rural Alberta mesmerized by the old farmhouses. They all had a story to tell. If these walls could talk, you know?

One unbelievably hot summer day, I was parked across the road from my grandparents’ old place. They hadn’t lived there for years and the house was pretty worn down. The windows almost seemed like eyes on a face. I was thinking, “It’s dry as a bone here. The weeds are waist high. This house is a resting place.” I started to imagine a life inside that house and the song wrote itself.

Favorite gig you have played?

Any gig where the drummer doesn’t spontaneously combust or the guitar player doesn’t get stuck to his amp. Our drummers have never combusted, but our first guitar player really did get stuck to his amp at our first gig.

Any opportunity to be on stage with these guys is amazing. But there was one night at Opal Divine’s in Austin during SXSW last year, when the stars seemed to align perfectly and everything was right in the world. It was sublime.

Listen to “Resting Place” and all the Discoveries Playlist artists below:

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