22. August 2013 By Walter Price 2

Scott Matthew: Unlearned

“Learn to unlearn.” — Benjamin Disraeli

By C. Price

Scott Matthew is an Australian born singer/ songwriter who moved to New York City in 1997 founding and leaving a few different bands like Nicotine or Elva Snow. He started his solo path in the mid  2000’s and got a lot of attention when he wrote the soundtrack to John Cameron Mitchell’s movie “Shortbus” in 2006. Songs like ” Little Bird”, “Surgery” and “Upside Down” that appeared on the soundtrack were also released on his debut album “Scott Matthew”. 

He talks about himself as the “quite noise maker” which is more than fitting  His latest release “Unlearned” is an album full of covers interpreted and arranged in completely new ways. 

The collection of his personal hits on the upcoming album like Harvest Moon (Neil Young), No Surprises (Radiohead), To Love Somebody (Bee Gees) or Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division), reinterpret only with his mesmerizing, heart-melting and captivating voice and  the Scott Matthew typical instrumentation of piano, strings, guitar and ukulele, all have been put through his process of unlearning. They all have been unlearned and they stand as new and undiscovered entities. (from Scott Matthew official website)

I was lucky enough to talk to him recently. Take some time and read what he had to say to me.


Why did you leave Australia? How long have you been living in NYC?
I left Australia in 1997 and have lived in NYC ever since, so it’s been a long time. Unfortunately I don’t get back to Australia very often. I do miss it but perhaps not enough to move back there. Also I need to be available to travel and Australia is geographically isolated.

Why did you make the decision to work as a solo artist? Is it easier to work that way and in your opinion is it more rewarding?
I made the decision many years ago. After having multiple “band” situations and dealing with the trouble that brings. There was always conflicts of interest and schedules. I thought if I just play under my own name it would be a looser and less stressful environment to make music without the pressure of a predetermined unit. Having said that I have fantastic musicians that have worked with me for many years and I think it is partly because there is not that pressure to be involved as a band. If someone can’t be available it’s ok. It also free’s me to work with any combination of musicians I feel is needed.

Who was the first person that told you “Buddy you have a great voice, maybe you should go into the music business”?
I think it was when I was briefly at university at 17 yo . I was asked to sing by my roommate at the time for her exam and the lecturer told me I should sing more. Then people heard I could sing and I was asked to perform a Smiths cover with a local band . That was my first time on stage and as horrifying as it was it was the biggest high I ever had.

Was it difficult to decide which song to record for “Unlearned”?
Not particularly . Some songs we had already performed live many times so we were naturally familiar and connected to them. We did have a long list of songs but after demoing them all, some stood out more that others. Of course many songs I love could not make it on the record but I am very happy with the representation. It spans the decades in my life and all have significance to me in some way.

Where do you get your inspiration to write songs? And what comes first, music or lyrics?
Usually my music is concerned with love or love lost and I have had my share of that in life so far. It’s a strange thing but I tend to have no sense memory of how it happens. I usually write the music and lyrics simultaneously I think. Getting a few chords that work together and expanding on that.

 Is recording/ touring hard work for you or is it mostly fun?
Recording for me is hard work. We have always made albums quickly and with very little money. It’s not a bad way to make records for me as it forces you into getting a result and there is not a lot of time to second guess what we are doing. Though I will say it is always a little stressful.

Touring for me is nothing but fun. I love being on the road, performing every night. seeing towns I would never generally get to see. It can be extremely exhausting but the sense of satisfaction and freedom is amazing.

Is there a difference between writing songs for soundtracks and your own? Which one do you enjoy more?
The times I have done film work, I was asked because of what I do with my own music. So there seemed to be little difference apart from someone else approving it for film. I tend to just do what i would normally do with my own music for film.

What are your musical dreams for the future?
Just to make a good living and to continue . Enjoying the fact we get to do this is my greatest joy.

Name 3 things on your bucket list!
To own and live in a castle.
To fall in love again.
To do a show of only jazz songs.

Name 3 songs that will stay with you for the rest of your life!
“Well I Wonder” by The Smiths.
“In This Hole” by Cat Power (covers album version)
“Like someone in Love” by Chet Baker

Worst venue you’ve ever played in?
Under the Williamsburg Bridge many years ago. My friend wanted to start DYI shows and no one came and I sang to a few passed out homeless people who were basically annoyed I was there interrupting them. I don’t blame them.

Name one nasty habit you can’t live without?
Seeing 3D Hollywood blockbuster movies. I am addicted to the escape.

Would you leave your phone at home for at least one day? 
Oh yes and I often feel I am to attached and have thought of burying it ceremoniously.

Danke Scott!

To find all the goings on with Scott Matthew, click HERE!
Find Scott Matthew on Facebook.
To watch the video for “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, click HERE!

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