Reece Mastin; he’s the teenage bad boy who stole hearts across the country back in 2011 after taking out the top prize in Australia’s third season of X Factor at the age of just 16.
He’s now 23 years old, and since his introduction into the music industry, he has worked hard to make the transition from teen idol to serious adult musician. Having left his label behind, the release of Change Colours in 2015 was key in forging his own path, but now it seems to be truly complete with his new EP Suitcase of Stories, released under the new moniker Mastin.
“It’s a completely different brand for me; I’m kind of treating this whole thing as a completely different entity than what it was before,” Mastin explains of the decision to drop Reece from his name. “You would hear my name and you had all these triggers in your brain, it automatically takes you back to my sixteen-year-old face on the TV screen and then after that a bunch of pop songs,” he continues.
“People just have this massive pre-conceived notion that that’s what I do now, when it is the polar opposite. You just have to press play to notice how drastically different the songs are now then when I was with a label like Sony.”
Since Mastin won fans and stole hearts through his X-Factor journey, he went on to release two platinum selling albums, land three consecutive singles in the ARIA Top 5 and perform to thousands of adoring fans in the years that followed. Despite his successes, Mastin lost his way, caused in part by the ruthless nature of a career in the commercial music industry.
“We had a good relationship [with Sony] but I just said ‘I’ve got to do this’ because I’m just going to hate myself for putting out music that I don’t like and I’m just going to put myself in a hole,” he explains. “After that, I kind of hit rock bottom in terms of mental health and I wasn’t helping myself; drinking and doing everything under the sun to try and make myself feel better; now I’m just happy with what I’m doing.
“I guess there’s some element now of being unashamed about anything that’s out with these records; something flicked over. I’ve found the real persona behind the music and the real attitude behind it that makes it what it is; I was kind of missing that for a while… this is the first time I’ve done a record where I can honestly say everything on this record is who I am as a person.”
The EP Suitcase of Stories could not be further removed from Mastin’s previous releases, namely his debut single ‘Good Night’ (2011) and follow up album Beautiful Nightmare (2013). With five electrifying, rumbling and exhilarating tracks, Suitcase of Stories is everything you would expect from Mastin, the real Mastin who wears his heart on his sleeve. It’s riff-driven, technically skilful, and surprisingly diverse for such a rock record, complete with dark brooding themes, blue-rock anthems, a stripped-back ballad, searing lyrics and powerfully passionate vocals.
“These five songs are probably pivotal points of those years that I’ve being away; it’s a massive thing for me, and it’s more for me than it is for the people listening to it. Every time I sing these songs I think that’s where I took a left, and that’s where I took a right, that’s where I went up and where I went down emotionally in life.”
While his vocals have definitely improved, Mastin’s new sound isn’t entirely surprising. If you ever watched the young Mastin’s performances each week on X Factor (guilty as charged), you would know that it’s always been about rock and roll for the young performer. Each week, Mastin would come out in his biker jacket and distressed jeans, singing power ballads like ‘Always’ by rock legend Bon Jovi, ‘Dream On’ by Aerosmith, ‘Joker & the Thief’ by Aussie rockers Wolfmother and ‘Closer to the Edge’ by American rockers Thirty Seconds to Mars.
“We did [perform rock], and I find that kind of bizarre; we’re doing AC/DC and Led Zeppelin on the show, and then we come out and it’s like ‘here’s a pop song’,” he reveals. “I get it, it is what it is, you do what sells. For me, I wasn’t happy with what I was doing so I wasn’t going to keep doing it. It’s always been about rock for me; that’s the unfortunate thing, I’ve been pigeon-holed into something that I’m not.
“The main thing now is the surety of it; I know what I want to do and I know why I want to do it. It’s obviously going to take time but I’m happy for the time to be taken to if I can do rock and roll for the rest of my life.”
One thing is for sure; if you’re heading to the show don’t expect to be hearing any pop tracks. Forget everything you thought you knew about Reece Mastin; this is the real deal.
Release: Suitcase of Stories is out now.
When & Where: The Workers Club, Geelong – July 13.
Written by Talia Rinaldo
Photo by Ian Ritter