Following the release of his stunning sophomore album, Rainbow Valley, Australian singer-songwriter Matt Corby discusses his experiences on tour, the incredible mash of music he’s influenced by, and how being a performing musician completely contrasts his personality type.
Re-adjusting to small town life, spending time with his young family and “taking it easy” to allow jet-lag to pass, Matt Corby reflects on the great aspects of his most recent tour across Europe, as well as the potential for upset. “It’s been probably the most positive vibes I’ve ever had, with the crew and the show… I try to stay super positive when I’m on the road now. I used to struggle a lot more.” Living in small spaces – buses, vans, hotels, green rooms – with 16 other people for almost a month could strike up a range of issues. “People are people,” Matt agrees, “Sometimes it’s sketchy bringing new people on the road. We are a family… [But] no one had a problem with anyone because everyone is such a lord.”
Writing and playing every instrument recorded on Rainbow Valley, Matt is undeniably an extremely talented musician. I question whether there was difficulty trusting others with each part in the live performance, but he assures me that’s never the case. “I don’t think anything that I did is super hard,” Matt laughs, “I think the parts go together really well. We had a couple of weeks of rehearsal and there was a couple of days at the start where everyone was finding their feet, just getting into a pocket rhythmically, but after that it’s been real good. I really don’t feel like we even played a ‘bad’ show as musicians the entire time we were away. That’s pretty amazing.” A secret pat on the back is enough to make Matt happy. “There’s a lot of new material to learn and everyone’s nailed it.”
With a decade of experience and quite a lengthy resume, it’d be fair to assume that touring and performing his own music would be Matt’s second nature – not his second personality. “I don’t even know if I really like performing,” he admits, “It’s really against my personality to get up on stage and perform. My sister and I were having a chat the other day and she’s like ‘It’s so funny that there’s a side of you that goes and does that’. She’s grown up with me doing that my whole life, and she still associates that me on stage is a completely different person.”
Countless shows, two ARIA Awards and a number of genre-bending, chart-topping records later, Matt reconciles himself to the fact that music is a craft; it needs constant work and attention, and performing live is not something that he can become complacent with. “I find it the biggest challenge every time,” he tells me, opening up about his attitude toward his live shows: “I just try to get as focused as possible. I just want to nail all this stuff, I want everyone to have an epic time – that’s what everyone’s here for.” Thankfully for Matt, he’s surrounded by some of the best musicians and crew in the industry, who all live and breathe the same philosophy. “It feels good, everyone wants to perfect the show… We’re all honing our craft and trying to be real about it as much as possible.”
Powerful, personal lyrics often heard in indie/folk music, paired with indirect nods to psychedelic and neo-soul instrumentation weave the full flesh of Matt’s textured new album. His seamless flow between genres and styles is clear evidence of an appreciation for all kinds of sounds. “I went through lots of phases through my whole life of listening to various types of music. I feel like I’ve tried to absorb as much as possible of the things I truly think are clever, or beautiful, or that make you feel something.”
There are no surprises then, when Matt cites some very diverse styles as his most recent inspiration. “I’ve been listening to this record by this rapper from Wisconsin, I think he’s like 20 or something. His name is Trapo. He is actually amazing. I really like the whole record, it’s really grown on me. “I’ve also been listening to this old [record], the greatest hits of the Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose. Have you seen that movie BlacKKKlansman?” Matt asks me, the passion in his voice shining through. “There’s this scene in the middle of the film where two of the main characters are dancing in this club and they’re falling in love, everything’s super-duper 70s, people are in flares, and this song comes on [Too Late To Turn Back Now] and it’s just the most baller song, it’s a beautiful song… I listened to the whole record and it’s pretty awesome. It’s full of real cool musical moments.”
Matt’s preference for listening to instrumental music has evolved into a stronger source of inspiration, often assisting in his writing process. “I struggle to listen to songwriters because I feel like I’ll start stealing melodies. I’d rather listen to instruments or music without vocals [so that] I can practice writing songs to them, just when I’m driving or something.” Taking the essence of an idea he discovers and workshopping ways to apply it to his own music “keeps him fresh”, he laughs, tongue-in-cheek.
“Not that I’m ‘fresh’… I don’t think I am.”
Matt’s humble nature and impressive musical performance continues to build his reputation globally – so it’s a big deal to have Australia’s prodigal son return to play a string of massive live shows, including some fantastic regional stops in Geelong, Cairns and Rockhampton. “I think I’m going to enjoy playing more regional shows, I haven’t done it that much. I didn’t really know if it was even doable, if people wanted to show up. But that’s what we’re taking a punt on now. I think [the crowd] will enjoy themselves.” With eight people on stage, Matt expresses his pure excitement for the shows, with a soft warning that he has “a lot of shit packed into a real small amount of time.” He’s not wrong: between the Rainbow Valley Australian shows and a run of summer festivals in the UK (as well as a cheeky whisper of a potential Splendour In The Grass appearance), Matt holds a busy schedule. Despite this, he’s keen to “chill for the rest of the year” – by that, he means getting straight back into the studio to work on some music for his next record.
“Just like anything, the more you do it, the better you get. Just hone your craft. We’ll see what I come up with.”
When & Where:
Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne – April 12
GPAC Costa Hall, Geelong – Saturday April 13
Tickets on sale via livenation.com.au
Written by Zach Edwards