Matty Sheets: Maestro of the midweek
By: Katei Cranford
Matty Sheets is a fixture in the Greensboro music community. Lauded through slews of sick local bands, and sickness itself, it’s been his Tuesday open mics which have long anchored the Monkeywhale of a man.
But lately, the Blockhead has been branching out. With a “drink and draw” on Monday nights and a musician residency on Wednesdays, Sheets’ activities are making more ways for musicians–including himself–to make the Triad midweek more than mundane.
“It’s a nice, calm couple of hours where we draw and drink coffee or cocktails and listen to live music,” Sheets said of the “drink and draw” series he’s hosting Mondays at the Artist Bloc, a space that blends an art-shop, bar, and coffee-lounge.
“I love creating pockets of stillness into my life these days, and seeing what happens when stresses go away for a moment,” Sheets said about the chill vibes of the series. “It’s remarkably less lonely if you’re around other folks doing the same,” he added.
As for scheduled musicians, “Ben Singer has been our resident for January,” Sheets said. And Beau James (from Chuck Mountain) is slated for March.
Visual art is a new calling for Sheets, who spent his life before a multiple sclerosis diagnosis dedicated to music. “Thinking I’d have to quit playing music really fucked with me,” Sheets said bluntly.
“My arms and hands are pretty shaky, but I want to keep getting better,” he said regarding the doodles he shares daily through Instagram.
Sheets’ commitment to art surrounds his music, in album covers, show flyers, and, most notably, merchandise for the Tuesday open-mic sessions for which he’s probably best known.
“The buttons were all Mikey’s idea,” Sheets said about the recent merch addition to open mic, courtesy of his bartending co-host. “She asked me to do the drawing, and then made the buttons for sale to help with my medical bills,” he explained.
Easily a contender for the longest-running Triad music series, Sheets started the Tuesday night fixture way back in October 2001, spending the first 12 years at the Flatiron, followed by a stint at New York Pizza, before settling at Westerwood Tavern in 2017.
Even as he feels his onstage roles change, Sheets continues to host a platform for performers. “After I got my diagnosis, I was afraid I’d have to stop playing music,” Sheets said of times which tested his resolve.
“I had a breakdown and probably freaked some people out, venting into the microphone,” he admitted.
Ultimately, his drive to perform pushed through, steering him toward a weekly residency on Wednesdays at Common Grounds.
“It’s more difficult now, but I can play,” he added, “and Wednesdays have been great since.”
On the coffeehouse stage, he’s joined by Erin Hayes on bass and flute alongside songbird guitarist Laura Jane Vincent. “They’ve been my teammates for the most part,” Sheets said, “plus Ben Singer is on drums–well, drum, actually–only a snare drum and a cymbal. It’s lovely.”
Sheets’ rotating band of friends is joined weekly by special guests, with Durham’s Pete Pawsey scheduled for the Jan. 30 show.
Sheets is also working on a new record with Jeff Wysosky at Lazy Dog Recordings. “I was really nervous at first because I hadn’t worked with anyone new in many years,” he explained, “but we settled into it and got work done.”
“Jeff is great, and I’m a weirdo,” Sheets confessed.
The record also features artists associated with Sheets including Taylor Bays, Ali Fox, Jerrod Smith, and Emily Stewart, along with Hayes, Singer and Vincent. “I’m especially excited about this record because it sounds like the current me,” Sheets professed, “not the person I was.”
“I’m seldom anyone’s drinking buddy like I used to be,” he explained, “and I’m no one’s cigarette buddy anymore.”
Smokes aside, Sheets remains a buddy to Greensboro artists, each of his endeavors involves supporting folks and their craft. It’s through that process he builds–and shares–strength.
“I really appreciate Matty inviting me to these shows,” Laura Jane Vincent said, “it’s contributed to me creatively and challenged what I normally would do on my own.”
“Matty sets you up for success by allowing you to do your own thing,” she added. “He trusts the process, which makes you feel at ease and that makes it fun.”
Truly a maestro, Sheets remains steadfast in conducting spaces, challenging artists and putting them in the light, often before himself. It’s worth witnessing.
Katei Cranford is a Triad music nerd who hosts the Tuesday Tour Report, a radio show that runs like a mixtape of touring bands, 5-7 p.m. on WUAG 103.1fm.
Catch him with a pen in hand on Mondays at the Artist Bloc (1020 W. Gate City Blvd.), wrangling open mic on Tuesdays at Westerwood Tavern (508 Guilford Ave.) and crooning away Wednesday nights at Common Grounds (602 S. Elam Ave.)