Scott Matthews: “A big deal, but a little bit daunting”

Born and bred in the Black Country, accomplished singer-songwriter Scott Matthews has remained refreshingly modest in the face of international success. Speaking to Palatinate the very morning that his third album, What the Night Delivers, is released, his humble hopes and aspirations reflect an endearingly down-to-earth attitude. “I like to think that my songs will have their own place, that people will have their own journeys with the material like I have. All you can really ask is that they will have an effect on somebody. If there’s no-one to listen to your songs then it’s all a little bit pointless.”

Repeatedly compared to the likes of Jeff Buckley and Nick Drake, Matthews was keen for his music to sonically progress from previous records, ‘Passing Stranger’ in 2006 and ‘Elsewhere’ in 2009. Drawing on films, books and general life experiences for inspiration, his style encompasses an eclectic array of genres with evident bluesy folk overtones. Determined for his music to resist pigeon-holing, future plans involve the possible release of some experimental EPs. “I’d quite like to try some instrumental work at some point, or a full on blues record. Different directions are important, I don’t want to stagnate. I’d like to think that over the three records so far, you can see a broad spectrum of ideas.” Luckily, Matthews has proven himself as an artist capable enough to reflect his wide-ranging music taste in his own creative work.

Matthews was encouraged to engage with music when his drummer father bought him a guitar for his seventh birthday. Music became “a natural process of self-exploration” and eventually he was offered the chance to record a track with San Remo Records. What started out as a hobby soon became a lifestyle that he desired to sustain. Winning an Ivor Novello for ‘Elusive’ back in 2007 (“Best Song Musically and Lyrically”) was “a massive deal, but a little bit daunting”. With such a dazzling accolade came the pressure to better himself; fortunately Matthews had the drive and ambition to do just that.

Over the last few years, the emergence of a plethora of singer-songwriter, man with guitar types has made finding space on a teeming platform tricky. Matthews however, seems undeterred by competition, believing that “people know what they like” in an era with “a tendency to explore a lot more”.  Upon being asked to whom in the modern music scene he would award an Ivor Novello, Matthews commended Bill Callahan, “a much underrated artist and a fantastic writer as well.” Unfortunately as Callahan is American, he would not qualify for nomination.

Playing live is integral to Matthews as he revels in the opportunity to interact and connect with an audience. “People still need to get a true sense of where an artist is coming from on a live front. It throws a different vibe over the songs; it’s easy to gloss over some things in the studio.” He has toured extensively over the last few years, with a host of UK shows planned for September and October. To date, Matthews has supported artists such as Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Foo Fighters and Rufus Wainwright but, just like winning his Ivor Novello, he confided in Palatinate that these shows proved inspiring, if a little overawing. “I did about five or six shows with Snow Patrol, just little old me and my guys making music that we considered hard to get across in the big arenas.”

With his unmistakable talent, Matthews’ song-writing recipe is the holy grail for budding musicians. Preferring to add the lyrical ingredients last, he reveals, “I’ll make a CD of melodies for the car and drive around listening to that. I’ve always been one to get a really strong feeling from the music which I put together.” However, in his characteristically chilled-out manner, it is whilst supermarket shopping that inspiration often strikes. “I’ll be somewhere like Sainsbury’s and get an idea for a song, usually whilst looking at the fruit.” Yes, a whole new light has now been shed on why his lyrics are so notoriously intriguing and mysterious; they originate from the visual delights of apples and bananas.

When asked to give some advice for students looking to make a career in music, Matthews asserts that it is primarily self-belief that propelled him to where he is today. “Be true to yourself, it’s so easy to get influenced by people. You’ll be inspired by something initially, but then I think it’s all about finding yourself.”

Perhaps it’s time to do the supermarket shopping for Mum this weekend after all.

Scott Matthews plays Newcastle’s Cluny on 16th September. “What the Night Delivers” is out now.

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