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  • JATK (pronounced “Jack”), born Matt Jatkola, is set to release...

    JATK (pronounced “Jack”), born Matt Jatkola, is set to release his debut album “Shut Up and Be the Light” on April 15, 2022. (Courtesy Photo)

  • JATK (pronounced “Jack”), born Matt Jatkola, is set to release...

    JATK (pronounced “Jack”), born Matt Jatkola, is set to release his debut album “Shut Up and Be the Light” on April 15, 2022. (Courtesy Photo)

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ASHBURNHAM — A local musician is hoping to inspire others with his story as he releases his debut album this April.

Since the release of his eponymous EP in November 2019, Matt Jatkola, the multi-instrumentalist known as JATK (pronounced “Jack”), has been on a two-and-a-half-year journey fraught with public and personal challenges. Days after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020, Jatkola was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Afraid at first, Jatkola turned that fear into motivation. Now, healthy and with his cancer in remission, Jatkola is set to release the eclectic 12-track LP, “Shut Up and Be the Light” on April 15.

Jatkola said it was “surreal” to be so close to the release date and that he was happy to see such a unique project – more than 20 artists collaborated on “Shut Up and Be the Light” — come to fruition.

“I haven’t ever done anything quite like this,” said Jatkola, who is also a producer, song writer and instrumentalist. “It’s fully my vision, but was also very collaborative — and I can’t wait for release day.”

Jatkola’s music journey began as a teenager in Ashburnham and continued into his time at Fitchburg State University, as he played in different bands and crafted his own tracks. Later, Jatkola released “JATK” and, excited for the future he pushed forward — until the sky started falling.

Shocked at first, Jatkola called the overlap between his diagnosis and the pronouncement of the pandemic “mind-blowing, and not in a good way.” And, while he was afraid, it was not long before his mind drifted back to music, something Jatkola said was a major motivator in his recovery.

“The hospital was the last place anyone wanted to be, let alone immunocompromised people, which I was sort of becoming,” he said. “It was scary at first, but all I could think about was just how badly I wanted to make music, make this album.”

“I wanted to get better, in part, so I could do that. It drove me while going through those treatments in March, April, May — basically that whole year,” he said.

The entire experience changed Jatkola’s life. In fact, he adopted a new personal mantra, one reflected in the album’s title, “Shut Up and Be the Light.”

“The whole world has this sense now of before and after COVID,” he said. “I have that, but also this before and after cancer point of view. Both have shaped me and how I think of music.”

Jatkola sat on the idea for the album “for years” out of fear of failure. “The only thing that held me back was me,” he said, “I was thinking about it too much and I just ended up doing nothing.” But, after his diagnosis, he realized that he could no longer just sit back and let life come to him, he had to go out and take what he wanted.

Jatkola hoped to convey that same proactive message through his music.

The album “is really what I’ve felt through the past couple of years,” he said. “It’s the sort of approach I’ve taken in life: if you want to do something, just go for it.”

“There’s no reason to be afraid, if you fail, you fail, and that’s good because you can learn from that,” he said.

Another prevailing theme of the album, according to Jatkola, was “hope.” His hope was that his story would inspire, or that some might take something away from the album that they could apply to their own lives.

“This album is all about hope,” he said. “I had everything to complain about, but what good was it going to do? All I could do was be present, look ahead to the future, and try to make that better.”

“I want this album to have some meaning beyond being a group of songs that I like. I hope it inspires something in others, just like the things I’ve written about have inspired me,” he said.

Jatkola also said the album’s artwork — smashed doughnuts — was the “perfect symbol for the songs and just the idea of the album” and that he hoped the art would “elicit emotion in the same way the album does.”

In more of a music sense, Jatkola said he stepped out of his comfort zone during production. Never before had he worked with such a large group on a single project. It was a process he said was “different” but a very fun way to work through.

“Everybody brought their own flavor to everything,” he said.

As they close in on the release date, Jatkola heaped praise on his collaborators and said he “can’t thank them enough.” He also said the diversity in styles and sounds each of them brought was something he hoped to incorporate into future projects.

“I wanted this album to set the groundwork for that sort of eclectic approach to my work,” he said. “In the future, I might want to do more of an R&B album or something that’s low-key acoustic – the DNA for that, for everything is here in this album.”

“Shut Up and Be the Light” is set for release on April 15. For more information on Jatkola or the album, visit https://lnk.bio/jatktheband.

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