Exclusive Special Interview: Matt Walters

theaussieword.com catches up with Aussie artist Matt Walters..
What can you tell our readers about you? How and where did it all begin?
I’m a 28-year-old singer/songwriter. I grew up being dragged around to folk festivals in regional Victoria most weekends by my parents. They were sort of folky, wannabe hippies. As soon as I was given my first guitar at 12 I started writing little songs on it. Throughout my teens I played in some pretty awful punk bands. I eventually started going to open mic nights around Melbourne in my early twenties, and that led to a record deal, which led to my debut album and a whole lot of touring. That in turn lead to parting ways with my label, and re-releasing my music independently online, which has in turn lead to me being a very happy and fulfilled independent artist.
What had you first interested in music?
Just being exposed to it constantly at home. My parents were huge local music fans. Most importantly that had a great record collection. I used to sit up next to the record player long into the night just discovering new music. The first show my parents dragged me to was Colin Hay, solo acoustic at Apollo Bay music festival. I must have been ten or eleven. He was playing a really late slot and there couldn’t have been more that 10 people there watching him. It completely blew my mind. I remember thinking: “No matter what, I have to learn to make that sound!”
Who motivates or influences your quest to make great music?
Song writing is a diary for me. I use it to understand and process the world around me. I try and write something – even if it’s just an idea for a title or a chord progression every day. Of course I want the songs to be great. The good ideas swirl around in my head and demand to be finished. The good ideas can haunt you until you’ve completed them.
Do you have any planned tours coming up?
I have these few shows in Toronto and in New York. Then some shows in Australia through the winter. And then later in the year I hope to head back to the USA and Canada for more touring.
What are some of your biggest goals you hope to accomplish as an artist?
I just want to make really great albums. I’m obsessed with the idea of making the perfect album. At the moment, I’m finishing off a new album and I’m working really hard at getting the mixes right. Then I’ll start worrying about the track sequencing and the artwork around the record. It’s just such a beautifully frustrating and rewarding process. I’m hooked.
Apart from that I’d really like to build on my audience base in North America and Europe over the coming months and years.
What can fans expect from you in the coming months?
I’m releasing a new album this year. It’s called NightWalk. I crowd-funded it last year through my fanbase. I’ve been in the studio for about 6 months working on it. It’s been such a labour of love. Lot’s of late nights and lot’s time spent experimenting with new sounds and approaches to production. I can’t wait to finish it and let people hear it. After that I’ll be playing as many shows as I can to promote it. The first single has a very special international guest singing on it.
Success, what is the secret to it and what has been your biggest career highlight so far?
The secret is making music you really believe in and love. Then it’s almost just as important to confidently let people know about how much you love what you’ve created by playing really great shows. It all starts with you.
Biggest highlight? A song called I Would Die For You from my debut album has had over 6.5 million views on YouTube. That’s pretty incredible for a 6 and a half-minute murder ballad that my old label didn’t know how to promote. It’s been a wonderfully rewarding thing to happen for a number of reasons. Almost every day, I receive an email from someone I’ve never met, on the other side of the world, telling me what that song means to them and why it matters in their life. That’s beautiful. When I was a kid listening to my parents’ record collection and dreaming of being a songwriter I used to think, “Just imagine making someone else feel the way I feel right now with a song?” I love that I’ve written and performed something that has been able to connect and resonate with so many people. I hope I can keep on doing it.

Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring?
I just keep going back to artists like Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell & Bob Dylan. There’s just such an incredible body of work to draw inspiration from.
In terms of newer stuff I really love The National. Their artistry and commitment to making really fantastic records is very inspiring. They keep on getting better.
How would you best describe you and your music to your fans?
Alternative folk / pop. Often melancholy!
What can you tell us about your latest album?
NightWalk (to be released) is an album I wrote when I was travelling around the USA in 2011 – 2012. Wherever I was (say New York, Nashville, Austin, LA) I would take long walks around the city listening to song ideas and trying to come up with lyrics. It’s got a lot of heart. I wrote a lot of it during one of the most challenging times in my adult life. When things around me were kind of falling apart and I wasn’t sure how to put them together again. It’s a record about growing up. I’m really proud of it. 
Are there any new exciting projects in the works?
Yes, now that you ask! I’m adapting a bunch of very old Anonymous Irish poems to music. I start recording that next month.

The music industry is huge, where do you see yourself a few years from now?
Continuing to carve out a unique and sustainable career as an independent artist all over the world.
Name a few of your favourite Aussie artists.
Colin Hay, Shane Howard, Paul Kelly, Courtney Barnett, The Hello Morning.  
The shape of the music industry has changed significantly over the years, including the use of social media, how do you feel about the industry as a whole and what does it mean to you in getting your records out into the public eye?
 To me there are just more opportunities to build the career that you really want. We’re going through a monumental and difficult transition right now, but great music will continue to be made and great music will continue to be heard and appreciated. I love that artists aren’t necessarily chasing out-of-date major label deals anymore, because the reality is you don’t need a record company to make and release a record anymore. The technology has changed. And so too has the terrain.
Having been on a major label in the past, I believe that the downsizing of the corporate music industry has a very positive thing. It had to fall. Right now, it feels exciting. David Bowie’s 2002 prediction about music has come true. Music is like running water. We can access whatever we like, whenever we like. That’s actually pretty cool for an artist when you think about it. Artists need to adapt and realise that there are so many new opportunities available now that weren’t available before. 

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