Mat McHugh

Mat McHugh

The last time Forte Magazine had the pleasure of speaking to the one-and-only Mat McHugh he was still deep in recovery mode as a result of an extreme neck and back injury. Although he was able to go out on tour with his band The Beautiful Girls for the annual Summer Soundsystem tour, he spoke candidly about not being able to play guitar, and revealed that his prognosis going into the New Year wasn’t exactly what his fans wanted to hear: “I’ll be lucky if I can play guitar in 2016,” McHugh admitted, back in 2015. So the announcement of his first solo tour in three years came as a welcome surprise to all those praying for his recovery.

“I’m not one hundred percent, but I’m one hundred percent better than I was,” McHugh smiles when we caught up recently. “Six months ago I couldn’t even conceive of strumming a guitar, let alone strapping it around my neck and playing for two hours – but I’m getting there. I think it’s going to take a while to be back to where I was, but I’m definitely happy with where I’m at.”

The last few years have been a journey of discovery for the ‘Learn Yourself’ singer. He confesses to growing spiritually, emotionally, physically and creatively through his ordeal.

“Everyone that I’ve talked to who’s had an illness or an injury to bounce back from has learnt to see it as a blessing. It puts everything into perspective and it makes you appreciate what you have and really listen to your body. Lots of good stuff can come out of hard times, if you can get to the other side,” he says.

McHugh has managed to find his way with determination and a lot of hard work. He began by receiving acupuncture treatment five days a week, and now focuses on physiotherapy sessions and a whole lot of stretching. He admits to being frustrated at times, but insists he has always loved to challenge himself. This tour may prove to be his ultimate challenge yet, as he has embarked on a quest to play over 25 shows in less than two months.

“I always want to push myself and make things difficult. I’m kind of like a masochist in that way,” he laughs, “and touring is no different – and it’s the same when I decide to make music.”

As a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, McHugh is always exploring ways to make new sounds and thrives on producing the unexpected. “I pushed the boundaries a little bit with Waves [2015], but with these shows I plan to push a little more.

“It’s a solo show but it’s not necessarily all acoustic,” he continues. “During a large part of the show I will be playing electric guitar – and then I have my friend David who tours with us as part of The Beautiful Girls, running an MPC [Media Player Classic], so it’s kind of like that old hip hop set-up of two turntables and a microphone, but we have two MPCs and a microphone (and a guitar) and we see how much noise we can make.

“The whole experience of preparing for this tour has been good because I wanna play music forever, and to do that you have to find ways not to grind your brain and your body into dust. You have to find ways of staying passionate and keeping your energy up, and there’s a whole bunch of music that’s geared towards dancing at these shows – so if I’m not able to, I hope everybody else does!”

Written by Natalie Rogers

When & Where: Sooki Lounge, Belgrave – June 30, The Workers Club, Geelong – July 1 & The Toff, Melbourne – July 2.