The multi-talented Mat McHugh is no stranger to the pages of Forté. We’ve covered his many album releases – both with his pioneering musical collective The Beautiful Girls and his solo projects, and we were one of only a handful of publications to detail the ramifications and subsequent recovery from a serious spinal injury over a series of interviews with the singer-songwriter. So it was welcome news to hear he will be back on the road again this summer with the High Up! Summer 17 tour – a run of shows that has everyone in suspense, even the man himself.
“I’m not quite sure how I’m going to orchestrate this Australian tour. There will be a bit of interplay with other musicians I believe, but I’m still working on that and I will be working on it ’til the day I leave as per usual,” he says in his signature laid-back tone.
Calling in from the backyard of his beach-side home after a morning swim with his son, McHugh seems happy to be taking it easy after a sold-out European tour supporting the South African musician and another one of our favourites, Jeremy Loops. “It was a cool tour. When you’re on the road with people you get along with, it’s a pleasure and the opposite can apply when you don’t,” he admits.
“It was pretty interesting because some people that came to the shows had heard of The Beautiful Girls, but not many in the crowd had heard of me,” McHugh adds, “so they were all fresh faces, they’d never heard any of my solo songs. I performed again as a two-piece with my buddy, David Briceno, and we killed it! It was really fun and the crowds were going crazy. It was a great time as a support act.”
Despite the success of his guitars-vocals-electronic format with long-time live collaborator Briceno, McHugh says he’s open to the idea of becoming a one-man band. “I think it might be fun to do something completely different. I’m back to 99 per cent health, I can play guitar again and I can sing, and I can take on a whole show.
“I’ve always been interested in doing things that I haven’t done before and lately I realised I could count the number of acoustic shows I’ve done on one hand. Getting this far into my career and not having done many acoustic shows, doing one is kind of the most punk rock thing that I could do, because it’s something no-one would expect, and that punk rock, DIY thing is what I always default back to,” the life-long surfer explains.
“I’ve got three albums out now as Mat McHugh (Seperatista! -2009, Love Come Save Me – 2012 and Waves -2015) and I love those records, and in particular, Waves is my favourite. So I put my feelers out to see what people would like to hear and it depends who I ask. If I ask for song requests on The Beautiful Girls Facebook page then all the answers come back as Beautiful Girls songs, and I have moments where I’m just like ‘Fuck that! I don’t want to play that.’ I get really cranky about it because I’m like ‘This is not a Beautiful Girls show’, and then I have moments like where I’m at right now when I think who cares they’re all my songs – and I just wanna have the most fun I can have on the night anyway.
“I think it boils down to doing the songs justice. I could never be the guy who sings his songs live every time just like they sound on the radio for 20 years. I hate the thought of dragging myself on the stage because I feel like I have to paint-by-numbers, it’s like selling out,” McHugh says. “It’s a disservice to everyone – myself included, and I think it would just turn out pretty shitty!”
One thing we do know for sure is McHugh will be joined by good mate and fellow Sydney-sider Animal Ventura, a live-looping artist who plays a mix of roots, electro and dub.
When & Where: Torquay Hotel, Torquay – February 17 & Memo Music Hall, St Kilda – February 18
Written by Natalie Rogers