-By Dariya Salmin
With an EP quickly on its way, original Perth boy Matt Gresham is in for a big year this year. Having just supported Vera Blue on her sold out tour, Gresham is set to head on his own national tour, to celebrate the release of his new single Ghost, kicking off in July. Ghost, is the follow up track to the widely praised and popular debut single Small Voices, which was released earlier this year and hit #15 in Spotify’s AU Viral Chart.
Having performed at SXSW, then sold out shows in his home town Perth, and the east coast, I got the opportunity to catch up with Matt, hear all about his childhood, talk about his X Factor journey and all things Perth related.
I just want to start from the very beginning and talk about your musical journey so far, you can start where ever you want-maybe your childhood. What’s this journey been like for you?
It all started with my family really. My mother and my brother were really big music fans when we were growing up. Everyone is, but they were really into a lot of folk music, Bob Dylan and Neil Young, and Cat Stevens, The Beatles and John Lennon, that kind of stuff. I was listening to when I was in pre-primary and high school, basically I just really followed in their footsteps, my brother and mother are really amazing musicians and singers, so yeah it was just a progression from my family. So I got really lucky, I grew up in a really beautiful family. I’m pretty bias but [laughs]. So yeah I grew up listening to great music, and I feel if you surround yourself with that good energy it’s bound to kind of come through you, so yeah that was the very beginning, and it all just stuck with me, through high school. I didn’t really do very good in school, I just passed and as I was in year 10 and year 12, that’s when I got really heavily and addicted to it. I would write songs every day and play guitar for hours, and I was hooked on a lot of early 2000 stuff, a lot of Jack Johnson and Xavier Rudd, that’s how it all started. And now I guess I’m heading into a lot of electronic music, kind of mixing cultures, electronic kind of hip hop with acoustic folk music which is a lot of fun, so yeah I guess that’s a quick summary [laughs] actually that was quite long.
No that’s fine! But yeah you’re right; a lot of musicians start out acoustically and end up more in the electronic genre.
Yeah it’s really fun, I’m 28 and I’ve been playing acoustic guitar for a long time now, it’s really fun but it’s amazing what you can do now just from a laptop, I’ve got a portable, pre-production setup and it’s just incredible, like you can just take your laptop anywhere, you can be on a plane and be playing the grand piano, it’s not going to be the best amazing sound, it’s just incredible what you can do now.
Yeah definitely. And so when you were younger, were you just playing guitar or, did you dapple in a whole bunch of different instruments?
I was really into percussion as well. I played a lot of African Djembe and I love drums, I didn’t really have access to a kit, but we had a lot of percussion lying around the house, like old congos and stuff like that, which I was really into, which is cool and I played a bit of harmonica as well, I was right into Neil Young. I’m just trying to think what else, but mostly guitar! I play a bit of everything but not well, but guitar has been the main one. The one thing I’ve really stuck by, just an acoustic full body, it’s just a classic ay.
Yeah and such a great instrument to use for song writing!
Totally, yeah yeah totally.
So I understand you went on the X Factor, and I’m sure you’re probably sick of people talking about it and asking questions so if you don’t want to go into it that’s fine-
Nah I don’t mind at all! It’s fine, no worries.
Ok cool! So what was it that made you decide to go onto the X Factor, and why later rather than sooner as well?
The first thought of it came from my dad, he’d seen me, not really struggle, but I’d been doing the same thing for a while, playing the same venues, and being from Rockingham and growing up on the south coast, I didn’t have too much knowledge of that next step, you know “what am I going to do?” and my dad was like “why don’t you just give it a shot and see what happens?” and yeah I was never really against any of those shows, but then when I went on it, I just didn’t feel comfortable, and I didn’t feel like I was being myself. Yeah it just wasn’t for me, but then at the same time if I didn’t go on the show, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and have that knowledge. You know when you meet people that are so high up in anything, sport or music, you get to see how they work and that was a bit of a blessing about X Factor, a lot of people don’t realise that with these high end musicians they just work all the time and that taught me a lot about work ethic, so it was positive in that sense, it had some negatives but it had some positives, it just wasn’t for me the show, I couldn’t go on and I wanted to write my own music.
Yeah that’s completely understandable, I mean it is reality TV, you kind of have that expectation of it being reality TV but like you said at the same time you do get to meet a lot of people surrounded in that community which will help you in the long run, which it obviously has as well.
Yeah true, and as a person too it taught me a lot about patience, and stuff like that so, yeah it was alright.
And when you did leave, what was the response? I know a lot of people were shocked but it obviously worked out well for you in the long run because you ended up going over to America just recently to record the latest EP didn’t you?
Well when I first came off the show it said I left due to ‘personal reasons’ and yeah there was a lot of speculation and stuff like that as to what happened.
I can imagine [laughs]
Yeah and it was just like, ‘this wasn’t for me’. But yeah there ended up being about two years where I just laid low and just wrote music and started travelling a lot. And then I got an email about a year ago from a management company in Sydney, and they said ‘we really like your music and we want you to fly over and meet us and we’re going to set up a team and we’re going to start building your career’ and it just came at a really great time for me. And yeah so they’ve moved us out here and we live in Sydney now. I’ve been in America two or three times and I’m about to go to Europe for a promotion trip so it’s all come from them believing in me really, I was getting pretty comfortable in Western Australia just skating and playing music and surfing and it was pretty cool and then they were like ‘do you really want to take it to the next level’, and I was like ‘yeah I can give it my best shot’. But it’s cool because I can write my own lyrics and do my own thing.
Yeah that sounds awesome! Obviously it was all meant to happen. And so, what was your experience like in America? Because you recorded the EP with Scott Horscroft and James Young?
Yeah yeah James Young is an American singer/songwriter, he wrote stuff with London Grammar and Guy Sebastian and a lot of other acoustic artists and high end pop artists. And I spent two weeks with James in Sydney and then we spent two weeks in the valley in California and we wrote about 12 songs all up and Small Voices is the one we put on Spotify. And it was crazy for us because Small Voices was just a track we wanted to throw up online and we had like 400 000 plays in three weeks.
Yeah it’s done really well. It’s a really good song!
Thank you! Yeah I like Small Voices but it wasn’t intended to go so well, which is always good!
Definitely, it gets the ball rolling, gets your name out there and people will be excited for what’s coming out next.
Yeah it’s super exciting!
So you did SXSW, how was that?
Oh it was amazing! It’s crazy because there’s so much going on, there are 2000 artists playing at the festival, so it’s like I grew up with mum and stuff going to Fairbridge-
Yeah I was going to say that you’re probably used to Fairbridge, I did it earlier this year.
It’s pretty cool!
It’s tiny compared to what you would have just done.
Yeah totally, I mean I like those small festivals because everyone’s in a small venue, so when I was going to South By it was like ‘there’s going to be so many people at every gig’ but the cool thing is, is that there is that much going on that people don’t know-it’s not physically possible for people to know about everything that’s going on, so the next day someone will be like ‘aw Luda Chris had a party last night’ and that’s how crazy it is, and everyone’s like ‘what!’ and you’ll be at a gig and there will be 100 people there and someone is playing, someone massive and there’s just like 100 people in the audience. It’s like ‘what the hell!’ Yeah it’s massive! Michelle Obama’s done a talk!
[laughs] yeah it was out of control! That’s what I loved about it, you could see people and the music that you really love and there was hardly anyone there, it was so spread out. So Yeah man it was cool.
So it was massive but also intimate at the same time then?
Yeah there was just so much going on. You can get so overwhelmed. In the same day you’ll see your most favourite bands from your childhood and then a lot of Australian artists, wicked Australian artists came over too. There was a group called the DMAs, they played, they were really good! And yeah I’m trying to think of who else was there, but there were some other really awesome Australian acts. It was just cool, I got to see No Effects, which is an old punk band, do a talk, they did a talk about their life. Yeah it’s interesting! You’ve got to go one time man, it’s really interesting hey.
Yeah definitely! And so what was the response like for your sets that you did?
Yeah it was really good! We done a bunch of different gigs, we done some that were less formal and we done some that were more industry showcase, and yeah it was a lot of fun. We played in an Irish pub, that was cool, it was like an Australian showcase. And we did a show at a place called the Driscol, which was for all these record companies, and stuff like that, and that was really cool too. But yeah the response was good, I played with a three piece band, which was cool because I normally just play solo but I had someone on keys and stuff.
Aww, that would have been awesome.
Yeah it was pretty cool to actually play with others, and the musicians we played with in LA, they were like the best musicians I’d ever met. You go to rehearsals and it’s just ridiculous. Exactly how you recorded it. And you go ‘ok let’s play it’ and it’s exactly the same. Just perfect and that was pretty inspiring for me because it’s always good to surround yourself with people that are way better than you and what you do, it’s like you’re going to grow-
Yeah they push you.
Yeah I was like ‘fuck’ [laughs] yeah it’s cool. They live in America and an American tour is like 100 shows but in Australia it’s just like four.
That’s right and it’s always mainly the east coast.
Yeah I completely agree but in my opinion, Perth’s music scene is a lot better. There’s so much more gigs going on in Perth.
I love Perth’s music scene, I could talk to you all day about it [laughs].
And so on that note, what is your favourite venue to play at in Perth?
Probably Indie Bar and Mojos. And it’s weird because Mojos is more when I feel like playing sad stuff and Indie Bar is when I feel like playing hell up beat crazy stuff, they’re both different.
And such different crowds as well. I know what you mean though, Indie Bar gets really loose [laughs].
[laughs] so loose!
And there’s always the random people at Indie Bar and it’s like ‘I don’t think you even knew this was on tonight you’ve just rocked up to go to a bar in Scarborough’ [laughs].
Yeah! And heaps of Irish people there too! It’s crazy!
All the backpackers!
[puts on Irish accent] ‘I didn’t even fucking know there was a gig tonight, I just came down to the Indie Bar’ [laughs].
[laughs] yeah it’s so true! And Mojos’ is completely different. If you’re going to Mojos you know exactly who is playing, you know exactly who’s watching,
Yeah take your favourite person and go and just enjoy it, yeah totally! Yeah [laughs] that’s so funny!
Am I making you home sick now?
Yeah man, I miss playing regular gigs too, it’s weird like I’m doing a lot of interviews and other stuff but I used to play gigs every week and now it’s like I might not play a show for two months. It’s different hey, it’s more song writing and it’s cool because I get to work on the music more.
I guess that’s the next step up though
Yeah man that’s true!
And so what would your advice be, because obviously there are so many bands in Perth doing the rounds trying to get their stuff out there, what would your advice be for them to get to that next step?
I was watching this thing-do you know James Bay?
Yeah I love James Bay, I was just on YouTube looking up people and I was watching James Bay, he had this clip on YouTube about when he met Buddy Guy, something like ‘James Bay meets Buddy Guy’ and I was like ‘what the fuck’ because I love both of them, so I watched that and Buddy Guy said something to James like ‘you can’t over feed people, no matter how good the music, no matter how good the food is, people aren’t going to want to eat there every night.’ And I was like ‘yeah that’s true’, you’ve really got to pull back from doing too many gigs. You’ve almost got to not make money for a while, do you know what I mean? Because you could do heaps of gigs and make heaps of money and live a ridiculously good life and play everywhere on the south west and go up and down to Broome, which is great but you’ve almost got to really work on your craft more and get your music and your stage show really good and then just do shows every now and then and make it more about the music for a while, people will stop coming to your shows eventually.
Yeah that’s really true!
Yeah it’s kind of like ‘fuck off I can just see the guy next week.’
[laughs] Yep he will be at the same venue doing the same thing next week!
Yeah [laughs]. At least try and spread it out a bit! I’m the worst though I still play too many shows. But when Buddy Guy said–Buddy Guy’s like my hero, I was like ‘he’s really right, it’s very true.’
Very true! I didn’t even think of it like that.
Yeah well someone you love, like Buddy Guy wouldn’t be playing at the Perth Arena once a month [laughs].
No that’s very good advice, and so you said you were going to Europe this year, what else are your plans? When’s the EP release?
I’m not too sure man. We’re still trying to get all the songs done for the EP so I know the EP’s going to be out some time this year but I’m not too sure exactly what date it’s out. But I’m going to Papa New Guinea for a show, we got invited to go and play a corporate show over there. Yeah which will be very interesting and then in July I’m doing my own headlining tour. For the new song but that’s about it at the moment.
That’s cool, I’m sure you’ll get an amazing response for the tour as well.
[laughs] yeah hopefully!
Ok so I’ll stop with all the classic muso questions, so I know you’re a surfer, where’s your favourite place to surf?
Um I love Bali ay. It’s like a classic thing but, I’ve just got a lot of friends in Bali and I just love it, I just love hiring a scooter and just cruising around. And obviously there’s way better waves like you’ve got Mantawais and stuff like that but yeah I’m a sucker for Bali and I love Sydney too. We live in Maroubra and we live across the road from the surf so yeah it’s always really really fun here. I love Gracetown in Western Australia, that’s amazing. I love Yallingup, Yallingup is like heaven. Actually probably just Yallingup, actually probably Noosa as well, there’s too many! [laughs]
[laughs] You’re going to start naming every beach in Australia!
Fuck I love Noosa man.
So I Know you are also a massive fan of tattoos, and this is probably going to be the hardest question you’ll ever have to answer, but what is your favourite?
Favourite one that I’ve got? It’s probably-I’ve got a red rose on my left hand, which is really cool it’s like a tattoo for my grandma, because my grandma actually bought my first guitar. And she told my mum when she passed away that her energy will be in red roses, so yeah I got that for her, that’s really my special one. The other ones are more just little travel stories, but that’s the one that means the most to me.
Aww that’s lovely! Well thanks so much for talking to me today Matt!
Matt Gresham will be playing at: