Matheus Canteri Brings Brazilian Flair to Rockabilly World with The Royal Hounds

Brazilian guitar virtuoso Matheus Canteri plans a European tour with the Royal Hounds and eyes a possible future as a working musician in the States.

As Scott Hinds searched for a new guitarist for his high-octane Nashville-based surf-rock and rockabilly-infused showband The Royal Hounds, he found inspiration in an unlikely place: Sao Paulo, Brazil.

“Initially I thought I was going to audition other guitarists in America,” Hinds says, and then he saw it: Brazilian guitar virtuoso and American country guitar enthusiast Matheus Canteri’s viral YouTube video “Truck Drivin’ Man: A Tribute to the Don Kelley Band and His Guitar Heroes.”  The clip, featuring Canteri tearing his way through country-rock licks at lightning speed (and intercut with his own twangy vocal overdubs), was making its rounds through the Nashville musician community at the time and popped into Hinds’ feed.

“I just couldn’t find anybody better than him,” Hinds said. “He came up and was such an amazing player.”

This was not the moment Canteri was “discovered”; he was already a well-established name in Brazil. As a solo artist he’s been recording, releasing and playing his own material live since 2009, when he released his first EP. He released a debut album, Instrumental de Granga, in 2010 and followed it up in 2014 with Countrify. He’s been featured in Guitar Player Brasil Magazine, Total Guitar Magazine, Guitar Load, Guitar Fair Magazine in Spain, and Nashville Country Music Magazine. He’s played festivals across Brazil like 2° São Paulo Country Music Festival, Total Guitar Festival, Autorock, CANJA, CaipiroRock and Cardápio Underground. He writes guitar lessons for Guitar Player Brazil, has gone on tour with pop duo Fernando and Sorocaba as their guitar teacher and is sponsored by/endorses Fuhrmann Pedals, Anasounds Pedals and DR Strings.

So far he’s just made a few trips up to Tennessee, his musical mecca, for a kind of mutual admiration society: those very people he made the tribute videos for, like the Don Kelley Band have been so anxious to meet him, in awe of his skills, they’ve ended up either giving him lessons or asking him to sit in with their bands as a showcased guest performer while in town.

“Whenever I jammed with an American musician,” Canteri says, “it always felt natural and it broke all the language differences.”

His father, an engineer who taught beginner lessons and did instrument repairs for locals, built Canteri his first guitar and instilled in him a love for both traditional Brazilian music and classic rock and roll. Jamming with his father, he realized he had something early on.

“I remember a moment when all I knew was some really basic chords and my dad was playing ‘Comfortably Numb,’ and I started soloing without knowing what I was doing and he was amazed that I actually sounded good,” he says.

“I was always curious about how things worked, probably I have a little bit of an engineer head, and with music was the same, I was always seeking for knowledge and trying to figure it out how the guitar players I liked would write their parts. Improvising was always important to me…I see the guitar as a powerful voice that can express different feelings in a unique way. When I’m playing live it’s all about giving everything I have to the crowd and reacting to the energy I get from them and the band. It’s a magical feeling.”

As Canteri continued his musical journey he picked up accolades and opportunities but realized he’d need to spread his wings; Brazil’s musical landscape was rich and varied but his niche interest in American country was not met with as much enthusiasm at home as he’d like. He needed to find kindred spirits.

“This was a division point in my life, because the music that I loved and was completely struggled to find places to play in Brazil was THE most popular thing in America, everyone loved it, they would dance to the songs and enjoy it naturally,” Canteri says. “Brazilians love American music, they listen to it in their car, we have Rock in Rio festival…but when it comes to regular live music, people like to party with Brazilian music, such as samba, sertanejo, forró, axe, etc. All these styles are rich specially when you analyze the percussion and the bass… but as a guitar player it just never connected with me. I got the recognition of many other players and magazines, from other countries too, but Here in Brazil my main job is to teach guitar and I do a lot of recordings too, but I don’t play live as much as want to.”

So when Canteri got the opportunity to come up and meet the Royal Hounds, Don Kelley Band and more, he jumped at it. In America, Knoxville fans may remember that Canteri notably played a guest performance with the Royal Hounds in a main stage set at the 2017 Rhythm and Blooms festival that many described as a highlight of the event, replete with surfing on Hinds’ stand-up bass and Hinds and Canteri briefly playing each other’s instruments mid-set.

The Royal Hounds even went down to Brazil and did a three-state tour with Canteri, playing the Nazare Paulista Country Music Festival and the Big River Festival, and taping a series of live videos in Studio Sapo in Valinhas. The band has plans to tour Europe with Canteri in July.

“It was unbelievable,” Hinds says of the Brazil experience. He says the band loves playing outside of the country and this will be their third European tour. “When you go overseas people just go crazy for American music…it’s good gigs to have…they do go nuts for that kind of music.”

Hinds says the addition of Canteri and his love for the genre adds an extra thrill and layer of enjoyment to the music he grew up with and took for granted.

“Oh my gosh, we have to continue playing with him,” gushes Hinds. “He is a phenomenal guitarist…he’s dedicated his entire life to studying this American way of playing, and that’s why he wants to come to America to play.”

So would Canteri consider a full-time move to America to tour as a working musician?

“There’s not a lot of space in Brazil for country music,” he says. “Even with all the difficulties, I always felt I should follow my heart when it comes to the style of music I wanted to play.”

The Royal Hounds will be back stateside playing the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion Friday, September 21.

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