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Friends Having Breakfast

Meet Me in Medford | Musician Matt Heaton

Welcome to the newest edition of the Meet Me in Medford series! In this installment, we catch up with local musician Matt Heaton, a longtime resident who, along with his wife Shannon, discovered Medford after being captivated by the nearby Fells and the community's friendly atmosphere. Join us as Matt shares his favorite spots in the city and what makes Medford feel like home to him.



What roads led you to Medford, and why do you continue to choose Medford as your home?


I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and my wife and I moved to Boston in 2001. We rented near Davis Square in Somerville for a while. When we started seriously considering buying a place in 2004, we quickly realized that staying somewhere near Davis Square was going to take a lot of work.


We were big fans of the Middlesex Fells and often enjoyed biking and hiking in the woods there. I distinctly remember one time we were looking at a house for sale near the Fells in the North Medford area. I can't recall the street's name, but it was off of something, and I thought, "Wow, wouldn't that be incredible to live there?"


Now, we live on the other side of I-93 from that spot, but we are still very near Wright's Pond and the Fells. When we looked at the house we live in now, we decided to bike around the neighborhood to get a feel for it since we had never been there before.

What’s great about North Medford is that the area is very walkable. We’re on Gaston Street, which runs parallel to Elm Street. We enjoy being near Carr Park and the Pond, especially in the summer.


Tell us about your life as a musician here in Medford – where folks may have heard you play, other musicians you enjoy collaborating with, etc.


My wife Shannon is also a musician, and we have performed traditional Irish music together for many years. We have toured extensively and made records.


When we had a kid, we thought we could take the baby on tour for the first couple of years. But as our child grew and developed more opinions and the ability to voice them, we realized it was becoming more challenging.


So, I started playing music for families and kids, which grew from a combination of things. We were always singing at home anyway, and then all the towns around here have library sing-alongs, which is fantastic for families—it's free, gets us out of the house, and is a great way to do something with music.


We were going to a lot of sing-alongs anyway. And, while there are so many great musicians in town who do them, I wanted to do something a little different and make it entertaining for both parents and kids.


I got my first gig at the Robbins Library in Arlington, and I've been playing there ever since. I also played at the former Best Sellers Cafe in Medford Square, and I continue to perform at events with the Medford Family Network.


There was a learning curve around standing in front of a room full of kids and keeping their attention. We talk a lot when we play Irish music in concerts, sharing stories behind the songs. That's a big part of it. But with kids, it's the opposite—you have to keep it short and engaging.


There's also the joke that there’s no polite applause in a kids' music concert. If you're losing them, you know immediately. It became apparent to me in the first week. But what I've enjoyed most about it is using it as an opportunity to explore different styles of music and guitar playing. For example, I love Merle Travis, the '40s country guitarist who invented a unique style. I'm not a master Travis picker, but I can incorporate one or two of his songs into a kids' set, which makes perfect sense.


It's been fun to dabble in different kinds of music. If something catches my interest, I can create something with it.


Nowadays, if you search YouTube for any kid's song, the first ten results are often computer-generated, soulless versions. Getting kids to see an actual person playing an instrument and making music is really important.


What are your favorite spots around the city? For folks new to Medford, where are the “hidden gem” spots you enjoy?


I don't know if any of mine will be that hidden, but the new Medford Public Library is stunning. We're so lucky. One of the lesser-known features of the library that only some know about is the Library of Things, where you can check out tools, appliances, and more. We borrowed a metal detector because we lost something in the backyard and spent a few days looking for it.

It's amazing what they have! The Maker's Space Room is full of incredible things, too. I've just started exploring it myself—I'm not that crafty, but they have tools like a vinyl cutting machine where you can make t-shirts and more.


I'm overjoyed that Deep Cuts Brewery and Live Music is in the Square now. I was a big fan when they had their little shop in West Medford. I love their sandwiches—they make great food. But I was stunned when they turned the location in the Square into a live music venue. There aren't always many band names I recognize, but I've been to a few shows there, and they've all been great. If I see something interesting or someone recommends a band, I'm always up to check them out.


Continuing on the food theme, I enjoy Tenoch, and I’m very much a fan of their sister restaurant, El Tacuba Tequila Bar, which was worth the wait. But the place our family really loves is Donuts With A Difference. Their donuts are incredible. I'm not always eating donuts, but now and then, if my kid and I are out, we might get one. He prefers Donuts With A Difference much more than any other option. I don't always love it when they sell out or only have a few things left, but I appreciate that they're always fresh.


Photos, clockwise from top left: Matt and Shannon, ready for the eclipse; Matt Heaton & the Outside Toys at a Wright's Pond Concert hosted by the Medford Family Network; Medford's newest music (and sandwich) venue, Deep Cuts; the beautiful cafe at the Medford Public Library.


If your best friend told you they were considering a move to Medford, what would you tell them?


I would be stoked if my best friend moved to move to Medford, and I’d highly encourage them to move near me! We’ve got it all here. We’re close to Boston, yet we have a suburban feel and a welcoming community. I guess I would simply say, “Good choice! Highly recommend.”


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Mark your calendar for a delightful evening with Matt Heaton at Wright's Pond on July 11th as part of the Medford Family Network's Summer Concert Series. Take advantage of this fantastic opportunity to enjoy great music in a beautiful setting! Stay updated on Matt's other performances by subscribing to his newsletter at www.mattheatonmusic.com.


Like what you’re reading here? Want to know more? Sign up for the 4Squares Newsletter and tune in to more conversations with great Medford neighbors!

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