In March 2020, many musicians around the world were faced with a situation they never quite expected: an international quarantine. Many — like Charli XCX and Taylor Swift — used the time to retreat, write, record and, ultimately, release some of their most ambitious material to date. Joining the ranks of artists who did this is Canadian songwriter, Matt Mays, who put out his wonderfully creative, quarantine-made record, Dog City, in May.
“When the world went into lockdown earlier this year, I took the opportunity to challenge myself as a songwriter and musician, producing a whole album in just over a month,” Mays told American Songwriter. “I’ve had the idea for Dog City for years… I spend a lot of time in dog parks and I call the one closest to my house ‘Dog City.’ So, I wrote the album through the eyes of my dog at the time, while simultaneously getting a lot off my own chest subconsciously. Seeing the world through the eyes of the most compassionate animal on Earth felt really good to do during that initial lockdown. It was a safe zone for me, and it still is. The album is about pure freedom, love, contentment, companionship and all the stuff in between.”
At the time, Mays consulted his fans and had them vote on a release date for Dog City — May 17th was the big winner and on that day the record went up on Bandcamp. A few months later in August, Sonic Records helped master the record and distribute it on DSPs. On December 14, Mays released a music video for one of the record’s most moving tunes, “Talking to the Sky.”
Starring his dog, Rhuby, the video demonstrates the depths to which Mays feels the aforementioned themes of freedom, love, companionship, etc. Between the ethereal pedal-steel parts, the fuzzy tremolo guitar and the steady march of the stripped-back rhythm section, “Talking to the Sky” simmers like a beautiful slow-burn. It reaches a cathartic peak as Mays passionately belts the refrain “Why’d you have to go and rain?”
Produced by Mays in his garage-turned-makeshift-studio, Dog City was a rewarding project for the 41-year-old songwriter to work on — he did all sorts of fun things, like dust off his old saxophone. “I used to play saxophone in junior high and during the recording I somehow mustered up the courage to take it out of its dusty case and to try playing it on the song,” Mays explained. “It came back like riding a (very squeaky) bike. I’m proud of those horn parts on the song though and, if nothing else, 2020 made me kind of a sax player again!”
Mays also wasn’t alone working on Dog City — he had some help from his friends. “I did have some guests contribute parts remotely, including past and present band members as well as special guest vocals from Leah Fay and Peter Dreimanis of July Talk,” he said. “Leah and Peter also co-directed the video for ‘Talking to The Sky.’”
For his part, Mays hopes that listeners can access some of the hope encapsulated by Dog City. “I hope that people can personally identify with it due to being trapped in these strange and difficult times,” he said, “or just have a laugh about a dog that’s super pissed about not being able to go out to poop in the sun.”
Watch the music video for “Talking to the Sky” by Matt Mays below: