MATT GRESHAM Surviving on Love

Matt Gresham
As part of his biggest international tour yet, Fremantle’s own Matt Gresham is set to bring his mollifying raw vocals and tender songwriting to home-soil once more. Although compared to both Ed Sheeran and Jarryd James, his original fusion of folk, pop, and subtle electronica has carved out a style and creative direction that is uniquely his own. The Berlin-based singer has been making waves overseas in 2017, appearing at Texas’s annual SXSW Festival, supporting James Arthur on a sold out UK tour, and now hitting the road with Guy Sebastian on his WA shows this month. CATRIN DONNELLY caught up with Matt Gresham to talk success, songwriting and city-hopping.

Since your decision to leave the top 24 in the 2013 series of X Factor to focus on your independent music career, your singles Ghost, Survive on Love and Small Voices  have reached more than 3 million cumulative streams online. Did you ever anticipate you would reach such success with your songwriting back then?

I was at a stage back then where I wasn’t really clear with what I wanted, I didn’t have this clarity that I do now. I think I liked the idea of music but I didn’t really understand myself as a man yet, or an artist. I kind of chose to do X Factor because I was a little bit lost, playing in pubs then turning on the TV to see X Factor and thinking, what other choice do I have? After that I was travelling a lot, and moved to Maroubra for about a year and a half. Through moving to Sydney, I met Guy (Sebastian) properly and he was working with songwriter, Jaymes Young, who is an amazing songwriter working with a lot of people I love, like James Bay. We didn’t really think about it, we were just focusing on the music and it ended up going that way. It was really cool, I’m super stoked about those songs.

2017 has seemed to be your year, as it has included supporting James Arthur on his sold out UK tour, as well as an acclaimed performance at USA’s South by South West Festival in March. What was it like playing for such large international crowds?

You know what, it’s like at the start of the tour you are always super nervous because it’s such an adjustment. You are going from playing at places like Indi Bar and Mojo’s, which of course I love, but when you go from a 300 capacity venue to an 8000 capacity venue, you have to rehearse a lot more. I’ve always taken music seriously with writing, but never really in terms of putting in hours and hours rehearsing my stage performance. That includes what I do onstage, the hand gestures, and the way I connect with the audience both physically as well as emotionally. I’ve always been a big connector lyrically, but now I’m listening to people like Frank Sinatra and people whose stage presence is a really big deal. I’ve been trying to use that to grow as an artist as I grow with venues.

After developing your independent music career in Australia over the last ten years, was the decision to move to Berlin and produce music for Warner Germany a shock to your local friends and fans?

Massively. Its weird saying this but working in Australia is really easy. You do a tour here ands it’s around about five gigs and you talk about how tired you are. When you do a tour in England you do like 30 shows. It’s been quite hard with my mum because I am super close to my parents. I’ve been lucky enough that they’ve been able to come to some shows. My mum came on tour with me to James Arthur, coming to every single one of the 25 shows.

You seem to have support behind you then.

I do. Everything comes at the right time because my family is well and I have a really good crew in management, good crew with the record label, and a good rapport with other artists. Even going to parties with James Arthur and meeting these international stars and being like, what the hell! It’s just ridiculous the people I would meet when I was on tour with James. I’ve always been writing music but to be doing it internationally now, it’s just a blessing really. I’ll never take it for granted.

You’ve spoken of songwriting as a healing process, and one quite personal at that. This is something I find quite present in the lyrics of your recent single, Small Voices. What was it like collaborating with London Grammar’s Jaymes Young in producing such a emotionally-charged song?

Small Voices started off as a little song I would play for mum, like a little heartbeat where I would tap my guitar and sing. I would always play it for family and friends when they could come to my shows. Jaymes is a super creative guy and he came into the studio one day and wanted to take the concept of a story of a daughter who both her parents went to prison, and she has to do everything herself. I wanted to write in the perspective of the man who has obviously done something wrong in his life, with the image of a man behind bars tapping a jail cell. “I can feel your heart from behind these bars”, meaning a lot of things, including the prison we make for ourselves psychologically. People build prisons and people build walls because of the past.

We are so excited for you to include WA on what you have described as the biggest tour of your life. Does being back on home soil still provide the inspiration for songwriting as it did in the past?

I think more so now. I’m away from home, around 10 months of a year, so when I’m home now, it’s very chilled. Being in massive cities, it’s a big clearing coming home. I feel like I’m just gaining all these stories, like from moving around and spending a lot of time at airports, people observing, and being immersed in heaps of different cultures in a short amount of time. It’s really interesting. I think I went to 12 countries in three weeks once, and did like 40 shows, then coming home I have all this imagery in my head, so it’s good having time to process all these things I’ve seen.

Catch Matt Gresham in both metro and regional shows throughout November and December:

Friday, November 17 – Dunsborough Tavern, Dunsborough, Western Australia

Saturday, November 18 – Indi Bar, Scarborough, Western Australia

Sunday, November 19 – Southerly’s Tavern, Port Denison, Western Australia 

Sunday, November 26 – Ravenswood Hotel, Ravenswood, Western Australia

Sunday, December 3 – The Odd Fellow, Fremantle, Western Australia

Sunday, December 10 – Whistling Kite, Secret Harbour, Western Australia

Thursday, December 14 – Four5Nine, North Perth, Western Australia

 

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