Get to Know Us! Part 3: Matthew Tolley on Albums

Matthew is the house luthier and fretted instrument technician at Leading Tone. Matthew has been designing, building, repairing, and restoring fretted musical instruments for over 13 years. After graduating from the Roberto-Venn School of Lutherie, Matthew went on to work professionally with some very well respected boutique instrument builders, designers, and players. His expertise is quite broad and varied covering everything from proper period correct restoration and instrument repair techniques to programming of industrial CNC machines and turning centers. In addition to his time spent at Leading Tone, Matthew also builds custom archtop guitars and mandolins in his personal shop located in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, Tolley Stringed Instruments.

What was your first musical instrument?

My first instrument was a Vielle a Roué (hurdy gurdy) which my father made for me when I was about 3-4 years old. I got my first guitar when I was about 5 years old and it was also built my father. That’s me in the photo as a young lad with my (then) new custom guitar!

Tell us about an album that has influenced you a lot.

It was a mixtape made for me by my musicology professor, Michael Farley. This tape had cuts by B.B. King, Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, Muddy Waters, and Mississippi John Hurt among others. It was an eye opening experience for me as it was the first time I had heard any of these artists.

What album are you listening to on repeat these days?

I’ve been spending a good deal of time listening to the box set The Story of Jamaican Music. I’ve also been enjoying singles by Desmond Dekker and the Aces and the Africa’s Blood album by Lee Perry and the Upsetters.

What album do you think more people should listen to?

The Bluegrass Mandolin Extravaganza.

What is your preferred format (vinyl, CD, mp3, etc.)?

I prefer vinyl especially 7” singles.

How do you discover new albums?

Usually it’s my research into what I’m currently listening to that leads to my new album or artist discoveries.

What’s the best flavor of ice cream?

If I had to pick only one…Strawberry.

Finally, give us your top ten albums of all time.

In no particular order:

  1. Plastic Surgery Disasters, Dead Kennedys
  2. Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, Charles Mingus
  3. Live Duet Recordings 1963-1980, Bill Monroe and Doc Watson
  4. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Wu-Tang Clan
  5. The Afro Eurasian Eclipse, Duke Ellington Orchestra
  6. Live In Palma, Dervish
  7. Brainfreeze, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist
  8. The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, Wes Montgomery
  9. Damaged, Black Flag
  10. Pain In My Heart, Otis Redding


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