Queensland singer-songwriter Scot Matthew released his fantastic album, Gallantry’s Favorite Son, stateside this week and he was gracious enough to take some time to answer our bothersome questions. Take a look at what Scott has to say about being compared to David Bowie, moving to New York, and just how he made what has become one of our favorite records of the year.
EB: I’d like to spend a little time talking about your start in music. The music on Gallantry’s Favorite Son has a very distinct style, and it seems to me that it was a style you developed very early as a recording artist. What influenced your particular songwriting style? How do you feel you have evolved as a performer over the last ten years.
SM: The 3 albums I have made as a solo artist do reflect this. It took me a while to find my true sound, and it wasn’t until I went solo did it become very clear to me. Before, in Sydney and in New York I had more “traditional” band set ups. Electric guitars, Drums etc. All that eventually just seemed to get in the way of a pure song. So I began building a sound that supported intimacy.
Doing away with drums and using acoustic instrumentation like strings, piano and uke.
I suddenly felt like I was being honest for the first time with music. That was such a revelation that I haven’t “changed my tune” since. Though I won’t say my sound will never change , but for now I am very content with it.
EB: You’ve relocated to New York from Queensland, Australia. Tim Minchin recently spoke in an interview about the relative isolation of growing up in Perth and how it influenced his personality. Obviously, Perth is *a bit* more off the beaten path than Queensland, but I was wondering if you felt something similar and whether or not that has become part of your music.
SM: My upbringing was very isolated. Maybe more so than in Perth. I grew up in the bush in Australia. And as a lot of kids have done, I turned to music as a solace. Yes, I was the cliche child listening to the Smiths in my bedroom, desperate for connection. I am positive this alienation has a strong influence on my song writing. Not that now I feel alienated but there is a strong sense memory for that feeling within me. It’s very easy for me to tap into it.
EB: New York is a culture shock even for Americans, let alone for someone from another country. Some people find the city extremely isolating while others fit right in. How was the transition for you?
SM: It was a massive shock but in a positive way. I left Australia with a great need for self discovery and I found it here in NYC. Though it was not always easy with all the pressure a city like this can put on you, financially and emotionally. There have been many lonely times and feelings of isolation and failure. Above all though I felt a sense of freedom that I was never allowed to have in Australia.
EB: Have you been able to make it back home at all since the move?
SM: Yes , a few times. Thankfully now , I find the reasons I fled Australia are not as apparent anymore at all. I have a new found appreciation and respect for my mother country which is a relief. I feel as I have grown so has Australia. It feels different now and I actually feel sentimental about it. Though maybe not enough to want to live there again.
EB: You’ve drawn quite a few comparisons from critics (including myself) to David Bowie and Antony. I also drew some comparisons to David Ackles and Paul Williams. How do you feel about those kinds of comparisons? Obviously, it can hardly be considered a insult to be compared to Bowie. Did he have an influence on you as a younger man? Who do you hear in your head when you are singing?
SM: I totally understand why people need to make comparisons and truthfully it doesn’t bother me. I always need to explain that I have spent many years finding my true voice and sound and I have never set out to imitate anyone. Though if people draw a comparison to antony or bowie, I will only take it as a compliment even if I don’t agree. The only voice I hear when I sing is my own. The need to be honest and true to myself vocally and emotionally with music is very important to me.
EB: I’d like to talk for a moment about your writing and recording process. The compositions on this new record are fairly complex for pop songs. How does your writing process begin? Did you come into the studio with a completed arrangement, or was that something you worked out during the recording?
SM: The process for me is that I write the song on Ukulele or guitar. Then I work with my musicians to figure out arrangements. My musicians are my dear friends and thankfully this process seems fairly easy. The song dictates instrumentation most of the time. Always with making albums we need to be prepared as much as possible before we go into the studio. Time is money, and I don’t have too much of the money. Though of course things evolve and change in the studio to some degree.
EB: My favorite track from Gallantry is definitely “No Place Called Hell”. Now, you’ve been living in the center of the Occupy movement, and this song sounds to me like it should be a battle cry for the protestors (though, the most jaunty battle cry of all time). What role does politics play for you as a songwriter? Have you been to Zucati?
SM: I have written a couple of direct protest songs, “No Place Called Hell” being one of them. Though I often sing about political/social issues in song without it being a protest song. I often laugh at the fact that my “angry” protest song sounds “happy” in atmosphere. But the subject matter is very serious to me. I was away on tour in Europe for the majority of the Occupy Wall St. protest so I didn’t make it down to partake. It certainly was impressive though.
EB: The songs you write sound like they could be a bit difficult to play live without some tinkering. How do you rearrange for live performances? Are there any plans to hitting the road to support Gallantry?
SM: The good thing is that the songs can work in many different arrangements. We never try to completely emulate the arrangement on the record live. My usual touring band is with Eugene who plays bass or piano and Sam who plays cello and guitar. Both also sing. With this combination of instruments we can deliver an essence that is varied and hopefully satisfying and pure.
EB: Alright, I always have to set aside some time for the fun trivia.
– Favorite record released last year?
Doris Day, My Heart
– Favorite David Bowie record?
– Favorite place to grab a coffee in New York?
– What venue would you most like to play?
Central Park, like the famous Diana Ross show complete with the drama of a storm.
– Who has the better beard: TV On The Radio’s Kyp Malone, Jim James, or you?
I think Kyp wins there.
EB: Alright, that’s all of the time I’m willing to steal from you. Thank you very much for the time.
Thanks for checking out our discussion with Scott Matthew. You can (and should) snag his newest album from Glitterhouse Records. You can also find him online at his very own website. We would like to thank Scott for so generously and honestly devoting his time and Spencer at Girlie Action Media for being so easy to work with and helping facilitate our talk.
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