When I was in London on February, I interviewed Matt Corby. After a couple of months with a lot of classwork and busy times, and with a little help of my friend (thank you, samrosey!), I can finally sit down and publish this small collection of questions and answers of one of the most talented artists I’ve ever listened to.
This young Australian song-writter has a very promising musical career ahead. Currently working with Communion, Matt has published two EP, has played some shows around the U.K., was part of this year’s SXSW (Austin’s famous festival) and is now back in Australia, where he’ll spend the summer (or winter down there) playing small gigs in gardens, intimate shows where I’m sure his beautiful songs and amazing voice will captivate all those present.
How would you describe your music?
How would I describe my music… I guess it’s like a… It’s like a weird sort of mix, sort of like folk and sort of gospel, some blues and stuff. Yeah, so yeah, it’s all different but it’s all good.
And how would you like to be described as a musician?
I don’t know… Maybe just with my name. I, uh… I don’t know, I think sometimes an introduction can be a strange thing, it can give some strange preconceptions. Yeah, I’d rather not have anyone know anything about me, just listen to it, you know, with like sort of… Objective ears.
Yes, sometimes I find it difficult to describe you or your music, and just send out a video or a song.
Yeah, I think that’s a good thing, like…
I like it too.
But yeah, it makes it tough.
Your voice has this edge of experience, like you’ve been doing this for 20 or 30 years; and your lyrics aren’t exactly what a 20 year old would write. What inspired you when you first started to write?
Um, you know what? When I first started writing, I wrote in spite of people. Like, um, when I… When I started writing I was quite angry at sort of, at the world. And basically, like I… I wanted, I wanted to write just sort of, just to kind of shove it in their face. The people that were… Sounds really horrible, but I was really like, I was quite upset at… But that was initially what got me writing, and then I realized that I loved creating, you know… In that forum, so I just kept going and so, it sort of, everything… Everything in my life, you know, turned into a lyrical idea or something like that, which is really personal, I think, and maybe a bit too personal but I’m quite a vague person normally so it’s sort of the only, it’s the only real sense of me that people really get, even my closest friends. Sort of, but my mates still say that they don’t really get me, ‘cause I’m sort of quite straight faced a lot of the time. Yeah, it’s sort of, my outlet… That’s why I write music, yeah.
When composing, do you need anything special to concentrate, or you just write whatever comes to your mind?
You know, it’s always nice to be somewhere, somewhere like uh, somewhere quite amazing… And organic. I think I do my best writing while I’m by myself, sort of around… Australia especially, I go camping by myself. And I’ll sort of, sit on my car next to my tent, I’ll just sort of, sort of think of melodies and ideas. Everything sounds better when there’s birds chirping…
I’ve seen you playing live thrice and you’ve always started with two or three songs in a row. Why?
I guess it’s like, I guess it’s a way to drawing people in. I don’t really know why, I think I’d rather not be there as a standard singer/songwriter and be like “here’s a song done, here’s another song done”. You know, and make it sort of slightly interesting, so they don’t really understand where it’s going. It keeps them kind of there and watching because there’s nothing worse than seeing someone really amazing and then, they can’t, I can’t even… People that aren’t particularly musical start getting bored, you know and they don’t really understand it or it’s below or above them, something like that… It’s always the way, you know, you develop little tricks to sort of keep people listening, so they can her what you really have to say in other songs as well. Yeah… I don’t know.
What do you like about live shows? Do you prefer to play acoustic sets or with a band?
I have no idea at the moment, um, I don’t know if I prefer with a band or not but I love playing the electric guitar, which makes me feel really cool. But um, you know, I’ve never been cool, so it’s like that. Yeah, it makes me feel good but, I don’t really know. I’m not sure, I’ll get back to you…
Have you ever toured outside Australia or the UK?
No, not really! I went to New York, but I’ve never, I didn’t play a show. I sort of just walked around. I was too young, anyway. I’m still too young to play in America because you have to be 21.
But you’re heading to North-America soon?
Yeah, I am going… Kind of illegally. But it’s just, I’m not really allowed to be in bars and things and that’s where most of the music is sort of played, don’t really… It’s alright.
But you are going to the festival in Austin?
SXSW. Yeah, I’m really excited about that.
Have you always known you wanted to build your career this way, of you’ve ever thought to do things differently?
I think it’s just the way it goes. If I wanted to play, you know the… Wembley, I guess I’d try and write really massive… I prefer sort of, singing and writing and playing what I play to people that understand, you know what I mean, there’s kind of something really special about being at a gig… With someone that’s really great… But like, you know, there’s ten other people there, just listening to this person pour their heart out, I think it’s, it’s quite an amazing thing to do…
What do you think about mainstream music nowadays?
Depends. It depends on the artist and the song. Some mainstream is absolutely amazing, some of it is completely shit. It’s so subjective, though, you know. And music is one of the things that like, is so personal to every individual. You can’t really like, no one really has the authority to say that something’s amazing or shit. That’s really only their personal idea.
And about manufactured singers “doing” music just for popularity?
I think some people are in the business, if that’s what we call it, for the wrong reasons, you know, I’ve seen it, I’ve seen the people that want the fans and they start a band because they want to look really cool, you know, they get tons of screaming girls to their gig, which is great, but I never really wanted it to be like that. I just wanted to make music, and make people feel something.
What needs to be changed in the music industry?
Oh, everything. At the moment it’s quite, it’s…I feel like it’s gone astray, you know but there are…There are amazing little pockets of movements going on like Communion and Chess Club where they get people, you know with something real, and give people a chance. And it’s really beautiful. But yeah, there’s a lot wrong with the industry, you know, the whole business side of it.
What are your thoughts about digital strategy, do you plan on using internet as one of your main ways of promotion?
I think the internet has been the best and worst thing for music, to be honest. The internet has this sort of given people like, it’s given musicians, for start, such a broader audience. But it shortens people’s attention span, like exponentially. People will listen to a song and if they don’t like it within 30 seconds, they go, uh “next…” Spotify. “Who else have I heard of that I wanna listen to, ah yeah I like the, they’re cool, I’ll buy that one song…” That’s why it’s hard you know… For people that make albums, instead of just single, it’s really hard. But that has put the power back in the music, if they’re really good, they don’t need a label telling them what to do, or giving them they’re own shot because they make their own luck
Best album you bought last year?
As it came out last year? Oh, man, ah, just trying to think of new records that came out… Um, I thought the Sufjan (Stevens) record was amazing, Age of Adz… Was brilliant… And All Delighted People. What else came out last year, I’m trying to think, I’m kind of stumped on that, ‘cause I don’t know what was last year. I can’t… I listen to a lot of old music that’s the thing. Everyone should listen to people like… Guys like Jeff Buckley of course, Ottis Redding… And Buddy Guy.
Best song you discovered last year?
Song… That’s even harder, um, let me think… Um… Don’t know! Where’s my iPod? Might have like, an indication… I don’t know where it is, I’ve lost it… Hold on… It will be… Um, I don’t know, I bought that, I bought one of the Ryan Adams records recently… The “Easy Tiger” record, and that song “Oh My God, Whatever, Etc.” is an amazing song, and that’s been a bit of a soundtrack.
An album you can’t live without?
Uh… like MIDLAKE, or… Obvisouly Grace by [Jeff] Buckley, I still listen to that or Pink Moon by Nick Drake, um, uh what’s that Tom Waits record? Um…the one with Clap Hands on it…where’s my iPod, it’s uh…Rain Dogs. That’s an amazing record and I listen to that profusely.
Your musical “guilty” pleasure?
That would have to be Tina Arena. You ever heard of her? She’s like an Australian diva, she’s like an icon. That was like, when I was growing up I loved Tina Arena, to death. It’s like amazing pop, like 90s pop, there’s a song called “Chains”, that’s one of those songs and it’s so good. And that’s sort of a guilty pleasure. Every time I play the song, they are all like “what the fuck is this?”. But it’s amazing, really.
An album you would essential?
Don’t know… that’s another one, I’m so bad with these… What is it? An essential album… No, it’d had have to be Tom Waits again… Rain Dogs.
From these lines, I’d like to thank Matt Corby and his management for the opportunity of doing this interview and for being so nice to me during my visit. It was a pleasure.