Blooming Prairie Times

May 30, 2013

We had a nice full-page write-up in the April 9 issue of the Blooming Prairie Times, which is Matt’s hometown newspaper. It wasn’t published online, but you can read it here.

Hoping to make the big time with ‘Heavy on My Mind’

By Alan Van Ormer, Managing Editor
Blooming Prairie Times

bptimesA local band is hoping to make it to the big times with the release of a new album, “Heavy on My Mind.”

The 10 songs by Matt Arthur and the Bratlanders are a bit of rootsy, down-to-earth music.

“The album talks about everyday life in various ways,” says the band’s lead singer, Matt Arthur, who also plays guitar. He has also been blind from birth, but that has not stopped him from doing what he loves – writing music.

Arthur calls himself a very independent, stubborn blind man.

“I have no idea (if I do some things different),” he explains. “I have never had it any other way.”

Arthur explains music is what keeps him going. “I don’t know what else I would do. That is sort of what keeps me living – playing music,” he states. “There is nothing like playing music. It gets in your blood. I’m going to do it regardless of if you want me to or not.”

Doug Bratland, the bass guitarist, has known Arthur for more than 20 years. “It was really interesting getting to know him back then,” he explains. “I am so used to him now. It is an interesting experience to have a blind band leader. You look to the singer to give the cues. We don’t really get that with Matt. We have to do a little more of that work ourselves.”

Arthur doesn’t have a paper trail when he writes lyrics. It’s all done in his head, with a tape recorder or on a computer. “You might be walking down the road and something comes to you. You had better do something with it or it will be gone.”

Arthur graduated from Owatonna High School in 1983. He took some courses in college, but it didn’t pan out. He moved to Minneapolis and started playing in a rock and roll band in 1987 until 1995. The band put out a 7-inch record.  He moved to Ellendale in 1996. Sometime after that he started writing gospel songs. Then in 2003, he, Doug and Don Bratland started Matt Arthur and the Bratlanders. The band played at some shows, but never really took their music seriously.

That was until drummer Joel Beithon came on board. “We thought maybe it was time to take this band more serious,” Arthur says.

The band currently consists of Arthur on vocals and guitar, Don Bratland, electric guitar, harmonica and backing vocals, Doug Bratland, bass guitar and backing vocals, Beithon on drums and Pete Christensen on keyboards.

The band turned to Rice County Records in Northfield and finished “Heavy on My Mind.” The album was released on March 23. Copies can be ordered at

Bratland says the band has done some low budget recordings in the past. “This time we really wanted to take it seriously and really treat it as a big deal,” he explains. “We felt we were making some really good music. We just wanted to do it right.”

Working with a producer was quite a process, he adds. “We wanted somebody outside of us to listen with a critical ear and do what is best for the music.”

The producer brought in extra people to record the album, including a pedal steel player, string players, back-up singers, piano players and others to achieve a vision for the music.

“It was something that was surprising to us,” Bratland explains. “It was interesting to have somebody else involved in the creation of it in addition to the band.”

Eight of the 10 songs are original pieces by the band. One cover song, entitled, “I See a Darkness,” has been played by Will Oldham and Johnny Cash. The other cover song was a spiritual, stomp and holler piece.

The other eight songs were written by Arthur.

Bratland says that most of the songs come from the heart and come from a very heartfelt and passionate man. “He likes to speak his mind,” Bratland explains. “He spends a lot of time thinking about things. It helps him process things to put them into songs.”

For example, “A Little Ray of Hope,” was a song that he started writing in the Black Hills. He was in a conversation with a girl named Hope, talking about some problems he was having. “She said people are so busy, they can’t think beyond themselves,” Arthur remembers. “In this crazy world, it is so easy to think only of ourselves. Hope is one of those girls you can (talk to) on your worst day of your life and the whole thing comes crumbling down, and everything is fine again.”

The major challenge for the band is getting off the ground and selling the album the best they can.  “It is sort of a new chapter in the band,” Arthur says.

The band hopes to do more than just around the area. Arthur, himself, says he is ready to hit the road. “Our goal is to see how far we can make it go,” Arthur explains. “Hopefully, we can do another record. I have a lot of ideas. Wherever they go, I don’t know.”

Arthur admits he never has thought about what the music would say to people or if it would even help people. “I’m not sure how to feel about that because in some ways maybe some of our songs have a message, and in some ways a lot of the songs is good entertainment. We just want to bring pleasure to people’s lives.”